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PRESS RELEASE- Downing Secures Funding For Local Programs in Senate Budget
May 24, 2007

Boston - Today, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announced that the Massachusetts Senate has concluded its budget deliberations for Fiscal Year 2008.  Downing successfully ushered the adoption of several amendments during the Senate debate, securing critical funding for programs important to his Berkshire, Hampshire & Franklin District. 

 

“It is very clear that this budget is focused on essential programs and services. I’m pleased that the budget includes funding I proposed for many key local initiatives,” said Downing.

 

Specifically, the Senate adopted the following amendments sponsored by Senator Downing in its final budget:

 

  • $1 million for Emergency Disaster Relief to the victims of flooding in areas declared federal disasters in October 2005, including Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.
  • $250,000 for the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation to implement the Berkshire Blueprint and continued marketing focused on attracting jobs to Berkshire County.
  • $150,000 for the Berkshire County Drug Task Force for programmatic expenses.
  • $75,000 for the Housing Services and Mediation Program administered by the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority.
  • $20,000 for the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge to complete roof repairs.
  • $200,000 for Buy Local programs to enhance buy local efforts in western, central, northeastern, and southeastern Massachusetts, which supports local programs like Berkshire Grown.
  • $200,000 for support and implementation of four Model Community Coalitions and community-capacity building activities, which locally will support the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the North Quabbin Community Coalition programming and services.
  • $2,000,000 increase to the Education Foundation Reserve (“pothole program”), an important safety valve intended to provide supplemental financial assistance to cities, towns, and school districts to address a variety of special circumstances.
  • $1,000,000 increase to the Regional School Transportation account, raising the appropriation to $58.3 million – the highest level of funding in recent years.  This figure represents a 91% reimbursement rate for the regional school districts.
  • $3 million increase to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Salary Reserve ensuring a salary increase for direct care workers who earn less than $40,000 annually and provide care to our most vulnerable citizens.
  • $600,000 for the State Licensed Foresters Program administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure that the Commonwealth retains its “Green Certification” for state forests and maintains responsible timber management and stewardship.

 

Many of Downing’s local priorities were funded in the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s budget proposal, and therefore were not subject to the budget debate.  These include:

           

  • $220 million increase in Chapter 70 Public Education aid from FY07.
  • $935,028,283 in Lottery Aid for direct payments to cities and towns. 
  • $28.3 million for PILOT Payments for state owned lands, representing a $3 million increase from FY07.
  • $21,351,035 for Community Policing Grants to assist with deployment of officers statewide, including language maintaining grants that have historically been received by the police departments.  Locally, the Towns of Charlemont, Dalton, Lanesborough, and Williamstown and the Cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will continue to receive Community Policing funds.
  • $150,000 for Berkshire County Youth Development Project to fund youth intervention services.
  • $1 million for the Adams Visitor Center.
  • $3.5 million for Outreach Enrollment Grants for outreach, education and enrollment initiatives relating to Massachusetts health care reform, which will benefit local organizations including Ecu-Health Care and Community Partners, Inc.
  • $100,000 for United Veterans of America to conduct veteran outreach services in Pittsfield and $220,000 for United Veterans of America services in Leeds.
  • $200,000 for the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund.
  • $42,000 for the Turner House in Williamstown to fund veterans’ services.
  • $77,478 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Hampshire and Franklin Counties to fund programs that provide abused and neglected children with a voice in court.
  • $54,690 for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Berkshire County to fund programs that provide abused and neglected children with a voice in court.

 

The differences in the final House and Senate budgets will now be considered and resolved by a conference committee.  FY 2008 begins on July 1, 2007. 

 

More information on the House and Senate budget recommendations can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/legis/08budget/house/index.htm and http://www.mass.gov/legis/08budget/senate/index.htm

 

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