By Bob Katzen
The House 155-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $49.7 billion fiscal 2023 state budget after adding nearly $130 million in spending during three days of debate. The House version now goes to the Senate which will approve a different version. A House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.
Provisions include $18.4 billion to fully fund MassHealth caseloads; $70 million in rate increases for subsidized child care providers; $3 million for early childhood mental health grants; $110 million for a year-long extension of universal school meals; $243 million for charter school aid; $60 million for adult education to support English Language Learners and adults working towards their GED; $15 million to support teachers of color, including $7.5 million for Tomorrow’s Teachers program to provide scholarships to people committed to teaching in public schools and $7.5 million for loan repayment for teachers of color; $188.6 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Service; and $653 million for the University of Massachusetts system.
Another provision would require the Department of Correction (DOC), sheriffs and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to provide phone calls free of charge to persons receiving and initiating phone calls and other services such as video or electronic communications, who are currently paying $14.4 million per year to communicate.
The package also would outlaw child marriage of children under the age of 18 and empower minors currently in marriages to seek divorce or annulment on their own.
“The House budget responds to the economic challenges currently facing Massachusetts residents by balancing a focus on immediate needs such as workforce development, with a focus on long-term investments that are designed to grow our economy in a sustainable way,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy).