Below is a press release from State Rep. Dave Robertson’s SOffice:
BOSTON, MA — Addressing complications stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Representative Robertson was joined by his colleagues in passing the Massachusetts House version of the 2022 budget Friday, completing a critical step towards developing the final version of the annual state budget. The budget is exceptional because it did not cut any local services while simultaneously avoiding any increase in taxes during an economically challenging time and providing relief to low-income residents and small businesses. Instead, the House version of the FY22 budget drew on current revenue collections, increased federal reimbursement for existing programs, and the state stabilization fund. It also does not include revenue which Congress may release under the American Rescue Plan – meaning even further support may come if passed by Washington.
“To put it simply, I am proud of this budget,” said Representative Robertson. “We didn’t raise any taxes, gave tax breaks to low-income individuals and certain small businesses, and continued to operate state services as well as support local municipalities, which are all debating how to make up for local revenue shortfalls. We included $40 million more over last year in aid to towns and fully funded the first step of the Student Opportunities Act I voted to pass last session – meaning more money is coming back to Tewksbury and Wilmington Public Schools.”
Local line items, supported by Representatives Robertson, Nguyen, and Gordon, will bring back $100,000 for Tewksbury’s first responders for services rendered to the Tewksbury State Hospital and $75,000 for noise and damage mitigation to residents abutting the Wilmington “Wildcat” MBTA line. Rep. Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) stated, “Working together with Rep. Robertson and our local officials, we were able to obtain $100,000 in the House budget to support the hard work of our first responders and to maintain the same number of beds in our state hospital. These vital services and resources will bring immeasurable relief to people in crises and help meet our public health needs. I am grateful to the Speaker, Chair Michlewitz, and their staff for their hard work and for including this funding in the budget.” The $75,000 for noise and damage mitigation will go towards addressing the MBTA and Keolis clear-cut of a significant portion of trees and other foliage along the “Wildcat” line, unexpectedly leaving residents with blighted sights. Both Tewksbury and Wilmington will receive an increase in Chapter 90 road funds, Chapter 70 education funds, and “UGGA” funding which towns may spend at their discretion.
In addition to shoring up local government budgets, the House budget also made major investments focusing on returning students to the classrooms with strong financial support. The House included 367 million dollars for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, a fund that local school systems may draw upon to ensure all students receive education services regardless of their physical, cognitive, or social abilities. It also increased money for regional and homeless student transportation, often a high-cost line-item for public school systems.
Large portions of the budget also aimed to continue supporting the strong economic rebound. According to MassBenchMarks, which examines the Massachusetts economy, the state grew at 11.3% the first quarter compared to the national average of 6.4%; however, unemployment is higher than comparative levels in 2019. The House budget included $50 million in adult education support, 5 million dollars in small business technical assistance programs, and 2 million dollars in programming to support the growth of Massachusetts manufacturing.
A number of non-COVID-related matters were also included, including $310 million in environmental protection, clean-up assistance, and riverway/watershed assistance. Senior support programs were boosted to prevent utility shutoff and evictions, and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services received $160 million to continue providing support to dependent individuals to gain sobriety and stability. The bill now proceeds to the state Senate for debate.
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