The Senate Ways and MeansCommittee (SWM) budget takes small, smart and well-targeted stepstowards addressing big challenges. Like the proposals from the Governorand House, however, it doesn’tpropose solutions at the scale of the challenges we face. The types ofmajor investments in our people and communities that couldsubstantially expand economic opportunity, help all of our children tothrive, and strengthen our economy in the long run, would requiresignificant new tax revenue — something none of this year’s budgetproposals call for.
The SWM budget does include anumber of initiatives that will immediately help children and adultsacross the Commonwealth, and ultimately strengthen our economy byallowing more of our people to realize their full potential asindividuals and as productive members of our community:
- An increase of $17.5 millionto provide child care to approximately 3,000 of the more than 41,000children waiting for care. Research overwhelmingly shows that earlyeducation and care plays a critical role in helping children,especially the most vulnerable children, to succeed in school, and inlife.
- Several efforts to addressthe crisis at the Department of Children and Families. In addition tomodest increases in funding that will make it possible to reduce to asomewhat more manageable level the number of families and children eachsocial worker will be responsible for monitoring and helping, SWM alsoproposes a $3.9 million increase in funding for home visiting programsfor young families. This reflects an important insight: that helpingchildren at risk of abuse or neglect will likely require not juststrengthening DCF, but also supporting families before they becomeinvolved with the Department. Bringing that strategy to scale would becostly, but could save resources in the long run, and have atransformative effect on the lives of children who currently face thegreatest obstacles to success.
- An increase of $12.5 millionin funding for affordable housing vouchers. This is significantly morethan was proposed by the Governor or House. The problem of homelessnessrequires not just sheltering families when they become homeless, butalso increasing access to affordable housing so that families can keepa roof over their heads for the long term. This proposed increaseaddresses that reality.
- An additional $16.2 millionin new funding for substance abuse programs at the Department of PublicHealth, including a new program to support the creation of drug- andalcohol-free homes. This will allow people in recovery to get necessarysupports so that they can successfully return to productive lives inthe community.
This Budget Monitor provides anoverview of the Senate Ways & Means budget, with discussion ofhow it compares to other FY 2015 proposals and to historic fundinglevels.
Early Education & Care
The Senate Ways & MeansFY 2015 budget proposal of $541.3 million for programs and servicesadministered by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is a$25.5 million increase over current FY 2014 spending. As the tablebelow outlines, the FY 2015 SWM proposal provides slightly more fundingfor services and supports for Income Eligible children than either theHouse or Governor’s proposals.
All three proposals aresignificantly higher than FY 2014, but the SWM proposal provides $17.5million for children on the wait list in FY 2015, $2.5 million morethan the Governor and $7.5 million more than the House. The Governor’sproposal limited wait list spending to infants, toddlers and preschoolchildren on the Income Eligible WaitList and projected that fundingwould provide care for about 1,700 children. The SWM proposal opensfunding to school-age children for wrap-around care as well as full daycare for infants, toddlers, and preschool children. Because school agechildren need fewer hours of care, the average cost per child for theSWM proposal is less than the Governor’s. SWM projects that the $17.5million Wait Listproposal would provide services to around 3,000 more kids.
Although funding increases helpEEC support more kids with subsidies, wait lists remain high. Thenumber of kids waiting for a subsidy through the Income Eligibleaccount remains around 40,000 and does not appear to be shrinkingsignificantly. Although not documented publically, about 1,000 kids infoster care are waiting for care through the Supportive Child Careaccount. Supportive care provides early education and careopportunities to children in the care of the Department of Children andFamilies, the primary child welfare agency serving kids who have beenabused and neglected.
Initiatives introduced by theGovernor received a mixed response from SWM. SWM did not fund IT coststo embed the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) into EEC’scurrent computer system. QRIS is a rating system used by EEC to measurethe quality of early education and communicate guidance to providers.The Governor proposed $2.5 million. SWM provides $1.0 million for theK1 Classroom Grant Program, $1.0 million less than the Governor. Thisgrant would fund new pre-k classrooms in cities and towns around thestate with a goal of increasing school readiness and improving 3rdgrade reading. Gateway cities and districts with struggling schoolsreceive preference. The House did not provide funding for either ofthese initiatives.
The Children’s Trust Fund’s HealthyFamilies Home Visiting Programreceives $14.5 million, approximately $4 million more than FY 14current spending and both previous FY 2015 proposals. This programprovides home visits for first-time parents under the age of 21. The UniversalPre-Kindergarten programreceives just $6.5 million. The Governor and House provided $7.5million for this program, level with FY 2014 spending.
For more information on theseearly education and care programs, see the MassBudget Children’sBudget.
SWM also provides $385,000 tocontinue an assessment of EEC which began in FY 2014. The FY 2014budget appropriated $500,000 to hire a nonprofit research organizationto undertake a 2 year assessment of the services administered by EEC.Goals of the assessment include identifying promising practices in theadministration of subsidies, evaluating the businesses process involvedin service delivery, and measuring the effectiveness of the currentsystem in meeting the needs of children and families. Neither theGovernor nor the House provided new funding for this assessment intheir FY 2015 proposals.
The SWM budget provides somemodest increases to K-12 education programs. All told, however, theseincreases are roughly in line with annual cost growth and do notrepresent significant new investments or expansions. Further, whenlooked at over a longer time horizon, total SWM support for FY 2015would still be below pre-recessionlevelsâ€”about $80 million less than inthe FY 2009 GAA, adjusted for inflation. For more detail, please seethe Education sections of MassBudget’s Children’sBudget and BudgetBrowser.
Two SWM proposals for K-12grant programs are of particular note. First, in order to help schoolsbetter address substance abuse and mental health issues, the SWM budgetcreates a new $5.0 million grant program for hiring SubstanceAbuse Counselors. Second, theSWM budget proposes $70.3 million for RegionalSchool Transportation, a largeincrease of $18.7 million over FY 2014 levels. The Governor and Houseproposed $51.5 million and $53.5 million respectively.
In March, to help cities andtowns better plan for their local FY 2015 budgets, both the House andSenate passed local aid resolutions committing the legislature early inthe budget process to specific funding levels for Chapter70 education aid andUnrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA). The SWM proposal reflectsthis commitment, funding Chapter 70 aid at $4.40 billion, which is$99.5 million, or 2 percent, over FY 2014.
