BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — This week (March 1), The Healey-Driscoll Administration filed its Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget recommendation, a $55.5 billion blueprint for Massachusetts’ future that makes historic investments in climate action, public education and transportation, and workforce development. It also lays out Governor Healey’s plans for first-time use of Fair Share revenue, including the creation of a new Education and Transportation Fund. This budget is being filed alongside the $750 million Healey-Driscoll tax relief package and Article 87 legislation to create the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities.
“Our FY24 budget is what Massachusetts needs to meet this moment and build a strong economy, livable communities and a sustainable future,” said Governor Healey. “Combined with our tax relief proposal, we will set Massachusetts up for success by lowering costs, growing our competitiveness, and delivering on the promise of our people. Additionally, we are taking aggressive action to address our housing crisis by creating the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities led by a housing secretary who will coordinate across state government and with cities and towns to move us forward on our housing goals.”
“Massachusetts is made up of 351 cities and towns that each play an important role in helping Massachusetts reach its potential – from educating our kids, to keeping us safe, to investing in places where we build vibrant, healthy, livable communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “That’s why our budget proposes historic investments in local aid, a down payment on the future of our cities and towns, schools, and kids, and fully funds the Student Opportunity Act with the largest ever increase for K-12 schools in Massachusetts’ history.”
This budget, filed as House 1, puts forward a responsible proposal to utilize $1 billion in new spending from the Fair Share Amendment. Governor Healey is establishing a new Education and Transportation Fund to ensure that the money collected is used exclusively and transparently for education and transportation.
On education, House 1 fully funds the Student Opportunity Act with historic investments in Chapter 70 school aid and other local aid accounts. It supports state-subsidized early education and care, increasing child care slots and putting the state on a path toward universal Pre-K, starting in Gateway Cities. It also expands access for high school students to quality early college and career pathways, creates the new MassReconnect program to make community college free for students aged 25 and older, and locks in a four-year tuition freeze across the UMass system.
On transportation, House 1 includes start-up funding for a means-tested program for thousands of low-income MBTA riders, and to spur progress on key projects like West-East Rail, the Red-Blue Connector, and the electrification of the state’s bus fleet. The administration will also recommend funding for new hiring and training supports for the MBTA in an upcoming supplemental budget to help meet their goal of hiring 1,000 additional workers this year. This budget also dedicates funding within various departments in the Executive Branch to maximize the state’s ability to compete for federal grant dollars with matching funds for infrastructure and other projects.
The budget follows through on Governor Healey’s commitment to dedicate 1 percent of the state’s overall operating budget to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The administration will be tripling the budget of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to empower local entrepreneurs, decarbonize buildings and make our state the global capital of the clean energy economy.
The administration is also filing Article 87 legislation to create a new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, headed by a Cabinet level Secretary, that will be charged with dramatically expanding the work now done by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development will be renamed the Executive Office of Economic Development.
Alongside this balanced budget proposal, the Healey-Driscoll Administration will be filing a comprehensive tax package fully paid for in the FY24 budget at a cost of $742 million on the budget to address the challenges of affordability, equity and competitiveness confronting our families, employers and those who might be considering leaving Massachusetts.
“We approached this budget with the goal of building a responsible and sustainable spending plan for the Commonwealth that invests thoughtfully in its people, its economy and its future, We’re proud to be able recommend historic investments in areas like higher education and climate, while also delivering on tax relief for families and developing a transparent plan to use new Fair Share revenue to improve our education and transportation systems as voters intended,” said Secretary for Administration and Finance Matthew J. Gorzkowicz.
House 1 Overview
House 1 proposes $55.5 billion in gross spending, which represents 4.1 percent spending growth over fiscal year 2023 made possible by the $40.41 billion consensus tax revenue growth estimate of 1.6 percent, as well as $1 billion from Fair Share and other sources of revenue.
This budget does not utilize any funding from the Stabilization Fund, which has grown to a record high $6.938 billion and is projected to finish fiscal year 2024 at $8.962 billion. The recommendation assumes $1.946 billion in capital gains tax revenue, of which $466 million will be transferred to the Stabilization Fund and other long term liability funds for pension and retiree health insurance costs.
The budget recommendation maintains the state’s commitment to fully fund its pension liability by 2036 with $4.105 billion in fiscal year 2024, a $361 million increase over the fiscal year 2023 contributions. Projected sales tax revenues will enable a $1.463 billion transfer to support the operations of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), an increase of $138 million over the fiscal year 2023 budgeted contribution, and $1.3 billion will be transferred to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to support school construction across the Commonwealth.
The voters of Massachusetts in November 2022 approved a new 4 percent surtax on income above $1 million. They did so with the understanding that the new revenue generated from the tax on higher-income earners would be used to promote high-quality education, repair and maintain roads and bridges and improve our public transit system.
