Senate Approves $38.09 Billion Budget

Senate Majority Whip Anthony Petruccelli and the Senate voted on a $38.09 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016 and in it are several earmarks to held East Boston. Petruccelli said the budget makes critical investments in key areas of local aid, education, economic development and services for vulnerable and under-served populations.

“I was proud to work alongside my colleagues in the Senate to create both an accountable and responsible budget that invests in much needed state services while making long term spending decisions that are critical to improving the state’s fiscal health,” said Petruccelli.

Petruccelli was the sponsor of a number of amendments that will help ensure the continued success and growth for the communities and residents of East Boston.  One of his many accomplishments included the allotment of funds directed towards the implementation of a job readiness pilot program at East Boston High School.  In collaboration with East Boston High School, a number of prominent local music programs would provide training and comprehensive instruction to youth in the fields of entertainment technology and high technology in order to give students the skills they need to qualify for internships and entry level job positions.

Petruccelli also secured funds dedicated to the development and administration of a program to prevent and treat addiction to opioid and related substances through the East Boston Community Health Center.  The passage of this amendment will allow for the closing of a service gap–ensuring councilors will now be able to cover the critical hours of night and weekend shifts with the hopes that this coverage could be the difference needed in preventing overdoses and encouraging future treatment. As a whole, this budget continues the Senate’s mission to break the cycle of addiction through investments in substance abuse prevention, recovery and treatment.  Additionally, the Senator worked with leadership to restore $1.5 million dollars in funding for substance abuse education grants.   The substance abuse grant program included in last year’s budget was designed to be an innovative tool in preserving and combating substance abuse among the Commonwealth’s youth by providing a direct service program in schools

The Eastie senator also received additional support from colleagues on the Senate floor pertaining to two additional amendments filed. These amendments were Homes for Families and Safe and Supportive Schools.  Currently, the Emergency Assistance program continues to operate over capacity serving crisis levels of homeless families and children.  The language as put forth by Petruccelli and approved by the Senate for Homes for Families will provide technical assistance to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) while facilitating ongoing training, policy recommendations, formal and informal feedback to DHCD.

Support was also lent to provisions establishing a statewide Safe and Supportive Schools framework to assist schools in creating learning environments set to improve educational outcomes for students.  Passage of the amendment allocates money for the creation and expansion of action plans based on the elements of the safe and supportive schools framework.

“[This budget] illustrated the shared values, cooperation and shared leadership in the Senate. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and our investments in workforce training, education and economic development in this budget will lift all working families across Massachusetts,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “In addition, this budget changes the structure of the MassDOT board and creates an MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board with real accountability to fix the management issues in our public transit system. I could not be happier with the work of the members of the Senate this week.”

Finally the Senate budget increases the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to help working families in Eastie and increases the state’s personal tax exemption for all taxpayers. The tax cuts are revenue neutral and will be paid for by freezing at 5.15 percent the state’s income tax, which was scheduled to decrease to 5.10 percent next year if certain triggers are met. By freezing that tax cut and channeling the money back to those who need it most, the Senate hopes to reverse the troubling trend of wage stagnation which has plagued working families for decades. The current Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit is 15 percent of the Federal program, equal to an average of $315 per recipient. Under the Senate plan, the state match will increase to 22.5 percent of the Federal program over three years, a 50 percent increase in the state EITC or an average of $470 per recipient. This program is one of the more popular Eastie programs among residents in the neighborhood. East Boston APAC runs the free Earned Income Tax Credit clinic each year and has returned millions of dollars back into the pockets of Eastie’s working families.

A Conference Committee will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2016 begins on July 1, 2015.

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