With the House, Senate, andGovernor all making identical proposals, this is almost certain to bethe final Chapter 70 plan for FY 2015. Specifically, this joint plan:
- Calculates districtfoundation budgets using updated enrollment and inflation data.
- Includes allpre-kindergarten students currently attending public schools indistrict foundation budgets, meaning they are counted when calculatingstate aid. Currently, districts can only count towards their foundationbudgets up to two times as many regular education pre-kindergartenstudents as they have special education pre-kindergarten students.Further, these regular education students must be learning alongsidespecial education students in an inclusive setting. This fundingproposal would lift the cap for FY 2015 and allow districts to counttowards foundation pre-kindergarten students in non-inclusive settings.As with all grade levels, students can only count towards foundation ifthey are not charged tuition for attending.
Since enrollment counts are set for calculating FY 2015 foundationbudgets, this policy change would only cost a modest $2.3 million inits first year. If continued for future years, however, this changecould significantly increase the provision of public early education.
- Phases-in an additionalportion of the formula reforms planned in the 2007 budget, but sloweddue to the ongoing fiscal crisis. Specifically, the budget provides 50percent effort reduction and 35 percent downpayment aid. For moreinformation on the reforms of 2007, please see MassBudget’s Demystifyingthe Chapter 70 Formula.
- Provides a minimum $25 perpupil increase over FY 2014 aid for all districts that wouldn’totherwise receive an increase of this amount.
Additionally, the SWM budgetincludes language allowing all districts to begin a four-year phase inof counting health care costsfor retired teachers towardssatisfying their net school spending requirements. This provision isalso in the House budget. Districts that counted retiree health carecosts in FY 1994, when the current Chapter 70 formula was firstimplemented, have been allowed to continue including them towards netschool spending every year since. Districts that did not includeretiree health care costs in FY 1994, however, have had to count itseparately. While this change would equalize district spendingrequirements, it would have the ultimate effect of allowing manycommunities to spend less on public education.
The SWM budget does not includea provision in both the Governor’s and House budgets that wouldconvene a foundation budgetreview commission to review thestate’s approach to determining district foundation budgets. Thefoundation budget was designed more than twenty years ago and many ofits underlying assumptions are increasingly outof date. Further, there is newevidence on what works best in schools that ought to be considered whenreforming the foundation budget.
Among other K-12 educationprograms, the SWM budget provides:
- An increase of $5.0 millionfor CharterSchool Reimbursements, up to$80.0 million. This proposal would still fall short of fully fundingthe reimbursements formula, which DESE estimates would require $104million. Charter reimbursements have not been fully funded since FY2012.
- An increase of $7.9 millionfor the SpecialEducation Circuit Breaker, abovewhat both the Governor and House proposed. The SWM Committee projectsthat its circuit breaker funding level is sufficient to fully fund thereimbursement formula.
- Level funding for METCO.
- Level funding for InnovationSchools. This account was fundedat $1.0 million for FY 2014 and the Governor proposed an increase to$4.6 million for FY 2015. The House proposed elimination of funding.
- A cut of $499,000 for ExtendedLearning Time Grants. Both theGovernor and House proposed increases.
- A cut of $1.0 million for AdultBasic Education.
- A cut of $3.9 million for KindergartenExpansion Grants. The Houseproposed level funding and the Governor proposed an increase of $3.1million.
It is important to note that the Legislature is currently considering asupplemental spending bill that would increase charter reimbursementsby $27.6 million for FY 2014.
Additionally, the SWM budgetprojects an automatic transfer of $771.5 million in sales tax revenueto the School Modernizationand Reconstruction Trust Fund,which is used to help school districts pay for school construction andrenovation projects. When someone pays the Massachusetts sales tax, onepercent of the retail value of the purchase goes to this fund.
The SWM budget proposes a thirdyear of continued reinvestment in public higher education, building onprogress begun in FY 2013 and continued this year. Driven largely bystate level income tax cuts that cost the state roughly $3.2 billionannually, and by the lingering effects of the Great Recession, highereducation was cutby roughly a third between FY2001 and FY 2012 (adjusted for inflation).
While the SWM budget proposes ahigher education increase of roughly $31 million over FY 2014, both theGovernor and House proposed even greater increases: $53.4 million and$65.1 million respectively. Lower funding for three programs largelyexplains these differences. They are:
- Supplemental funding for CommunityColleges, directed through a newfunding formula, is not included in the SWM budget. Both the Governorand House proposed funding of $13.2 million. Without supplementalfunding through this new formula, community college campuses are eachroughly level funded in the SWM budget.
- StateUniversities Incentive Grants,which receives no funding in the SWM budget. Both the Governor andHouse proposed roughly $8.0 million to support projects at stateuniversities that advance goals of the CommonwealthVision Project.
- Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Starter Academy,which was proposed by the House as a new program in community colleges,funded at $4.8 million. Neither the Governor’s nor the SWM budgetspropose funding for this program.
Additionally, the SWM budget proposes making permanent the STEMCouncil, which currently functions under an executive order of theGovernor. In addition to making the council permanent, SWM proposesexpanding its scope to include the arts, renaming it the STEAMCouncil. The House budget alsoproposed making this council permanent but did not include arts in itspurview, so this will need reconciliation in conference committee.
Appropriations to each of thethree campus types are detailed in the table below. It is important tonote that starting in FY 2012, all campuses began retaining tuitionpayments from out-of-state students, rather than remitting that revenueback to the state. MassBudget adds in an estimate of these payments forFY 2012 to the present, allowing for more accurate year to yearcomparisons. Additionally, MassBudget adds collective bargainingaccounts and other programs located at particular campuses to theirrespective campus totals.
The SWM proposal followsthrough on a commitment made through the FY 2014 budget to increasefunding for UMassby $40 million in FY 2015 (due to MassBudget adjustments, this totaldiffers slightly from the UMass increase shown in the table above). Ifthis increase is met, UMass has committed to freezing student tuitionand fee increases for FY 2015.
The SWM budget proposes anincrease of $1.0 million for the StateScholarship Program. The Housealso proposed a $1.0 million increase, whereas the Governor proposedroughly level funding.
Youth Development programs aimto help young people find their path to a promising career. They fosterengagement in the community, provide training or employment, andprevent violence or other antisocial behavior.
