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Senate Ways & Means releases FY ‘18 budget plan

The Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released a $40.3 billion budget plan today – Tuesday, May 16 – for Fiscal Year 2018 that largely falls in line with the proposals previously filed by Gov. Charlie Baker and the state House of Representatives, including more money for several key EOHHS line items.

You can access the full SWM budget here. You can review the Providers' Council's budget tracker here.

The Senate Ways and Means (SWM) budget also gives Gov. Charlie Baker a green light to pursue a health care assessment on businesses that are not insuring a certain percentage of employees. The Senate plan, however, gives Baker two options: Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka said that the Senate budget would authorize Baker to choose between implementing a new per employee assessment on companies that don't offer their workers health plans, or increasing an existing fee used to help pay for subsidized insurance plans and medical care for the uninsured.

The Senate’s version of the per-employee assessment would apply to companies with 25 or more employees (Baker and the House had said 11) and would sunset after two years.

The Senate’s Kids First initiative is referenced throughout the Executive Summary and budget, especially with regard to investments in early education and care and mental health spending. It proposes a $300,000 loan forgiveness program for mental health professionals treating children and adolescents in geographically underserved areas of the state.

The SWM plan also increases funding for Employment Services Programs (4401-1000), proposing $14,598,659 – nearly $1 million more than the House budget’s $13,673,659 – but it omits language specifying funding for Competitive Integrated Employment Services. The Council will be seeking an amendment to this line item to include language that funds CIES programs at “no less than FY ’17 levels.”

Other differences of note in SWM:

  • The allocation of nearly $130 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services is more than Gov. Baker’s proposal, but 3 percent lower than the House’s proposed $133.8 million;
  • It includes nearly $1 million more than the Governor’s budget for Family Health Services (4513-1000);
  • It includes more than both the Governor and House for DCF Family Support and Stabilization Services (4800-0040);
  • The $12.2 million for Family Resources Centers (4800-0200) is a boost of $2.6 million over FY ’17 spending and well above the House’s final budget proposal, which would cut funding to about $7.8 million;
  • While the Mass. Rental Voucher Program funding is in line with the House’s proposed $100,000,000 to fund 350-400 new rental assistance vouchers; SWM allocated more than the Governor or House for housing and homelessness services in other areas, including Emergency Assistance – Family Shelter and Services (7004-0101) and Short-Term Housing Transition (7004-0108); and
  • About the allocation for Early Education and Care Quality Improvements is $1.5 million more than the House plan.

Amendments to the Senate Ways & Means Budget are due by 5 p.m. Thursday, May 18, and the budget debate is scheduled to start Tuesday, May 23. Once the Senate budget is finalized, a House-Senate Conference Committee will hammer out a final spending plan to send to the Governor. Fiscal 2018 begins July 1, 2017.

If you have questions about the SWM FY’18 budget, please email Bill Yelenak.