This budget proposes to keep that commitment by establishing a new Education and Transportation Fund that would receive all surtax revenues and ensure that the money collected is restricted for the use of education and transportation in the most transparent way possible. House 1 also recommends a mechanism to ensure that while all funds remain dedicated to those purposes, they are used in a manner that is sustainable and protected against future downturns and fluctuations in the revenue stream.
The proposal recommends the establishment of a required minimum fund balance that would be used only in the event of significant revenue decline to preserve base programs funded from Fair Share tax revenue. This balance would grow annually to account for inflation.
To ensure predictability, a cap would be established on recurring spending with revenue collected above the cap used to support one-time investments in pilot programs, start-up grants, studies, one-time capital investments such as bridges, railroad right-of-way improvements, and other non-recurring projects.
House 1 recommends equitable investment across the two priorities that drove the Fair Share Constitutional amendment:
|$ in millions||Fair Share|
|Early Education & Care||140|
|Child care Grants to Providers||100|
|Income Eligible Waitlist Reduction||25|
|Commonwealth Partnership for Preschool Initiative||15|
|Early College and Innovation Pathways||10|
|Financial Aid Expansion: MASSGrant Plus||93|
|Tuition & Fee Stabilization||59|
|Student Support Services||30|
|Higher Education Capital Funding||140|
|UMass & State University Equity & Inclusion Initiatives||18|
|$ in millions||Fair Share|
|Municipal Partnership Programs||100|
|Federal Matching Funds||50|
|Highway Bridge Preservation||100|
|Roadside Maintenance and Beautification||14|
|MassDOT Rail and Transit||40|
|Regional Transit Funding & Grants||25|
|Palmer and Pittsfield Rail Projects||12.5|
Tax Relief Proposal
Providing targeted tax relief and reforms to the state’s tax structure is one way this budget seeks to advance its goals of making Massachusetts more affordable, equitable, and competitive. At a time when the state has experienced unprecedented revenue growth, investing in these changes and initiatives is both affordable and one way we can relieve the financial pressure of inflation and make the state one that is more affordable to work, live, and do business.
This package of tax reforms, at a net cost of $742 million on the fiscal year 2024 budget, is built around a new Child and Family Tax Credit that will benefit 700,000 taxpayers and over 1 million dependents, helping families keep up with rising costs for child and senior care. It will provide families with a $600 credit per dependent, including children under 13, people with disabilities, and senior dependents aged 65 and older. Other reforms include:
- Increase the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000, helping to offset the cost of high cost of housing for 880,000 renters.
- Double the maximum Senior Circuit Breaker Credit for low-income seniors with high property taxes or rent from $1,200 to $2,400.
- Reducing the short-term capital gains tax from 12 percent to 5 percent to be more competitive with other states.
- Providing estate tax relief for all estates with a new credit of up to $182,000 that would eliminate the tax liability for estates valued at up to $3 million.
Additional tax reforms totaling $17 million, include:
- Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) – Increase the $10 million annual cap on HDIP credits to $50 million in the first year, and $30 million per year moving forward for developers as an incentive to produce more market-rate housing in the state’s Gateway Cities.
- Apprenticeships Tax Credit – Improve access to apprenticeships for workers by expanding the list of occupations that qualify for employer tax credits and doubling the statewide cap on credits to $5 million.
- Dairy Tax Credit – Increase the statewide cap from $6 million to $8 million to protect the state’s dairy farmers from fluctuations in wholesale milk prices.
- Live Theater – Promote local live theater productions with a new credit for a share of payroll, production and transportation costs for qualifying productions.
- Title V – Double the maximum credit to $12,000 (40 percent of $30,000) for expenses incurred at a primary residence for repair or replacement of failed cesspool or septic systems.
- Lead Paint Abatement – Double the allowable deductions to $3,000 for full lead paint abatement and $1,000 for partial abatement.
- Local Cider – Promote more locally produced hard cider and still wine by allowing higher-alcohol content ciders and wines (up to 8.5 ABV) to qualify for lower tax rates typically reserved for low-alcohol content products.
- Student Loan Repayment – Exempt employer assistance with student loan repayment from income taxation for student borrowers.
- Commuter Transit Benefits – Add regional transit passes and bike commuter expenses, such as bike-share memberships, purchases and storage, to those that qualify for tax deductions, alongside existing expenses like tolls and MBTA passes.
- Brownfields – Extend the brownfields tax credit program, currently set to expire in 2023, through 2028. This program allows taxpayers to claim a credit for costs related to cleanup of contaminated properties.
Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll recognize and value the importance that the health of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns play in the overall success of Massachusetts and its people.