The SWM Committee budgetrecommends spending $31.8 million on Youth Development programs in FY2015 which is $2.9 million more than the final House budget. (Each lineitem in the chart below is described in the Youth Development sectionof MassBudget’s Jobs& Workforce Budgethere: http://workforce.massbudget.org/youth-development)The SWM Committee’s budget is $4.9 million less than FY 2014 currentfunding for these combined programs and $7.7 million less that theGovernor’s FY 2015 proposal.
The state budget funds programsthat keep our air and water clean, maintain fish and wildlife habitatsand support parks, beaches, pools and other recreation facilities. TheSWM Committee recommends spending $194.7 on these programs in FY 2015,an increase of $5.4 million above the current FY 2014 budget. The SWMbudget is $1.6 million less than the House budget and $3.1 million lessthan the Governor’s proposal. Between FY 2001, when $3 billion in taxcuts were being implemented, and FY 2014 funding for environment andrecreation programs has fallen almost 35 percent in inflation-adjusteddollars.
Of the cuts to state fundingfor environment and recreation, the largest have been to the Departmentof Conservation and Recreation (DCR) which oversees the state’sbeaches, parks, pools and other recreation facilities. Between FY 2001and FY 2014 the parks and recreation budget has been cut almost in half(43 percent) in inflation-adjusted dollars. This has forced DCR to cutback on maintenance and staffing of its recreation facilities and toshorten the season when many state parks, beaches and pools are open tothe public. In its budget the SWM Committee recommends increasingfunding for state beaches andemployees who work at recreationfacilities by $1.4 million above the current FY 2014 budget to $14.1million. It recommends reducing funding for state parks by $1.3 millionbelow FY 2014 current spending to $41.6 million.
In addition to funding forparks and recreation the SWM Committee’s budget for environment andrecreation programs also:
- Does not expand the bottlebill to water, juice, coffee and tea drinks. The Governor’s budget used$4.0 million from this proposed expansion to increase state support for redemption centersto $4.4 million. The SWM budget recommends level-funding support forthese centers at $375,000. The House recommends providing these centerswith $500,000 in FY 2015.
- Includes $200,000 in a newaccount to fund a stateclimatologist. In his FY 2015budget the Governor recommended hiring a state climatologist at UMassAmherst to research climate change and educate the public about theissue. His budget also recommended providing $2.0 million to a newaccount within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairsto help the state adapt to climate change. While the SWM budget doesprovide funding for a climatologist, it does not include funding forclimate change preparedness. The House budget, by contrast, provides$1.0 million in funding for climate change preparedness but does notrecommend the hiring of a climatologist.
MassHealth (Medicaid)& Health Reform
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2015budget proposal from the Senate Committee on Ways and Means (SWM)includes $14.5 billion for the state’s Medicaid program (MassHealth)and for other publicly-subsidized health insurance and related programs.
Funding for MassHealth ManagedCare (4000-0500) is $4.8 billion, the same as in the Governor and Houseproposals. Unlike the Governor or House, however, SWM includes languagesimilar to the language in the FY 2014 budget that would ensure thatmanaged care capitation rates get adjusted based on changes in providerrates.
Funding for MassHealth SeniorCare (4000-0600) is $3.1 billion, $36.8 million less than in theGovernor’s proposal and $54.3 million less than the amount proposed bythe House. Funding for MassHealth Fee-for-Service (4000-0700) is $2.4billion, $18.8 million less than in the Governor’s proposal and $19.9million less than the amount proposed by the House. SWM does notinclude increased provider rates for nursing homes or for safety nethospitals, as included in the House budget.
All of the budget proposalshave differed in their recommendations for adult dental coverage.Unlike the House budget, SWM restores coverage for adult dentures, andspecifies that this coverage should be in place by April 1, 2015. Thisis a benefit that the Governor’s budget had proposed to cover startingin January 2015. SWM also asks for a report to the Legislature on thestatus of adult dental coverage, and how that coverage compares tocoverage in 2010. SWM also requires that the coverage for adult dentalfillings not be eliminated over the course of the fiscal year.
SWM added a new provision thatwould allow eligible inmates or persons awaiting trial to be enrolledin MassHealth. While in prison, their membership would be suspended,but if they then required inpatient medical care outside of the prisonwalls, the MassHealth membership could immediately be re-instated. Thiswould allow the Commonwealth to receive federal reimbursement for thecosts of medical care outside of the prison. Currently, medical costsfor inmates are borne by the state through the Department ofCorrections. Moreover, because it would be easy to re-instate suspendedcoverage, this would eliminate gaps in coverage for people once theyare released from prison.
An outside section added by SWMrequires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report tothe Legislature on how the MassHealth Program will operate to staywithin its appropriations. This is similar to language included in theFY 2014 budget.
MassBudget, in conjunction withthe Mass. Law Reform Institute and the Mass. Medicaid Policy Institute,publishes detailed briefs about MassHealth and health reform financeover the course of the budget debate. The brief analyzing the Senatebudget proposals will be published after the Senate budget debate, andwill provide a fuller discussion of these issues.
SWM, like the House, recommendsmore funding for mental health services than did the Governor. The SWMFY 2015 budget proposal includes $731.3 million for mental health. Thisis $2.2 million more than recommended by the House, $18.9 million morethan recommended by the Governor, and $23.5 million (3 percent) morethan FY 2014 current appropriations.
SWM recommends $87.6 millionfor children’s mental health services, $2.4 million more than FY 2014current appropriations, and roughly equal to the House recommendation.Included in the line item funding children’ mental health is languagethat earmarks $3.1 million for the Mass. Child Psychiatry AccessProject, and language requiring commercial insurers to be assessed forthe cost of those services. This earmark and language, while not in theHouse budget proposal, was included in the FY 2014 budget.
SWM also recommends a total of$432.6 million for adult mental health services, $13.5 million morethan the current FY 2014 appropriation total.
The SWM budget includes severalprovisions to support community-based programming. SWM creates a newline item (5046-0005), directing $10.0 million for at least 100 newcommunity placements for adults who are ready for discharge from thestate’s continuing care facilities. The federal Affordable Care Act(ACA) includes a provision that allows states to receive additionalfederal revenue if they commit to shifting Medicaid spending tonon-institutional care. Also within funding for adult mental healthservices, SWM includes language similar to what was included in the FY2014 budget that would maintain funding for the state’s community-basedclubhouse program. This provision was not included in the House budget.
