MALSCE Government Affairs Update – August 2023
by Abbie Goodman, MALSCE Chief of External Affairs
FY2024 Budget Update
Governor Healey Signs $56B Budget for FY2024, agreeing to most spending and policy
FY2024 Final Budget: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2024/FinalBudget
Access the Governor’s signing letter, veto message and returns here
On August 9, Governor Maura Healey on Wednesday signed into law her first annual state budget.
Governor Healey approved a $56 billion budget for fiscal year 2024 that increases spending roughly 6.2 percent over the budget enacted last summer, distributes newly available revenue from a surtax on high earners, and implements a slew of major policy changes, including permanently offering all students free school meals.
Transportation Highlights Include:
- $524M for MassDOT operations including Highway, RMV, Rail and Transit, and Aeronautics
- $100M for a new Municipal Partnership grant program for a road construction reserve
- $50M for highway bridge preservation, reducing the need for disruptive and expensive replacement.
- $25M for federal matching funds, available for both state and municipal projects
- $28M for implementation of the Work and Family Mobility Act, including extended RMV service hours.
In addition to sales tax revenue, the FY24 budget includes:
- $180M for MBTA capital investments including station accessibility and improvements, bridge repair, rehabilitation, and replacement, and design for the Red-Blue connector.
- $20M for Workforce Investments
- Addition of commuter rail improvements, track and signal work and additional funds for the Workforce Safety Reserve
- $5M for implementation of means-tested fares
Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs)
- $87.5M increase to RTA funding (They got $96.5M in FY23. In this budget they got $94M in the GAA + $90M in Fair Share funding)
- $15M for fare-free pilot programs
- $19M in new grant opportunities for transit providers to provide innovative services.
Fair Share Investments
- Strengthened state-municipal partnerships to develop and implement critical local transportation projects.
- Preservation of critical highway bridge infrastructure
- Improved and more accessible MBTA stations.
- Initiation of means-tested MBTA fares
- Innovative service pilots and increased rural connectivity for regional transit authorities.
FY24 Budget Highlights
- $524 million for education
- $71 million for early education and care will increase childcare slots for income-eligible families and put the Commonwealth on a path to universal Pre-K
- $224 million for K-12 education will guarantee access to free lunch for students across the Commonwealth, expand pathways for high school students to earn college degrees and fund clean energy infrastructure in schools.
- $229 million for higher education that will help make community college and a four-year degree more accessible through the MassReconnect program and financial aid expansions.
- $477 million for transportation will:
- Preserve critical highway bridge infrastructure.
- Improve accessibility at MBTA stations.
- Initiate means-tested MBTA fares
- Create a path for innovative service pilots and increased rural connectivity for regional transit authorities.
Education and Local Aid
- Fully funding of the Student Opportunity Act, including a $594 million, or 9.9 percent increase, in Chapter 70 funding
- $475 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children grants to early-education providers.
- $10 million for a career pathways program for early educators
- Extends in-state tuition rates at the state’s public universities to immigrants without documentation.
- $172 million in permanent funding to provide universal school lunch for public school K-12 students
- A 3.2 percent increase to Unrestricted General Government Aid
- Major increases of $21.3 million for school transportation reimbursement and $9.5 million for rural school aid
- Full funding of Special Education Circuit Breaker
- Increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land by $6.5 million or 14 percent
Housing and Homelessness
- Supports the creation of the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities
- Creates 750 new Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers for low-income tenants
- Creates 150 new Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) vouchers for individuals with disabilities, including, for the first time, 50 project-based vouchers
- Reauthorizes the Brownfields Tax Credit recommended in our tax relief package
- $324 million for the Emergency Assistance Family Shelter (EA) program, representing a 48 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2023
- $37 million for HomeBASE to connect EA-eligible families with more permanent housing opportunities
- Addressing and preventing homelessness by making Chapter 257 eviction protections permanent for renters with pending EA applications
- $8 million for targeted initiatives at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to support workforce, manufacturing, cybersecurity, and the innovation economy
- $5 million for Small Business Technical Assistance Grants to leverage the expertise of nonprofits to offer technical assistance, education, and access to capital for small businesses
- $600,000 for the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative for municipalities looking to revitalize their downtowns
Health and Human Services
- $173 million for Chapter 257 rate increases for human service providers
- $192 million from the Behavioral Health Trust Fund for one time programming aimed at recruiting and supporting a diverse behavioral workforce, including a $100 million enhancement to the Loan Repayment Program for mental and behavioral health professionals
- An increase of $44.6 million for behavioral health initiatives at the Department of Mental Health to expand inpatient and community capacity
