BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces that the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have taken final legislative action on the FY 2016 state budget, voting this week to override approximately 87 vetoes and restore $97 million in spending struck by the Governor. These veto overrides will enhance support for Massachusetts residents and municipalities, and ensure that local programs, education funding, and economic development initiatives are well funded by the Legislature.
Funds secured by Downing in the FY16 budget for local priorities that were vetoed by the Governor and restored by the Legislature this week include:
- $100,000 for the Barrington Stage Company’s Playwright Mentoring Program;
- $100,000 for the Berkshire Youth Development Project;
- $100,000 for Regional EMS services;
- $75,000 for the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Gallery 51;
- $55,000 to support regional libraries; and
- $23,000 for Berkshire Community College.
Through the FY16 budget, the Legislature advanced its standing as the national leader in education for students of all ages. Recognizing the importance of providing statewide access to full-day kindergarten the Legislature overrode a cut to kindergarten expansion grants, reaffirming its support for funding in the amount of $18.6 million.
The Legislature also took action to emphasize its ongoing dedication to public higher education, restoring cuts to the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges. This week’s overrides include the restoration of $5.25 million for UMass. The University continues to distinguish itself as a pillar of excellence in public education and an economic driver for the Commonwealth; the Legislature remains committed to supporting its growth.
Understanding the vital role that community colleges and state universities have in educating individuals of diverse backgrounds, buoying workforce development efforts and improving local economies, the Legislature overrode more than $2.6M in cuts made to these institutions. The Legislature’s budget as sent to the Governor also included a strong focus on early education and care (EEC). That commitment was reaffirmed through the restoration of $3.4 million in vetoes that support EEC programs and services.
Recognizing that education and economic development are intrinsically paired, the budget enhances the Legislature’s focus on bolstering job opportunities for residents of all skillsets in diverse regions of the Commonwealth. Following action on the Administration’s vetoes, the below programs are now funded at:
- STEM Starter Academy: $4.75 million to promote STEM careers at the Commonwealth’s community colleges;
- MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private match program;
- Talent Pipeline: $1.5 million to encourage young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and to provide mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs; and
- Mass Tech Collaborative: $750K for the Mass Tech Collaborative Tech and Innovation Entrepreneurship program to establish entrepreneur and startup mentoring.
Travel and tourism, one of the state’s largest industries, provides an opportunity for communities to bolster their economies in a way which is unique and appropriate for each region. The Legislature restored $5.17 million in cuts to the Office of Travel and Tourism and $2.37 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Additional statewide priorities include:
- $3 million for regionalization grants for municipalities and school districts;
- $3 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program for a total of $82.9M to support 900 to 1050 new vouchers for families at risk of homelessness;
- More than $2.2 million for substance abuse treatment programs across the Commonwealth;
- $2 million for the Early Education and Care Waitlist for a total of $12M to take 2,000 children off the waitlist for these critical services;
- $1.2 million for the Gateway Cities English Language Learners program;
- $500,000 for a prostate cancer awareness and education program; and
- Restoration of funding for unaccompanied homeless youth housing services.