The SWM budget proposalincludes language that would ensure funding for at least 671 inpatientbeds by the end of the fiscal year (an increase from the FY 2014budgeted total of 626 beds). Language also requires that of that total,there would be 260 adult continuing care inpatient beds by April 2015,of which 45 of those inpatient beds would be at Taunton State Hospital.
The SWM FY 2015 budget proposalincludes $571.0 million for public health. This is $4.3 million morethan recommended by the House, $10.0 million more than recommended bythe Governor, and $15.8 million (3 percent) more than FY 2014 currentappropriations.
The SWM budget proposal puts anemphasis on funding for substance abuse treatment, with a total of$109.9 million budgeted for substance abuse services. Substance abusefunding in the SWM budget is $13.5 million more than in the Governor’sbudget, and $8.9 million more than in the House budget proposal.
Language in an outside sectionof the budget creates a substance abuse helpline within the Departmentof Public Health. This toll-free telephone number would provideinformation for people of all ages about inpatient and outpatientsubstance abuse treatment resources. The budget also includes languagerequiring the department to develop a website providing up-to-dateinformation about treatment and transitional support services acrossthe Commonwealth, particularly regularly-updated information aboutfacilities with open beds.
SWM also creates two new lineitems to fund substance abuse treatment. SWM appropriates $500,000 to anew program for the voluntary accreditation of Sober Homes. Thesecommunity-based residences are drug- and alcohol-free transitionalhousing for people in recovery. There is also language in outsidesections of the budget establishing the language creating these homes.
There is also $10.0 million fora new non-budgeted Substance Abuse Services Fund to support expansionof substance abuse treatment. Dollars allocated to this fund would beavailable for substance abuse treatment and services.
Other than in substance abuseprogramming, there are no major public health initiatives in the SWMbudget. The SWM budget includes:
- $20.5 million foradministrative public health functions, $1.7 million more than in FY2014;
- $180.3 million for thepublic health hospitals, $3.1 million more than in FY 2014;
- $67.6 million for maternaland early childhood programs (such as early intervention and the WICSupplemental Nutrition Program), almost level with FY 2014appropriations;
- $4.0 million for smokingprevention and cessation programs, level with the FY 2014 amount. (Italways bears noting that in FY 2001, funding for smoking preventionprograms topped $69 million when adjusted for inflation; tax cuts andchanged priorities stripped funding from these services);
- $8.6 million for youthviolence prevention programming, $5.3 million or 38 percent below FY2014 funding levels;
- $24.8 million for healthcare access program, including $12.4 million for school-based healthprograms, $4.9 million for family health/family planning, and $1.5million for dental health. The department’s health care access programsare funded at roughly the same amounts as in FY 2014.
$77.2 million for preventionand wellness programs, including $13.0 million for the state laboratoryprograms, $4.0 for suicide prevention, and $3.3 million for healthpromotion and disease prevention programs. This total is almost thesame as the amount in FY 2014.
The state housing budget fundsaffordable housing and provides shelter to low-income homeless familiesas well as homeless individuals. The SWM budget recommends spending$375.4 million on affordable housing which is only slightly less thanthe FY 2015 budget adopted by the House and is $30.2 million less thanthe Governor’s proposal for FY 2015. The SWM budget is $71.1 millionless than FY 2014 current spending.1As described below the SWM budget recommends reducing funding below FY2014 current spending for shelter and short-term housing supports whileproviding an increase for rental vouchers.
The number of low-incomefamilies who have become homeless and are eligible for assistance fromthe state has grown despite recent efforts to restrict these families’access to shelter and other supports. Over the last several decades,the state steadily cut funding for the Massachusetts Rental VoucherProgram (MRVP). The number of vouchers dropped from about 20,000 thelate 1980s to fewer than 5,000 by the mid-2000s. This reduction insupport for low-income renters, along with economic downturns like theGreat Recession, has coincided with an increase in the number oflow-income homeless families needing shelter. (See MassBudget’s Shelterand Housing for Homeless Families.)
As the number of low-incomehomeless families has grown, the state has significantly increasedfunding for shelter even though it has also restricted families’ accessto shelter. FY 2014 current funding for the EmergencyAssistance (EA) program, whichprovides shelter to low-income homeless families including those livingin hotels and motels, is $155.1 million; another $6.2 million ispending before the Legislature in a supplemental budget. The SWM budgetrecommends $136.9 million for EA, a reduction of $24.4 million belowthe amount the state is expected to spend in FY 2014 if the fundingpending in the supplemental budget is approved. The SWM budget proposalfor EA is $3.4 million less than the final House budget and $42.7million less than Governor’s FY 2015 recommendation. The SW M budgetmerges the EA family shelter account with the one that helps homelessfamilies living in hotels and motels.
To help low income homelessfamilies avoid shelter, the FY 2012 budget created HomeBASEto provide short-term housing supports including rental and housingassistance. (For more details please see MassBudget’s Children’s Budgethere: http://children.massbudget.org/homebase.) The SWM budget reducesfunding for HomeBASE to $24.2 million reflecting the fact in thecurrent fiscal year, 5,000 families will no longer receive rentalassistance provided by the program. Like the House budget, the SWMproposal increases assistance to help homeless families move intohousing from $4,000 to $6,000 for one year. The SWM also budget alsorequires that the Department of Housing and Community Development(DHCD) develop a plan to determine the maximum amount a family wouldneed to secure stable housing; this plan could allow families to accessas much as $8,000 in housing assistance in one year.
The SWM Committee, whileproviding lower funding for EA in FY 2015 than either the Governor orthe House, recommends an increase for MRVPof $12.5 million above FY 2014 current spending to $70.0 million. Thislevel is $9.5 million above the final House budget and $12.5 millionabove the Governor’s recommendation for FY 2015. In recent years thestate has increased MRVP funding allowing the state to increase thenumber of vouchers to about 8,000. Many of the new vouchers created inrecent years have been provided to families in shelter or who arelosing their HomeBASE subsidies. The SWM Committee estimates its budgetwill allow the state to fund at least 1,000 new vouchers in FY 2015.The budget stipulates that these new vouchers be used to help reducewaitlists for the program rather than move families from EA shelters.Even with this increase, the budget funds far fewer than the 20,000vouchers it supported in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Among other housing programs,the SWM budget recommends:
- $42.0 million for shelterand assistance to homeless individualsincluding the Home and Healthyfor Good Program. This amount is$2.4 million less than the House and $244,000 less than the currentbudget.
