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Senator Spilka Advocates for Increase to the SPED Circuit Breaker, Other Amendments in FY11 Budget

May 26, 2010

The Massachusetts State Senate began debate on the fiscal year 2011 budget today, and Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) has proposed an amendment designed to increase funding to local schools.  Senator Spilka’s amendment would increase funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker to $154M, a 10% increase from fiscal year 2010.

“As the prior Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, as well as a prior member of the Joint Committee on Education in the Legislature and the Ashland School Committee, I have seen first-hand many times how our investment in special education has benefited individuals, communities, and the Commonwealth as a whole,” stated Senator Spilka.  “I am also very aware of the budget pressures towns and our schools are under, as they fight to save every dollar for the essential services they need. I believe that we cannot afford to shortchange any of our students in education, and that’s why I am working hard to ensure that special education funding is increased this coming year in the fiscal 2011 budget.”

Senator Spilka filed additional amendments that will directly benefit the MetroWest, including support for the Natick Veterans Oral History Project and a study that would look at ways to better assist school districts that enroll students who are in the care of the Commonwealth.

Senator Spilka also took the lead on an amendment that passed unanimously that will increase transparency and accountability in tax credits.  Following on the numerous transparency and accountability provisions contained in Senator Spilka’s economic development reform bill, passed by the Senate in April, this proposal sets up a mechanism for evaluating and reporting the efficacy of various tax credits used by corporations throughout the state.  To come in line with a national trend towards greater transparency in government, the results of this evaluation would be available to residents online.

“Taxpayers deserve to know what kind of return on investment they are getting, especially when so many important programs are being cut across the state,” stated Senator Spilka.  “Greater transparency and oversight is vital to the public trust, and is increasingly possible with new technology.  At the same time, we need to balance the needs of the businesses in the state, so that they continue to invest and grow here.  This amendment strikes that balance.”

The Senate budget includes funding for the new Massachusetts Marketing Partnership and for the regionally-based provisions of business development services, both of which were key features of Senator Spilka’s economic development bill. Along with increasing transparency, that bill contained numerous provisions to make it easier for businesses to access resources and technical assistance from the state, initiatives which are considered vital to the State’s economic recovery and growth.

“In order for this economic tide to turn, we must continue to invest in job creation and economic development,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos. “Preparing workers for the future is an essential component of a full economic recovery.”

Along with streamlining economic development, the Senate budget makes job creation and workforce training programs a top priority by increasing funding for career centers, workforce training grants and job programs for teenagers.

The Senate’s proposed $27.88 billion budget proposal uses a combination of spending reductions and federal recovery act funds in order to close the $2.85 billion budget gap.  The Senate Ways & Means Committee, which released the budget last week, also upheld its commitment to not use any new taxes or a withdrawal from the state’s Stabilization Fund in order to balance the fiscal year 2011 budget. 

“Overall, this is a fiscally responsible and realistic budget,” stated Senator Spilka. 

The fiscal year 2011 budget also includes policy initiatives for higher education, housing and public safety. The major education initiative included in the budget proposal will allow the commonwealth’s public colleges and universities to retain tuition they receive from out-of-state students and moves campuses towards retaining all tuition in the 2011-2012 academic year.

The budget prioritizes programs used by the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth as well.  This budget dedicates all revenue from the sales tax on alcohol to help those suffering from substance abuse addiction. In addition to support for substance abuse treatment, the Senate budget also focuses on other essential services, including health services and elder care programs.

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