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Senator Spilka Files Amendments to Senate FY13 Budget

May 18, 2012

Today, Senator Karen Spilka filed amendments to the Senate fiscal year 2013 budget that will directly benefit MetroWest, including support for the Natick Veterans Oral History Project and Framingham-based Tempo, a resource center helping underprivileged young people become healthy and productive adults.

“This budget supports the important programs and initiatives that ensure the Commonwealth remains on a path for continued development,” said Spilka. “I filed these amendments to ensure that we continue to improve our economy, our communities, and the quality of life of residents across the Commonwealth.”

Spilka also took the lead and filed an amendment to increase the funding for Regional Economic Development Organizations (REDOs) to $1,500,000. First established by Spilka’s Economic Development Reform Bill of 2010, these REDOs serve as the single point of contact in their area to support their communities, help existing businesses grow, and attract new investment to their regions.
Highlights of additional amendments filed by Spilka:

• A provision to reduce some filing fees for start-up small businesses
• $30,000 for the Natick Veterans Oral History Project to match what was included in the House final budget
• $250,000 for the Wayside Youth and Families Support Network Tempo program
• $500,000 for equipment and improvements to the planetarium at the Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State University
• $250,000 for New Beginnings, a Framingham-based drug addiction prevention and awareness program
• $15,000  for the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall project in Medway
• $1.5 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations
• $500,000 for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pipeline

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unveiled its proposed $32.275 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13). The budget plan showcases the Senate’s unfaltering pledge to prioritize commitments that allow for greater transparency and smarter financial planning for the future. It includes notable support for local aid and education. It also meets our commitment for fixed costs, such as debt service, retiree benefits, and health care.

Highlights of the budget include:

• Overall, a $275.4 million increase in local aid over the amount appropriated in the FY12 budget;
• $900 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid to provide cities and towns with more security as they craft their own budgets;
• $4.17 billion in Chapter 70 education aid, ensuring that all school districts receive at least an additional $40 per pupil in aid; and
• $4 million for the Community Innovation Grant Program to cover start-up costs for municipal innovation

The Senate budget also calls for $242.2 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker to fully fund the state’s commitment to share the cost of providing services to students with special needs, something that Spilka has long fought for. 

Commitments to jobs will strengthen our economy for future generations and the $6.3 million investment in the Massachusetts Cultural Council, $6 million for Local Tourist Councils and $6.9 million for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism will help preserve tourism to the area.

Most importantly, these new investments do not come at the cost of our neediest residents. The Committee’s budget continues to prioritize essential services for our most vulnerable citizens. The budget includes a provision to maintain mental health services, ensuring all regions of the state have access to care.  It also increases funding for elder protective services, substance abuse services, independent living centers, and the department of veterans services.

A skilled workforce means more people back to work. Massachusetts still maintains a lower jobless rate than the rest of the nation, but that is not good enough. This budget continues our commitment to improving public higher education resources and connecting those resources to our workforce needs. The Committee’s FY13 budget includes $10.9 million in new investments for this cause.  Additional resources will help improve the already strong partnership between our Community Colleges and local industries. New programs include a Rapid Response workforce program to expedite the process for community colleges to create a workforce training program by targeting specific requests from employers and the creation of a degree auditing system to more easily track credits, making it simpler for students to transfer from community colleges to a state university.

The Committee also calls for increased oversight of community colleges, requiring the Governor to appoint the chairman of the board of trustees for each community college and requiring that board to include a nonvoting industry representative from 1 of the 3 industries with the greatest projected number of job vacancies and a nonvoting vocational-technical school district trustee to represent each vocational-technical school in the geographic region.  The plan also requires community colleges to submit a self-assessment report to the Secretary of Education and the Board of Higher Education on the college’s collaboration with vocational-technical schools and training and job development programs they have implemented. Furthermore, it establishes the Office of Coordination within the Department of Higher Education to serve as a clearinghouse for all training opportunities provided by public higher education institutions.

In order to maintain the Commonwealth’s fiscal health, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means proposes improvements that increase efficiency and allow for greater transparency. Recent efforts have secured Massachusetts’ highest bond rating in its history, translating into millions in savings in lower interest rates. This budget provides $750,000 for a new State Police Public Benefit Fraud Unit that will be charged with working with other local, state, and federal authorities to investigate and pursue cases where benefits intended to help our neediest families are being misused. Furthermore, this budget requires all stores that accept cash assistance benefits to post a sign explaining where to report fraud and expands the list of restricted items that cannot be purchased with cash assistance benefits.

 “This is a fiscally responsible and realistic budget that supports municipalities, ensures continued economic growth, provides relief to taxpayers, and protects the programs the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth depend on,” said Senator Karen Spilka.

The Senate will begin debate on the budget next week.

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