- $10.5 million for RAFTwhich is $500,000 more than the current FY 2014 budget but $500,000less than the House proposal. RAFT provides one time funds of up to$4,000 to help low-income families avoid homelessness. The SWM budget,like the House budget, does not continue funding, included in the FY2014 budget, that provides up to 7 days of temporary lodging forlow-income families who are about to become homeless but are ineligiblefor EA.
- $64.0 million for state subsidiesto public housing authoritieswhich is $400,000 less than the FY 2014 current budget and is close tothe House recommendation.
- Level funding the alternativehousing voucher (AHV) programfor people with disabilities at $3.5 million and for the voucherprogram for Department of Mental Health(DMH) clients at $4 million. The House and Governor both recommendedlevel funding AVH but provide additional funding for vouchers for DMHclients.
- $2.4 million for housingservices and counseling, a$650,000 increase above the House recommendation but $250,000 less thanthe current budget.
- No funding for the new SecureJobs Pilot which received$500,000 in the House budget. This initiative is a one yeardemonstration project designed to link families served by EA, HomeBase,MRVP and RAFT with workforce supports.
- Allowing the Department ofHousing and Community Development (DHCD) to withdraw up to $20.0million from the General Fund to pay for FY 2015 startup costs andenergy assistance provided through the Low Income Home EnergyAssistance Program (LIHEAP).LIHEAP, which is largely funded through the federal budget, helpslow-income households pay their energy bills. Outside Section 89 of theCommittee’s budget requires that once DHCD receives its federal LIHEAPfunds, it must reimburse the General Fund for any amount it withdrewfor the program.
The FY 2015 SWM Budget proposalfor Child Welfare programs and services is $819.0 million, a 4.0percent increase over FY 2014 levels and essentially level with boththe Governor and House budget proposals. Funding for programssupporting our most vulnerable children remains over 10 percent lowerthan pre-recession levels.
Multiple initiatives introducedin the House proposal are not included in the SWM proposal. Initiativesnot included in SWM are:
The Departmentof Children and Families (DCF) Administrationreceives $74.6 million, on par with the Governor and House proposalsand 5.0 percent over FY 2014 current spending of $71.1 million. The SWMproposal includes language earmarking $1.0 million for general ITimprovements and mobile technology solutions for social workers.Language also reinstates a requirement that DCF ensure the timelinessof fair hearing and file two quarterly reports (December 2014, March2015) with the legislature on the timeliness of fair hearings. Fairhearings allow children and families to appeal a DCF decision regardingchild placement or a finding of neglect or abuse.
SocialWorkers for Case Managementreceives $180.4 million, an increase of $7.3 million (4.2 percent)compared to FY 2014 current spending. This increase will allow DCF toincrease staffing with the intention of reducing the caseload levels ofcase workers to no more than 15 cases. Currently, many caseworkers havecaseload levels of more than 20. The proposed increase matches theGovernor’s proposal, but is $5.0 million below the House proposal. Eventhe House proposal might not have been enough to achieve desired caseload levels because of turnover and the time it takes to train newsocial workers, and the SWM proposal provides even less.
A supplemental budget billpending before the legislature does include language that would let DCFtransfer funding from other accounts into the Social Workers line item.This could provide another source of funding to increase the number ofcase workers. However, the FY 2015 SWM proposal does not include thislanguage and limits funding transfers to certain service accounts.
TheChild Welfare Training Institute,which provides training to new case workers, is basically level with FY2014 spending. This opens up questions as to whether the traininginstitute has the available resources to train the influx of new caseworkers supported by the increase in funding by SWM.
Servicesfor Children and Familiesreceives an increase of $14.2 million over FY 2014 current spending to$265.4 million. A supplemental bill pending in the legislature wouldincrease the FY 2014 appropriation by $4.0 million and approximately$10 million of the proposed increase in FY 2015 is tied to Chapter 257rate increases. Chapter 257 standardizes rates according to theservices delivered by providers to make the system more efficient andfair. For the majority of services, this has meant an increase in therates paid to providers. Thus, even at the same service level anincreased appropriation must be provided to cover the increase inrates. Taken together, this account is essentially funded at a levelthat will provide the same level of services as FY 2014. For moreinformation on Chapter 257’s rate standardization paid to contractedhuman and social service providers, see this Chapter 257 update.Multiple earmarks in the SWM proposal include:
- $200,000 for the Children’sAdvocacy Center of Bristol County
- $100,000 for the PlymouthCounty Children’s Advocacy Center
- $100,000 for the Children’sCove Cape and Islands Child Advocacy Center
- $75,000 for the Julie’sFamily Learning program
- $100,000 for the FragileBeginnings program
- $224,953 for the CollegeBound Dorchester Inc. program
- $25,000 for a learningachievement program in Amherst
The TransitionalEmployment Program (ROCA)receives $2.0 million in the FY 2015 proposal, the same as last year.ROCA supports youth aging out of the child welfare system, the juvenilejustice system, parolees and other high risk youth. Programming teachesyouth about work building positive work habits helping youth stayconnected. In 2013 ROCA and the MA Executive Office of Administrationand Finance launched a social innovation financing project to reducerecidivism among youth aging out of the juvenile justice system andkeep them out of the adult criminal justice system. The program isinitially funded with private investment with the state onlyreimbursing if the program meets certain performance goals. Like theGovernor, SWM allocates $7.0 million for potential future payments toprivate investors if certain success benchmarks are met. The Houseproposal allocated only $250,000, the same as the projected spendinglevel for FY 2014.
Disability services receives$1.71 billion, an increase of $172.4 million (11.2 percent) over FY2014 current spending, but $731,000 and $10.1 million below the Houseand Governor respectively. The major increase goes to CommunityResidential Supports whichreceives $991.9 million, an increase of $144.8 million over FY 2014current. Most of that increase is needed to cover Chapter 257 rateincreases. Chapter 257 standardizes rates according to the servicesdelivered by providers to make the system more efficient and fair. Forthe majority of services, this has meant an increase in the rates paidto providers necessitating an increased appropriation.