- Adds $6.1 million for immigrant and refugee services, including $1.8 million for health assessments and $1.5 million for employment programs
- $2.75 million for Technology Forward to provide assistive technology and remote supports/monitoring
- Supports a pilot to expand subsidized ConnectorCare coverage to individuals at or below 500 percent of the federal poverty limit
- Expands access to contraceptives by allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense hormonal contraceptives to individuals without previous prescriptions
- $16.2 million for Summer Jobs Program for At-Risk Youth (Youthworks) to subsidize wages and facilitate career development of at-risk youth
- $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes
- $3.8 million for the Registered Apprenticeship Program to fund approximately 1,000 placements
Serving Our Veterans
- Funds the new Veterans’ Services at $185.6 million, a $11.4 million, or 7 percent, increase from FY23 GAA
- Prepares for the opening of new Soldiers' Homes facilities:
- Chelsea’s long-term care transition from the Quigley Building to Community Living Center will begin March 2023
- Holyoke is set to replace its long-term care facility by 2027 and is in the design phase of the project with DCAMM
- Invests in payroll and overtime costs for nursing staff at the Homes
Energy and the Environment
- Funds the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at $557.9 million, 1 percent of total available funding for FY24 GAA
- This represents a $119.5 million, or 27 percent, increase over FY23, including new environmental justice staff and funding to establish a Federal and Regional Strategic Planning Office to coordinate market reform, transmission, and hydropower
- $25 million to permanently support Food Security Infrastructure Grants
- $30 million for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to support wind technology, clean homes, and workforce training programs in the clean energy industry
- $4.8 million for a decarbonization clearinghouse for energy efficiency, electrification, and storage
- $5 million to address deferred maintenance at the Department of Conservation and Recreation parks and facilities
Criminal Justice and Public Safety
- Funding for re-entry pathways including green career training programs
- Supports new and enhanced training requirements through the POST Commission and Municipal Police Training Committee
- $2 million to establish a Safe Neighborhood Initiative, a collaborative effort with law enforcement and community leaders to develop comprehensive solutions to reduce crime and protect communities
Technology and Cybersecurity
- $9.2 million in additional cybersecurity investments
- $2.6 million in software licenses for Web security, network endpoint protection, and threat detection
- Supports continued consolidation of IT services for executive branch departments
Governor Healey vetoed a total of $272M million in spending, and vetoed an outside section that would have pumped $205 million of one-time funding into the budget. She sent back eight outside sections with proposed amendments and approved the other 103, including measures that will expand access to subsidized health care, and allow high school graduates without legal immigration status to tap into in-state tuition rates and financial aid at public colleges and universities.
For the first time, the budget makes use of revenue newly available from a 4 percent surtax on annual personal income above $1 million that voters approved in November, which must be earmarked for education and transportation uses. The budget divides an expected $1 billion in surtax money into $524 million for education and $477 for transportation. Investments include the launch of a "MassReconnect" program that supports free community college for students ages 25 and older, MBTA infrastructure improvements and a permanent universal school meals option.
Limited Changes Head Back to Legislature
Altogether, Governor Maura Healey vetoed $272.4 million in spending from 35 different line items. She wrote in a signing letter that the net spending reduction totaled $205 million "after revenue offsets." The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said $71 million in federal reimbursement for a MassHealth reduction offsets the total figure.
More than half of the dollars Healey vetoed came from a single cut. Healey slashed $142.8 million from a "MassHealth Fee for Service Payments" line item, reducing it to about $3.6 billion total. She described that in her veto summary Veto Item Outside section as "the amount projected to be necessary."
Healey also trimmed $35 million from a center-based child care rate increase, $18 million in emergency aid for elderly, disabled and children, $5.9 million from Department of Children and Families family resource centers, $5.6 million from the special education circuit breaker reimbursement fund, $3.75 million for adult mental health and support services, and more. Many areas she cut are still set to receive tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, or funding from other line items and programs.
The governor returned eight policy riders with proposed amendments on topics including pyrite and pyrrhotite in concrete, alcohol sales in gaming establishments, and MassHealth ambulance services.
Two Healey amendments would alter the timing of a pair of programs she said she supports: allowing employees to supplement paid family and medical leave benefits with accrued time off, and eliminating communication costs for incarcerated individuals and their families.
The free phone calls measure -- which lawmakers approved as part of the fiscal year 2023 budget but could not get across the finish line after Gov. Charlie Baker tied it to an unrelated policy fight -- would launch on Dec. 1, 2023 under Healey's proposal instead of being retroactive to July 1.
