BOSTON – Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and her Senate colleagues voted yesterday on a $40.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018, investing in key areas related to local aid, education, health and human services, housing, and workforce development. The budget makes targeted investments, while limiting the use of one-time revenue sources and protecting the state’s Stabilization Fund.
“Once again, we face a very challenging budget year. Our revenues are inadequate to meet many needs and commitments in education, transportation, and housing, among other critical areas” said Senator Jehlen, Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Senate listened to constituents and advocates. With compassion and innovative ideas, we worked hard to reconcile those needs with our current resources.”
Throughout the budget process, Senator Jehlen successfully advocated for increased funding for several local projects and programs located within the Second Middlesex District: $100,000 was included for invasive species control on the Mystic River, which would allow for the continued eradication of water chestnut in the Mystic River and the beginning of the effort to remove dense phragmites lining portions of the riverbank; $100,000 was included for updates to the Route 16/Capen Intersection, bordering the communities of Somerville and Medford; $65,000 was included for the city of Somerville to study pollution mitigation effects along I93; $100,000 was included for Teen Empowerment, a successful violence reduction program working with at-risk youth in Somerville.
The Senate also included $4.76B for local Chapter 70 education funding in the budget and, once again, included an update to the foundation budget formula as recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) two years ago. The FBRC, of which Senator Jehlen was a member, recommended updating the funding formula to better account for school districts’ rising health insurance costs and the high cost of educating students with special needs, English Language Learners, and low income students.
“This budget demonstrates the Senate’s continued commitment to fulfilling the promise of the 1993 Education Reform Act by beginning to implement the FBRC recommendations. It is so important that the budget not only devotes $35 million toward that goal, but once again lays out a plan so that every year we will project the requirements of the foundation budget along with projecting revenue,” said Senator Jehlen. “We in state government need to hold ourselves accountable for meeting our constitutional obligation to fund all children’s education, and this will make every branch of government, and the public, aware of our progress toward equity.”
A Conference Committee will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2018 begins on July 1, 2017.