CommunityDay and Work Programs receivesan increase to $173.7 million, $11.8 million above FY 2014 and levelwith the House, but $5.5 million below the Governor’s proposal. Thisincrease supports moving more clients into integrated workenvironments. SWM also provides $5.0 million for a DDSEmployment First Reserve tofurther support the transition from sheltered workshops tocommunity-based employment and day support programs.
CommunityTransportation Services receivesan increase of $2.5 million (19.1 percent) to $15.5 million, $400,000less than the House and Governor. RespiteFamily Supports receives $52.4million, essentially level with FY 2014 spending, but $2.5 millionbelow the House and Governor. For many families with disabled children,the respite program is the only source of support for afterschoolrecreational programming or for specialized caregiving.
SWM does not fund for aninitiative introduced in the House that would provide $1.0 million fora new pilot program for individuals to participate in a community basedemployment program.
The SWM proposal for programsand services administered by the Massachusetts RehabilitationCommission (MRC) and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB)is quite similar to the House and Governor with increases over FY 2014projected spending of:
- $3.4 million (28.2 percent)to $15.7 million for HeadInjury Treatment Services.
- $1.3 million (11.0 percent)to $13.1 million for the MCBTurning 22 program.
The SWM proposal funds ElderServices at $248.1 million, $12.7 million more than FY 2014 spending,but approximately $6 million below the House and Governor. ElderEnhanced Home Care Servicesreceives a $10.1 million increase over FY 2014 to $63.1 million, levelwith the House and Governor. This increase will avoid wait lists forhome care for the elderly allowing over 5,000 elderly to remain at homeinstead of living in a nursing home.
Two programs which receive lessthan proposals from the House and Governor include:
- ElderHome Care Purchased Services at$99.8 million, an increase of $1.0 million over FY 2014, but $4.6million below the House and Governor.
- SupportiveSenior Housing at $4.2 million,level with FY 2014, but $1.3 million below the House and Governor.
SWM proposes $500,000 for a Homeand Community Based Services Policy Labwhich would analyze and recommend improvements to programs providinglong term home and community-based services.
VSWM proposes $11.5 million forGrants to Councils on Aging,$1.0 million above both current spending and the Governor’s proposal,and $115,000 below the House.
The Department of YouthServices (DYS) receives significant increases in a few of theirprograms, nearly matching increases proposed by the Governor and theHouse. The increases will allow DYS to accommodate 17 year olds in thejuvenile system. Previously, 17 year olds were treated as adults."Raise the Age"legislation passed in 2013 places these kids into the juvenile systemwith appropriate services. These youth will also be safer as youth facea much higher risk of being assaulted, including being the victims ofsexual assault, when they are held with adults. Increases over FY 2014which will help support these 17 year olds include:
- $25.7 million for DetainedYouth, an increase of 4.0percent ($995,000), $304,000 less than the House, and $440,000 lessthan the Governor.
- $118.4 million for ResidentialServices for Committed Youth, anincrease of 6.2 percent (6.9 million), $289,000 more than the House,level with the Governor.
Non-ResidentialServices for Committed Youthactually gets cut slightly to $22.7 million, $253,000 below FY 2014spending. This proposal is level with the Governor and $86,000 morethan the House.
For entitlement programs liketransitional assistance, funding levels are significantly affected byanticipated caseload levels. The"entitlement" partmeans that any qualified person who applies must receive the service.Funding for these then is directly tied to how many people qualify andapply. These caseload levels have dropped over the past calendar year.For more detailed information on caseload levels for transitionalassistance accounts, see "Research andStatistics" on the DTA home page. The caseload forTransitional Assistance forFamilies with Dependent Children (TAFDC)dropped from 52,659 in December 2012 to 46,546 in December 2013. Thattrend has continued this year with the caseload dropping further to45,190 in April 2014. The decrease in caseloads has led to a decreasein the projected spending amount for FY 2014 and the proposed fundinglevels for FY 2015 in the Governor, House and SWM proposals.
The FY 2014 GAA budget funded TAFDCgrants at $302.0 million. The Governor’s FY 2015 proposal provided$263.8 million while the House provided $255.7 million. SWM proposes afurther decrease to $253.2 million, 16.2 percent below FY 2014 currentspending, based on projections that the caseload will continue to fall.It is important to note that under this program, grants given toqualified families have lost significant value over time due toinflation. Instead of decreasing the appropriation, SWM could haveproposed increasing the value of the grant to help these children andfamilies pay for basic necessities. For a more in depth analysis of thegrants value, see TAFDC:Declines in Support for Low-Income Children and Families.
The current proposal could alsohave used these savings to provide increases to other programs thathelp low income children and families, such as child care and jobtraining. Instead, the SWM proposal provides the EmploymentServices Program with just $4.4million, a cut of $3.3 million from FY 2014 current spending, and $6.4million below the House proposal. This program provides TAFDCrecipients with education, occupational skills and the employmentsupport services needed to acquire and retain jobs. Under the SWMproposal, this program is 85.8 percent below FY 2009 GAA inflationadjusted levels.
EmergencyAid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)receives $88.4 million, $4.8 million below FY 2014 spending, but$834,000 more than the House proposal. EAEDC is a cash assistanceprogram individuals who are disabled, caring for someone who isdisabled, 65 or older, in a Mass. Rehab program, and children who arenot able to get TAFDC benefits.
The Departmentof Transitional Assistance Administrationreceives $62.7 million, 3.0 percent below FY 2014 current spending of$64.6 million, but $1.6 million above the House. The clothingallowance, a one-time payment made in September to TAFDC recipients tohelp pay for back-to-school clothing, remains at $150. This allowancehas also lost significant value over time due to inflation. A rentallowance of $40 per month is not included in budget language.
In March, to help cities andtowns better plan for their local FY 2015 budgets, both the House andSenate passed local aid resolutions committing the legislature tofunding Unrestricted GeneralGovernment Aid (UGGA) at $945.8million. The FY 2015 SWM budget reflects this commitment, which is$25.5 million above FY 2014 levels. The Governor, by contrast, proposedlevel funding.
UGGA is a form of local aid,money that flows from the state budget to city and town budgets,helping them fund vital local services such as police and fireprotection, parks, public works, and schools (UGGA comes in addition todirect school support that districts receive from Chapter 70 aid).
