On April 24, the House wrapped up four days of debate on the FY19 state budget. I’m pleased with the direction of the new budget, which is fairly progressive overall and addresses a number of my priorities. Both Watertown and Cambridge would see roughly 4% increases in education funding and general local aid. An amendment filed by Rep. Lawn and me to provide additional funds for special education in Watertown was also adopted. Jail diversion programs for those struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders are slated for expansion.
After years of neglecting our environmental agencies, the House budget adds $2.8 million for DCR parks and $4.3 million for the Department of Environmental Protection. Other statewide programs receiving increased funding include the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (for civil legal aid) and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The House also eliminated a punitive provision from the 1990s denying assistance to children born to low-income families under the Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.
While I was disappointed that efforts to include in the budget elements of the Safe Communities Act were unsuccessful, the House overwhelmingly defeated amendments that would have rolled back legal protections for immigrants. We also boosted funding by 10% for adult basic education programs (another of my top priorities) that provide language and vocational training for non-English speakers.
I would be happy to talk further about the budget and the outlook for the remainder of the 2017-2018 session. Please see my May office hours at http://www.jonhecht.com/office-hours/. As always, if you’re not able to make these times, feel free to call my office at (617) 722-2140 to arrange another time to meet.