House 1 fully funds the third-year implementation of the Student Opportunity Act, dedicating $6.58 billion to Chapter 70 education. This 9.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2023 represents the largest nominal investment in Chapter 70 in the state’s history and the largest percentage increase since 1999.
House 1 also proposes to fund Unrestricted General Government Aid at $1.26 billion, a $24.6 million, or 2 percent, increase over fiscal year 2023, which goes beyond the consensus revenue growth estimate when compared to the prior year budget.
This budget would also fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker at $503 million, a $63 million or 14 percent increase over fiscal year 2023, to support the fourth-year phase-in of out-of-district transportation cost reimbursement provided for in the Student Opportunity Act.
That investment includes a $15 million increase for relief to help districts adjust to a 14 percent tuition increase at Chapter 766 special education schools, with a commitment to pursue an additional year of relief funding opportunities in a forthcoming supplemental budget.
Climate and Environment
The Commonwealth has an unprecedented opportunity to position itself as a global leader in clean technology, create thousands of well-paying jobs, lower the cost of energy for our residents, and build healthy, sustainable communities for all. The Healey-Driscoll administration’s FY24 budget recommendation reflects Massachusetts’ most significant investment in environmental justice, clean energy, clean energy workforce training, and environmental safety ever.
- $105 M (24 percent) increase at the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs to reach 1 percent of the overall state budget for the first time in history.
- Dedicated funding for clean energy, environmental justice, workforce training, and safety.
- $35 million in first-time operating funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for clean homes and transportation technology, and workforce training programs. The Clean Energy Center will see its budget triple when combined with funding to be proposed in the upcoming supplemental budget.
- Creates a new undersecretary for environmental justice with funding for staff in all EEA agencies.
- Invests more than $40 million toward goals outlined in the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan.
- $25 million to permanently support Food Security Infrastructure Grants on the operating budget.
Housing and Homelessness
The Article 87 creates the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, funded in House 1. Investments include:
- Annualizes expanded shelter capacity and intake staffing to enable rapid housing placements for those experiencing homelessness, including arriving migrant and refugee families.
- Expands access to affordable housing through the creation of 750 new Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers for low-income tenants and 150 new Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) vouchers for individuals with disabilities.
- $324.1 million for Emergency Assistance (EA) for Family Shelters, a 48 percent increase above fiscal year 2023 to annualize a shelter expansion of 1,100 units and provide a 7 percent rate increase to shelter providers to improve hiring and staff retention.
- $110.8 million for Homelessness Individual Shelters to preserve a more than 2,600 shelter bed expansion for individuals experiencing homelessness and provide support for those in shelter struggling with substance abuse disorder.
- $42.1 million for HomeBASE to connect EA-eligible families with more permanent housing alternatives before they enter shelters and for assisting them in exiting shelter to permanent housing.
- $1.5 million for Economic Mobility, a new line item modeled on the successful federal Family Self-Sufficiency program to serve state public housing residents and state voucher participants.
Early Education and Care
House 1 funds the Department of Early Education and Care at $1.455 billion. The recommendation includes:
- $475 million to fully support the continuation of Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants to stabilize the EEC system, build capacity, increase staff compensation, and prevent more child care centers from closing.
- $30 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, increasing enrollment in Pre-K programs, particularly in Gateway Cities.
- $25 million investment to reduce the income-eligible waitlist to access child care financial assistance.
- $10 million for a career pathways program for early educators.
Higher Education and College Readiness
The budget funds the Department of Higher Education, the University of Massachusetts system, the State Universities and Community Colleges at $1.98 billion, including investments from Fair Share.
- Establishes MassReconnect ($20 million) providing free community college to students age 25+ to complete their education and pursue training in high-demand industries.
- Historic investments in affordability and accessibility through financial aid, including $93 million in additional funding for MASSGrant Plus.
- $59 million for a reserve to fund a four-year tuition lock at UMass and four-year mandatory fee lock at the State Universities, providing students and families with certainty in the cost of education.
- $140 million for capital investments across our higher education campuses to address deferred maintenance.
- $18 million for community college SUCCESS grants to community colleges.
- $18 million for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at UMass and the state universities.
- 3 percent increases to base funding in each higher education segment.
The House 1 recommendation builds upon existing programs to expand the Commonwealth’s support for successful workforce development initiatives and introduces new programs focused on connecting Commonwealth residents with well-paying jobs.
- Invests in vibrant communities through technical assistance programs for Community One Stop applicants.
- Provides $7.5 M in Small Business Technical Assistance Grants, leveraging a robust network of nonprofits to offer technical assistance, education, and access to capital for small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses.
- $10 million for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which has typically been funded with consolidated net surplus.