Driven largely by state levelincome tax cuts that cost the state roughly $3.2 billion annually andby the lingering effects of the Great Recession, UGGA has been cutdramatically since FY 2001. Specifically, the SWM budget’s proposedspending level is $779.4 million, or 45 percent, below FY 2001 levels,adjusted for inflation. For more information on the history of howgeneral local aid has been distributed, please see MassBudget’s paperDemystifying General Local Aid in Massachusetts.
Additionally, the SWM budgetproposes funding the MunicipalRegionalization and Efficiencies Grant Programat $6.4 million, which is below current funding of $14.6 million butabove the roughly $3.8 million proposed by both the Governor and House.This program provides grants to help cities and towns improve theirdelivery of local services.
The SWM budget continuesprogress implementing last year’s long-term transportation finance law,which planned gradual transportation spending increases each year fromFY 2014 through FY 2018. Specifically, the SWM budget increasestransportation spending by $125.7 million over current FY 2014 levels,helping MassDOT modernize its infrastructure, investing in capitalimprovements at the MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities, and makingprogress towards ending the practice of borrowing money to pay for MBTAoperating costs. Following the framework outlined in last year’stransportation finance law, the SWM proposal is very similar to boththe Governor’s and House proposals.
It is important to note that asignificant portion of the state’s transportation-related capitalspending shows up in separate debt service accounts, the largest ofwhich is the ConsolidatedLong-Term Debt Service lineitem. For FY 2015, 51.73% percent of this $2.07 billion account isprojected to cover transportation-related debt.
The state budget supportslibraries by providing funding for a number of programs includingdirect aid to local libraries; the regional library network includingthe interlibrary loan program; and, the talking book programs for thevisually-impaired located in Worcester and Watertown. The FY 2015budget proposed by the SWM Committee recommends spending $26.7 millionon all library programs; a $4.4 million or 20 percent increase abovethe FY 2014 budget. In its library budget, the SWM Committee recommendsa $3.0 million increase, for a total of $10.0 million, for directaid to local libraries. Evenwith this increase, state funding for all library programs will be 44percent lower, in inflation adjusted dollars, than it was in FY 2001.
As is true of the House andGovernor’s budgets, the Senate Ways and Means (SWM) FY 2015 budget doesnot include any sweeping new revenue initiatives. Like the House, theSWM budget also excludes most of the new, ongoing tax changes proposedby the Governor.
Nevertheless, the SWM budget –like the House and Governor’s budgets — does call for additionalrevenue beyond the amount agreed to in the Consensus Revenue Estimate.(To read more about the Governor’s tax package see MassBudget’sreview of the Governor’s FY 2015 budget.To read more about the House’s revenue proposals see MassBudget’sreview of the House FY 2015 budget.)All three budgets rely on additional tax revenue and non-tax revenue,both one-time and ongoing. Like permanent changes in spending levels,ongoing revenue changes affect the state’s long term fiscal condition,whereas temporary (one-time) revenue changes are useful for balancingthe budget only in the current fiscal year (to read more about thestate’s projected FY 2015 budget gap, see MassBudget’sFY 2015 Budget Preview).
Overall, SWM calls for some $36million less in total additional revenue than the House and $166million less than the Governor. While both SWM and the House rely onless one-time revenue than the Governor, it is important to note thatSWM and the House each rely on (separate) accounting changes to fundthe health care costs of retired state workers (“Other than PensionEmployee Benefits” or OPEB costs) with non-General Fund revenues. Ineach case, the changes ultimately reduce deposits into the state’sStabilization Fund. This complicates apples-to-apples comparisons ofone-time revenue use between the SWM and House budgets on the one handand the Governor’s budget on the other, because while the Governor iswithdrawing more from the Stabilization Fund he also is depositing moreinto the fund. (See Non-Tax Revenue section for further discussion ofOPEB funding.)In the sections below, we examine in closer detail the tax and non-taxrevenue proposals included in the SWM FY 2015 budget proposals.
The Fiscal Year 2015 consensustax revenue figure agreed to by the Administration, the House and theSenate is $24.337 billion, an amount 4.9 percent above the revised FY2014 revenue estimate of $23.200 billion. The Senate Ways and Means(SWM) FY 2015 budget proposal, like the House and the Governor’s budgetproposals, relies on additional revenue to be drawn from on acombination of new tax and non-tax sources. Some of these additionalrevenues would come from ongoing sources while others would beone-time.
Notable tax revenue proposalsinclude a one-year delay of the FAS 109 corporate tax break, a shift invenue for smaller tax appeal cases (to reduce backlogs), and anextension of the state’s Historic Building Rehabilitation Credit. TheSWM budget, like the House and Governor’s budgets, also establishes anew structure for redirecting large one-time tax settlements andjudgments from the Stabilization Fund to the General Fund.
The FAS 109 corporate tax breakis a tax break that primarily affects about a dozen multi-statebusinesses. Delaying implementation of this tax break for another year(the tax break has been delayed on a one-year basis in prior budgets)would postpone the loss of an estimated $45.8 million in corporateincome tax collections in FY 2015 (see Governor’sFY 2015 budget documents). Whilethe details of this tax law change involve technical and complexinteractions among a corporation’s records for tax purposes and itspublic financial accounting records, the FAS 109 provision, in essence,is an attempt to offset certain costs to publically-traded companiesresulting from the 2008 combined reporting tax reform package.
As part of that package, rulechanges were enacted that increased the cost of some tax liabilities ofsome companies operating in the Commonwealth. In certain cases, theserule changes would have required changes to a company’s existingfinancial statements. The FAS 109 tax break would allowpublically-traded companies to claim a new tax break that would offsetthe impact to their financial statements resulting from the effects ofcombined reporting on deferred tax liabilities.
The Department of Revenue (DOR)estimated that this provision would cost the Commonwealth $535 millionduring the period in which it was originally scheduled to be ineffectâ€”tax benefits were to bedistributed equally across seven years, 2012-2018 (see DOR report toLegislature). DOR has estimated further that 88 percent (or $472million) of the total tax reductions associated with the FAS 109 taxbreak will accrue to just fourteen corporations. When this provisionwas enacted, the cost was unknown and a process was established thatwould allow an evaluation of the likely cost before the tax break wouldbe implemented.
Under current law, for any taxsettlement or judgment that exceeds $10 million, the amount in excessof $10 million is transferred to the Stabilization Fund. In recentyears, annual collections from these excesses have ranged from about$135 million to more than $420 million, thus directing significantresources to the Stabilization Fund.
