State Representative Christine P. Barber of Somerville and Medford voted last week to enact a $40.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 that includes funding for schools and local aid, key community programs, and a number of critical local projects.
Representative Barber successfully secured $50,000 for improvements to Medford’s MacDonald Park, along the Mystic River. This funding will be used by the Department of Conservation and Recreation to continue implementing recommendations included in the Mystic River Master Plan to improve access, recreational use, and signage in the park, which is one of Medford’s largest open spaces. Barber also secured $100,000 for the Children and Family Program run by Housing Families, which serves families in Medford, Malden and Everett, and addresses the unique needs of children who suffer the trauma of homelessness by helping them regain academic ground and self-esteem.
The FY18 budget also includes $100,000 in funding to improve pedestrian safety through a new crosswalk on Alewife Brook Parkway near Dilboy Stadium and the Capen Court rotary. An additional $100,000 is in the budget for the Center for Teen Empowerment, which works to engage youth in Somerville to develop leadership skills and create strategies for change they want to see in their community, as well as $120,000 for the Massachusetts Farm to School Program, which will help Somerville’s Farm to School project increase Somerville students’ access to healthy, locally grown foods.
In an effort to improve childhood vision and eye health, Barber also worked with advocates from the Children’s Vision Coalition to secure budget language establishing a special commission to study and report on gaps in vision screenings for children entering kindergarten in Massachusetts. An important priority for early learning and development, ensuring healthy vision for children is a priority for Rep. Barber, who has been working since her first term on legislation to ensure the early detection and treatment of vision impairments in children.
After several months of lower than forecasted revenues, the Legislature balanced a shortfall in the budget by making hard decisions to curtail state spending. While these decisions were difficult and required careful consideration of many priorities, it is notable that the Legislature rejected Governor Baker’s proposed cuts to MassHealth eligibility as a means to balance the state budget. These cuts, offered in a budget balancing proposal from Governor Baker to the FY18 budget conference committee in June, would have pushed over 100,000 families and individuals off of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, and into less comprehensive care that would be unaffordable to many families. By rejecting Governor Baker’s proposed cuts, the legislature continues Massachusetts’ long-standing support for low income families working their way out of poverty, and upholds the Commonwealth’s leadership and commitment to universal health care coverage.
The budget now moves on to the Governor, who has 10 days to review it before signing.