"It was just good, collective common sense from all involved that we needed a little bit more time to be able to get it done," Healey said.
Lawmakers have until Nov. 15, the final day for formal sessions this year, to take up any veto overrides unless they suspend their rules. Healey's amendments do not face a strict timeline for legislative action and could remain in limbo into 2024.
Spending Increases Up and Down the Bill
K-12 schools are in line to receive a $594 million, or 9.9 percent, increase in Chapter 70 funding as the budget continues to move toward full implementation of the 2019 school funding law known as the Student Opportunity Act.
One percent of the total funding, about $558 million, will go toward the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which Healey lauded as a major milestone reflecting the state's commitment to softening the impacts of climate change and moving to a clean-energy future.
The budget calls for a major increase in funding for the emergency assistance family shelter program, pushing that line item to $325 million or 48 percent more than the FY23 budget as enacted last summer.
The budget also includes $475 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants to early education providers, a 3.2 percent increase in unrestricted general government aid (UGGA), and $173 million in so-called Chapter 257 rate increases for human service providers.
One outside section Healey approved will revive and make permanent a lapsed pandemic-era eviction diversion program, which requires courts to pause eviction proceedings for failure to pay rent if a tenant has a pending application for rental aid.
Another launches a pilot program increasing eligibility for ConnectorCare health insurance, which the Massachusetts Health Connector advertises as offering "$0 or low monthly premiums, low out-of-pocket costs, and no deductibles." The threshold for eligibility will shift from 300 percent of the federal poverty level to 500 percent.
The pilot could provide a new option for some Bay Staters who lose MassHealth coverage amid a massive, year-long campaign to trim enrollment for the first time since the pandemic began. Officials have estimated the redetermination process could shrink the MassHealth rolls by up to 400,000 people and free up $1.9 billion in FY24 state spending to be directed elsewhere.
The budget also calls for adding two seats to the MBTA's Board of Directors, one of which would be appointed by the mayor of Boston.
Chapter 90: Governor Healey Signs $375M Transportation Bill On August 4
Final Bill https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2023/Chapter27
- The Legislature finalized a compromise bill in late July week, nearly four months after the House and Senate approved different versions of the underlying measure, with $200 million for the Chapter 90 program plus another $175 million in transportation-related infrastructure grants.
- House and Senate Democrats for months could not agree on whether to steer $25 million of those grants toward a municipal pavement program or to a new supplemental municipal road formula program. They wound up including both programs and bumping up the bill's bottom line by $25 million.
- Healey originally proposed a two-year, $400 million bond authorization that would fund Chapter 90 at the same $200 million annual level where it has sat for years.
Division of Occupational Licensure: Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors
- The next Board of Registration public meeting will be on August 23, 2023. As I write this article, the Board of Registration is planning to hold this meeting in person, with Teams available only for Board members and Division of Occupational Licensure. For meeting details, go to this page two business days before the meeting and scroll down to the meeting listing to download the agenda with either location or connection instructions.
- June 22, 2023 Board Meeting Public Session - Minutes are now posted here
- July 27, 2023 Board Meeting Public Session minutes – Draft public session minutes here.
Highlights of the 7/27/2023 Board of Registration Meeting
- The Division of Occupational Licensure is now required to record meetings.
- The board approved the June 22, 2023 Public Session Meeting Minutes: Final June 22 Public Session meeting minutes
- Patricia LaFore is the new legal counsel for the Board of Registration. Jenna Hentoff is moving to other Boards.
- JP Exam Conversion to CBT: This is still under discussion with the vendor
- Review of Revised Draft CORI Policy - Prior Version of CORI Policy New Version Now Posted
- The Board voted to approve the new CORI policy
- Board Counsel Legal Report from Patricia LaFore
- Joint Professional Practice document: Awaiting Action from Division of Professional Licensure's Deputy General Council
- This is most recent draft version: https://files.engineers.org/file/Updated-Draft-AR-EN-Prof-Practice-Guide-January-2023-002.pdf
- This document is under review by Division of Professional Licensure staff before it is issued to the public.
- Eventually, the Board of Registration is eager for ACEC/MA, BSCES, and MALSCE to assist in widely distributing this document to design professionals, state officials and municipal officials statewide.
- Draft Continuing Professional Competency Regulations are now in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance and then would move on to the Secretary of State's office for review.
- Board Executive Director Report: NCEES Enforcement Exchange: Several individuals with Massachusetts licenses appeared on the NCEES Enforcement Exchange list in the past month due to infractions in other states. Individuals are supposed to self-report to all boards in states where they are registered when this happens. Division staff is reviewing to see whether people have done the required self-reporting.