Similar to the House andGovernor’s budgets, the SWM budget proposes a new structure that wouldredirect the typical excess amount collected annually from these large,one time settlements and judgments to the state’s General Fund fordirect appropriation to state programs and services. The structureproposed by SWM would direct an estimated $203.5 million in ongoingrevenue to the state budget in FY 2015. This proposal is very similarto the Governor’s, but slightly different than the House proposal. TheHouse proposal uses a five-year average rather than five-year median tocalculate the amount transferred from the Stabilization Fund to theGeneral Fund (this produces a somewhat higher estimated gain to theGeneral Fund in FY 2015, $240 million rather than $203.5 million).Additionally, the SWM proposal clarifies that the calculated five-yearmedian amount will be transferred to the General Fund even in yearswhen total excess collections fall below the calculated median.
While the new structure(s) maysimplify state budgeting, providing a more predictable stream ofrevenue to the General Fund, it is important to note that theseproposals do not generate new revenue. Instead, they simply redirect tothe General Fund revenue that otherwise would have been deposited inthe state’s Stabilization Fund. The proposed changes, therefore, wouldreduce future growth of the Stabilization Fund.
The SWM FY 2015 budget alsorelies on an additional $12 million in revenue enhancements from aproposal to shift more small tax appeal cases from the state’s primaryAppellate Tax Board (ATB) process to a separate track within the ATBdesigned to handle these smaller claims in a less formal and speedierfashion. By reducing the backlog of cases pending before the ATB – andby allowing the ATB to focus on cases involving larger tax liabilitiesand requiring its formal procedural rules – the Department of Revenueestimates that the Commonwealth can collect additional revenue in FY2015.
HISTORICBUILDINGS REHABILITATION CREDIT
The SWM budget extends foranother five years a tax credit that otherwise would have expired inDecember 2017. While this change will not affect the state’s FY 2015fiscal position, it will impact state finances in future fiscal years.Capped at a total cost of $50 million annually, the Historic BuildingsRehabilitation Credit (HBRC) typically costs the Commonwealth between$45 million and $50 million a year in forgone tax revenues.2
The FY 2015 budget proposalfrom SWM relies on several sources of non-tax revenues to balance thebudget.
There are three main types ofnon-tax revenue: federal revenues, which are mostly reimbursements fromthe federal government for state spending on the Medicaid (MassHealth)program; departmental revenues, which are fees, assessments, fines,tuition, and similar receipts; and other revenues, which are mostlyfunds that the state draws from an assortment of non-budgeted trusts.
FEDERALAND DEPARTMENTAL REVENUE
Compared to FY 2014, and likein the Governor’s and House budget proposals, the FY 2015 SWM budgetshows a significant increase in federal revenue. These revenues willcome to the Commonwealth as a partial reimbursement for increasedspending on MassHealth and health reform expansions with theimplementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
With the ACA, there will be alarge increase in enrollment in the publicly-subsidized healthinsurance programs that bring in federal reimbursement. At the sametime, provisions in the ACA allow for Massachusetts to receive anenhanced reimbursement rate for many of these enrollees, as well asadditional reimbursement for some current enrollees. The SWM budgetproposal reduces funding for these programs compared to the proposalsfrom the Governor and the House, thereby also reducing the amount offederal reimbursement the Commonwealth will receive. In addition, SWM,the House, and the Governor all anticipate $32.2 million in revenuesfrom increased federal reimbursements from the TANF program and thesoldiers’ homes, and also $13.0 million realized in FY 2015 by delayingcertain payments to hospitals into the next fiscal year.
Unrelated to the ACA and otherhealthcare revenues and expenditures, SWM does not include the $24.2million in increased departmental revenue associated with theGovernor’s proposal to expand the state’s “bottle bill.”
TRANSFERSFROM TRUSTS AND OTHER SOLUTIONS TO BALANCE THE BUDGET
Like the Governor and House,the SWM budget anticipates $53.5 million in one-time revenue fromgaming licenses, and $20 million in new ongoing revenue from slotparlors. Also like the Governor and House, SWM anticipates $10.0million that will be available as one-time revenue from unused fundsremaining in various off-budget trust funds.
The SWM proposes withdrawing$140.0 million from the state’s Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund inorder to balance the budget. This is a one-time revenue source. SWMalso proposes balancing the budget with the continued withdrawal ofinterest earned by the Stabilization Fund.
Although not included in thechart above, the SWM budget changes the way in which the state fundsits liability to the State Retiree Benefits Trust ($75.9 million),redirecting money that would otherwise go to the Stabilization Fund. InFY 2012, the state passed a law directing that an annually increasingshare of the funds from the Master Tobacco Settlement go into the StateRetiree Benefits Trust in order to help pay these costs. The SWM budgetproposes language changing this formula. The SWM’s proposal recommendsthat the Commonwealth meet its obligation with 50 percent of capitalgains tax revenues that would otherwise go to the Stabilization Fund($61 million in FY 2015). The effect of this is reducing the state’sdeposit into the Stabilization Fund. In FY 2015, SWM also proposes theremainder of the transfer to the State Retiree Benefits Trust wouldcome from unused appropriations for debt service. If that is notenough, the balance would come from the Master Tobacco Settlement fundsdeposited into the General Fund.
Note:MassBudget’s budget total is higher than other commonly-presentedbudget totals, in large part because we include “pre-budget” transfersin our budget totals, which in FY 2015, adds approximately $3.6billion. These transfers include tax revenues dedicated to the MBTA andto school building assistance, the cigarette excise tax dedicated tothe Commonwealth Care Trust Fund, the state contribution to the pensionsystem, and the transfers to the Workforce Training Fund and to theState Retiree Benefits Trust (when designated). We also make severaladjustments in order to allow for more accurate across-year comparisonsof budget totals.
1TheFY 2014 current budget also provides $20.0 million in funding forLIHEAP a program largely funded through the federal budget to help lowincome people pay their energy bills. If the Legislature provides statefunding to supplement the federal LIHEAP payments it generally does soin a supplemental budget during the fall or early winter.
2FiscalYear 2015 Tax Expenditure budget: (pg. 35, item 1.610 and pg. 62, item2.610): http://www.mass.gov/dor/tax-professionals/news-and-reports/state-budget-documents/tax-expenditure-budget/