State Rep. Dave Robertson Discusses Education, Senior Care, & Combatting Opioid Dependency In FY20 Budget

BOSTON, MA — Below is a press release from State Representative Dave Robertson’s office:

Ending late Thursday evening, Representative David Robertson and the House of Representatives passed the House version of the 2020 budget in a critical step setting out the course of state investments over the next fiscal year. Focusing especially on education, senior care, environmental programs and the opioid epidemic, the $42 billion dollar budget also boosted local aid in order to reduce local property taxes and provide municipalities with revenue needed for local services and operations.

“I am proud of this budget. The House, under Speaker Robert DeLeo and Chairman Michelwitz, worked with other Chairmen and Representatives to create a community-facing budget.” Said Representative Robertson from the floor. “We sought to help towns like Tewksbury and Wilmington by increasing educational aid, unrestricted general aid the towns may use at their discretion, and other support. This will help strong community services while maintaining livability within our homes.”

A highlight of the education portion of the budget was the increase of state aide to school districts by $30 per student, which reflects a recommendation by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Convened in 2015, the commission studied state aid to schools and advised recommendations to support educational services as their mission adapts and changes. The total increase, topping out at $218 million dollars, is given to each town to ease the demand on property taxes and support schools locally. In addition to general aid the Special Education Circuit Breaker, which reimburses schools for extra-support for students requiring additional assistance received a nine million dollar increase.

In the Health and Human Services portion of the House’s budget, our senior populations should be happy to know that many programs that they rely on benefitted greatly. With nursing home costs rising, and their necessary services needed by more and more of Massachusetts’ aging population, the FY2020 budget sought to address this growing problem through an increase in supplemental funding for nursing homes across the Commonwealth and an emergency task force aimed at helping to bring stability to the industry to mitigate or end the ever-increasing costs of the industry. In addition to these nursing home changes, funding increases to municipal Councils on Aging across the state should be able to reach out to and positively affect more seniors in their communities.

In addition to addressing funding changes in education, and senior care programs, the FY2020 budget continues the Legislature’s hard push to fighting opioid addiction. This public health crisis has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth through one form or another. Last year Massachusetts ranked among the top ten states with drug overdose deaths involving opioids, with over 2,000 people succumbing to an opioid overdose in Massachusetts, and with a disproportionate (population wise) percent of those deaths occurring in Middlesex County. In addition to funding to substance abuse and recovery services to help those in need, the House budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to bulk-purchase naloxone, making it more available for use in the field, especially in communities whose emergency services have had difficulties being fully funded.

“Families throughout the Commonwealth, including Tewksbury and Wilmington have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, and I hope the funding in our state budget will provide us with a framework to continue to build an appropriate response to this overwhelming issue, and to stop the tragedies and help save lives,” said Robertson. “But, this critical funding in the House is just that, a starting point for us as a community to continue to build from in our fight.”

Local earmarks for Tewksbury and Wilmington included direct subsidization for lot improvements at Livingston Street fields and a new ambulance in Tewksbury, as well as renovations to be made to the Buzzell Senior Center in Wilmington. The budget will next be debated by the Senate before consolidation and gubernatorial review in the coming weeks.

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