Labor and Workforce Development
- Investments focused on building a pipeline of skilled workers, particularly in high-demand industries and industries currently facing workforce shortages, such as healthcare, transportation, and technology.
- $16.2 M for Summer Jobs Program for At-Risk Youth (Youthworks) to subsidize wages and facilitate career development of at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 25.
- $18.9 M for Career Technical Institutes (CTIs), which aim to close skills training gaps by expanding access to vocational education, across Labor and Workforce Development and Education.
- $5 M for the Registered Apprenticeship Program to fund approximately 1,000 placements for registered apprentices in FY24.
Health and Human Services
House 1 provides $28.61 billion for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), excluding supplemental payments to hospitals, a $905.2 million (3 percent) increase.
- Ensures that Massachusetts continues to deliver on the promise of universal health coverage and makes critical investments in the health care workforce and safety net programs.
- Expands 24/7 DMH capacity by 1,100 placements, including 65 inpatient beds.
- Continues the implementation of the Behavioral Health Reform, including a 24/7 staffed Access Line available to all residents.
- $860.4 billion for the Department of Public Health, including $10 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services to annualize funding for the Family Supportive Housing Program.
- $1.36 billion for the Department of Children and Families, a $161.9 million (14 percent) increase to support the mission and work of the department in partnership with families and communities. This includes $34.7 million to address projected growth in placements in foster care, intensive foster care, congregate care and permanent adoption and guardianship placements.
The fiscal year 2024 budget for MassHealth maintains affordable, equitable, comprehensive health care coverage for members without reducing benefits. MassHealth, the largest single program in the budget, currently offers health care coverage to over 2.3 million members across Massachusetts, including more than 1.6 million low- and moderate-income children, families, and adults, and roughly 500,000 people with disabilities and older adults.
MassHealth has seen caseload grow by 31 percent since February 2020 due to federal continuous eligibility requirements that applied during the federal public health emergency.
With the federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration set to expire on May 11, 2023, MassHealth is beginning the process of redetermining eligibility for all enrollees with the goal of ensuring that those no longer eligible for Medicaid find insurance through their employer or the Massachusetts Health Connector.
House 1 funds MassHealth at $19.8 billion, a net cost to the state of $7.9 billion after federal reimbursement for a 8.7 percent gross and 3.1 percent net decrease relative to fiscal year 2023.
MassHealth targeted investments to improve access to care, include:
- Eliminating the asset test for the Medicare Saving Program (MSP), which will increase access to this program for low- and middle-income older adults.
- $200 million in base rate investments for Adult Day Habilitation and Adult Day Health to address workforce challenges and to ensure access to day programs for eligible MassHealth members.
- $80 million for behavioral health providers to address ongoing workforce shortages, including an increase in rates for children/youth diversionary services, preserving capacity and paying for value in other community-based settings, improving care and access for medically complex members seeking inpatient psychiatric care, and other targeted investments.
- $28 M to implement the Work and Family Mobility Act.
- Utilizes Fair Share resources to invest in highway and transit infrastructure and programming across all regions of the Commonwealth, including East-West rail enabling investments, and innovative service pilots and increased rural connectivity for Regional Transit Authorities.
- $181 M for MBTA capital investments including station accessibility and improvements, bridge repair, rehabilitation, and replacement, and design for the Red-Blue connector.
- $100 M for a new Municipal Partnership grant program to address key issues in developing municipal projects.
- Through funding in an upcoming supplemental budget, new hiring and training supports to help the MBTA hire an additional 1,000 positions this year to address workforce shortages cited by the Federal Transit Administration as part of last year’s safety inspection – with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and in that hiring.
- Increases access to training opportunities for law enforcement through the Municipal Police Training Program and funding for a new State Police cadet class.
- $2 M to create the Safe Neighborhood Initiative, modeled off DOJ’s successful Project Safe Neighborhoods program to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and to develop comprehensive solutions to address those issues.
- Funds increased programming and supportive services at the Department of Correction, including re-entry pathways and hybrid learning opportunities.
- Through an outside section, House 1 also recommends unlocking $20 million previously appropriated to provide incarcerated individuals in state prisons with up to 1,000 minutes per month of no-cost phone calls.
Serving Our Veterans
- Funds establishment of Veterans’ Services secretariat effective March 1.
- Maintains support for the Commonwealth’s veterans and makes critical staffing and infrastructure investments at the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ Homes.
Technology and Cybersecurity
- $9.2 M in major new investments in cybersecurity.
- Expands cloud-based storage in support of accessibility, security, remote work, and reduced carbon footprint.
- Partners with municipalities, providing cybersecurity training for municipal and school employees.
News based on press release issued by the Governor’s office. This version first appeared on MassachusettsNewswire.com