Mass Legislature Passes Budget, Local Lawmakers’ Programs Funded
BOSTON — Better late than never.
The Massachusetts House and Senate have passed a compromise $40.2 billion state budget today. The House approved the spending plan on a 140-9 vote, while the Senate passed it by a 36-2 vote.
The budget trims spending about $400-$500 million, because of a $733 million reduction in anticipated tax revenues for the fiscal year 2018, which began July 1. Massachusetts was one of the last states to get a budget in place for the new fiscal year.
According to the Associated Press, Senate budget officials say the plan projects tax revenues growing at just 1.4 percent, as opposed to the estimated 3.9 percent. That means spending cuts had to be made.
One area that did see an increase in spending, however, was schools and local aid. That's good news for programs championed by New Bedford's Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Antonio Cabral.
Senator Montigny's budget amendments aimed at helping local children, totaling $640,000, survived the cuts. The funds will provide access to arts, culture, and afterschool programs through local nonprofits. Montigny’s initiative will also create a new innovative grant program to challenge local nonprofits to collaborate and increase youth development and access to opportunity.
“I am committed to supporting young people in my district in and out of school. This funding provides significant state support to local organizations that provide children with opportunities by reducing barriers to arts and culture, building relationships with mentors, and promoting a safe and supportive community,” Sen. Montigny said. “This funding will also further catalyze the resurging arts and culture community and our local economy, while ensuring no one is left behind.”
Organizations receiving direct significant funding include AHA! New Bedford, the Community Boating Center, Dennison Memorial Center, New Bedford Historical Society, Women’s Center, and Zeiterion Theater. The grant program is a partnership with the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts with the advisement of a local youth development committee including representatives from the Dennison Memorial Community Center, Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, People Acting in Community Endeavors, Inc., New Bedford Community Economic Development Center, and the Women’s Center in New Bedford.
Representative Cabral also successfully secured funding for New Bedford and other Gateway Cities.
“Despite the existing fiscal challenges confronting the Commonwealth that led to about $400 million in direct cuts in the final budget, I made it clear in the Legislature that it is imperative that we continue to fund New Bedford’s programs and organizations,” Rep. Cabral said. “The scope of these programs’ impact on our community cannot be understated.”
The final budget includes $137,925,032 in state funding for the New Bedford Public Schools, an increase of $5,539,407 when compared to the FY17 funding amount. The budget also includes $22,980,913 in unrestricted local aid for New Bedford, an increase of $862,614 from last year’s allocation.
Representative Cabral secured $100,000 each for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention, education, and counseling programs at the Women’s Center, and for operations at the Zeiterion. Other fundings include: $80,000 for youth programs at the Dennison Memorial Community Center; $50,000 for outreach and educational programming at AHA! of New Bedford; $50,000 for the Frederick Douglass House; $30,000 for the Tom Lopes Community Sculpture Project; and $25,000 for the youth apprenticeship program at New Bedford Festival Theatre.
Rep. Cabral also worked with Rep. Bob Koczera of New Bedford to secure $100,000 for Youth Court programs in New Bedford and Fall River, and $29,632,378 in funding for Adult Basic Education/English for Speakers of Other Languages, an increase of $163,861 from the last fiscal year.
“These programs ensure that our city remains a great place to live,” said Rep. Cabral said. “Without them, we would be doing a disservice to our youth and to all New Bedford residents. I am proud to have advocated for these organizations and programs in this year’s budget debate.”
Representative Cabral also helped secure the following for New Bedford and the Gateway Cities:
$250,000 for the English Language Learners Gateway Cities Program; $250,000 for the Transformative Development Fund; $750,000 for Community College Workforce Grants; and $970,000 for Dual Enrollment grants and subsidies.
“The Gateway Cities are home to some of the most vulnerable residents in all of Massachusetts,” he said. “As House Chairman of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus, I advocated for these particular programs because they give students the opportunity to learn skills as they enter the job market or institutions of higher education, and create valuable economic development opportunities in our downtowns.”
Rep. Cabral won $13,541,999 for the Parent-Child Home Program, which provides New Bedford children and families with individualized educational support. He also secured $400,000 for the Citizenship for New Americans Program, an initiative that helps low-income, permanent legal residents of Massachusetts in the process of becoming U.S. citizens.
The final budget now awaits the Governor’s signature.