By Bob Katzen
Gov. Maura Healey signed into law a $56 billion fiscal 2024 state budget. The package represents a 6.2 percent increase over last year’s budget signed by Former Gov. Charlie Baker. Healey vetoed $272 million in spending and the Legislature now has the opportunity to override the vetoes with a two-thirds vote of each branch.
“This budget makes our state more affordable, competitive and equitable,” Healey said. “It will make a real and meaningful difference in the lives of people across Massachusetts, lowering their costs, expanding access to opportunity, improving the quality of their life.”
Provisions include $171.5 million to fund a requirement that all public schools provide free school lunches to all K-12 students in all schools regardless of family income; and free breakfast only to the students in schools which participate in the breakfast program. According to Project Bread, which was at the forefront of the coalition working to pass the law, 1,961 (91.8 percent) of Bay State schools participate in the breakfast program.
Massachusetts has now joined seven states, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and Michigan that have passed laws to make school meals permanent.
“Today, Massachusetts made history,” said Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread. “This victory for families across the commonwealth will have a lasting impact on generations of students to come.”
The package also allows undocumented/illegal immigrants to qualify for the lower in-state college tuition rate if they attended high school here for at least three years and graduated or completed a GED.
Other provisions include $50 million to support free community colleges; $50 million to create Green School Works, a program to fund projects to install and maintain clean energy infrastructure at public schools; $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 education funding for cities and towns, an increase of $604 million over last year; $504.5 million for the special education circuit breaker; $181 million for MBTA capital projects; $19.81 billion for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons; and a new law that prisons must provide free unlimited incoming and outgoing phone calls for prisoners.