BOSTON, MA – Last week the House of Representatives deliberated the Massachusetts state operating budget for fiscal year 2019. The House Progressive Caucus, of which Somerville Representative Denise Provost is a member, offered several priorities and budget requests that were ultimately included in the statewide spending plan.

The Progressive Caucus is a collaborative working group of House members who identify as progressive.

“I’m glad that the Progressive Caucus has grown so organized. We make decisions about priorities through a democratic process, and work as a team for the best outcomes,” Provost said. “The whole Somerville House delegation is part of this initiative, which helps us deliver the most for our constituents.”

The House budget addressed all five progressive caucus appropriations priorities. These included increased funding for the Massachusetts Legal Aid Corporation (MLAC), which provides free civil legal aid services to the state’s poorest residents, received a $750,000 increase. Somerville residents utilize MLAC for support with tenant disputes, housing legal aid, and family law, among others.

The Progressive Caucus also advocated for increased funding for Youthworks. This program subsidizes jobs for low-income and at-risk youth and received an additional $500,000 increase in funding. The program runs in 31 cities throughout the state, including Somerville.

Provost and the Progressive Caucus successfully negotiated additional funding for two additional priorities to be included in the initial draft of the budget, eliminating the need for further amendments. The early educator salary reserve received a five million dollar increase from the Governor’s budget proposal, to support a small increase for these underpaid workers. The Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) line item was funded at $855,156 in the House proposal, approximately $200,000 more than in Governor Baker’s proposed budget. DER is the primary state agency working on climate change resiliency and its projects ensure public safety, improve drinking water, and eliminate or replace aging and unsafe infrastructure.

The Caucus supported an amendment eliminating the so-called “family cap rule” that prohibited 8,700 otherwise eligible children from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC) benefits. This amendment was adopted by the House.

Additionally, the Progressive Caucus also advocated to Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez to end the automatic cuts in the state income tax rate, which have resulted in cuts to the programs so many residents rely on. The progressive legislators believe that budget requests should be balanced against adequate anticipated revenue. The caucus continues to oppose automatic income tax cuts and supports the “millionaire’s tax” that will be on the ballot this November.

Finally, the caucus supported the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights as an amendment to the budget. While it was ultimately not included in the budget, the caucus is committed to continue working on this bill since it already passed in the Senate. The legislation would create a Student Loan Ombudsman in the Attorney General’s office, require licensing for loan servicers, and create standards of conduct regulated by the Division of Banks.

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