If the Commonwealth is going to start building towards a bold economic recovery from the pandemic, the Legislature must ensure that the process is transparent and rooted in the perspectives of our impacted communities across the state. The Legislature will not achieve equity by refusing to live up to the moral charge of the state’s budget. In order to plan — and fund — an equitable recovery for our schools, our transportation systems, and communities hit hardest by the pandemic, the Conference Committee must choose bold, progressive solutions to build towards that reality.
Overall, like the House, the Senate chose not to use the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 state budget as the vehicle to start building towards a bold economic recovery from the pandemic. The full Senate added more than $60 million in funding to their FY 2022 budget proposal, but sidestepped an opportunity to chart a different, more equitable path forward as the Commonwealth begins to reopen. Any differences between the House and Senate budgets will need to be resolved in the Conference Committee.
While most of the added funding during Senate debate supports local projects and initiatives, there were also Senate amendments supporting enhanced mental health services for children and more funding for housing assistance.
Unlike in the House budget, the Senate budget includes a proposal to increase fees for ridesharing programs, such as Uber and Lyft, to support public transit and other transportation infrastructure.
Although the Senate rejected a variety of amendments related to the state’s film tax credit, the Senate budget as passed sets itself up for a debate with the House as the two chambers iron out differences. This tax credit, which costs the state $56 – $80 million a year
is currently scheduled to end on January 1, 2023. The House proposed removing this sunset date, while the Senate proposed putting limits on how the credit is claimed, and extending the sunset date by four years which would allow time to further review its effectiveness.
Fortunately, this FY 2022 budget is not our only opportunity to start building towards recovery. The Legislature can — and should — have a say in getting our communities the new federal resources they need. The federal American Recovery Plan (ARP) is bringing billions to the Commonwealth, including $5.3 billion in flexible funding for the state. We look forward to seeing the Legislature’s inclusion of the communities most in need to help determine how this money should be spent.