By Bob Katzen
The Senate on a voice vote without a roll call approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a fiscal 2020 supplemental budget to close out the books on fiscal year 2020. A key provision to help fund the budget diverts the scheduled automatic transfer of capital gains tax revenue estimated at $400 million to the state Rainy Day Fund.
Provisions include $422 million for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons; $62.6 million for the Group Insurance Commission; $11.9 million for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; $1.9 million for the promotion of the restaurant industry; $6.6 million for the State Police; $727,170 to reimburse municipalities for early voting costs from the March 3 presidential primary; $711,947 for a grant program focused on advanced skill training for the home care aide workforce that serves consumers of the elder home care program; and creation of an Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund to mitigate the impacts of the state’s opioid epidemic including expanding access to opioid use disorder prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery options.
Other provisions include giving flexibility to Umass by permitting it to secure a short-term line of credit for operating costs capped at 8 percent of the university’s total approved operating budget; a limited retroactive extension to the statute of limitations for a cause of action concerning prescription opioids brought against Purdue Pharma and its owners; and a change to the state’s tunemployment law to ensure that people receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will receive an additional seven weeks of benefits, fully covered by the federal government.
• Overall, this budget is a fiscally responsible and targeted piece of legislation that will help close the books on fiscal year 2020,” explained Senate Ways and Means Chair Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport).
Of the 39 amendments proposed by representatives, 36 were withdrawn including a controversial one by Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge) that would have extended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for failure to pay until at least January 1, 2021. The amendment would also give the governor the authority to postpone the expiration in increments of up to 90 days.
A moratorium approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor on April 20 expired on October 17 and the Legislature has not extended it. Supporters say that without the extension, there will be tens of thousands of tenants evicted.