Legislators push for local line items in final state budget

As Gov. Charlie Baker pores over the state budget submitted by the Legislature last week, local elected officials are working hard to ensure line items that have thus far escaped a red pen make it into the final version signed into law.

Lawmakers approved a $38.1 billion budget last Wednesday by votes of 153-1 in the House and 31-5 in the Senate. The governor now has until the end of this week to work through its details before signing it and announcing vetoes and amendments to line items.

In Dorchester, those line items–should they survive–could secure or increase funding for both neighborhood-specific causes and statewide issues.

“I’m hoping that it’s not a fight. I talked with Charlie yesterday and he said he’s spending this entire week going line-by-line on the budget,” said State Rep. Russell Holmes on Tuesday. “I’ve reinforced the line items important to the Black and Latino caucus.”

In his district, Holmes said he is hopeful $150,000 slated for Bottom Line, a college guidance program helpful to students in Dorchester and Roxbury, will survive.

“They’ve never gotten any public funding before,” he added.

State Rep. Evandro Carvalho said he was happy to see more money potentially go into the state’s youth jobs fund called Youth Works. An additional $1.5 million would bump up the program’s funding to $11.7 million for the coming year. He also hailed $250,000 for the state’s witness protection program; $3.02 million for School-to-Career Connecting Activities that supports the development of private-sector youth jobs placements and career specialists in Boston Public Schools through the Boston Private Industry Council, and an increase of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which could increase the maximum credit from $951 to $1,459 per family, he said.

“For too many families in our state, a few hundred dollars can be the difference between drowning and staying afloat financially,” said State Rep. Dan Cullinane. “I know this will make a real difference for a lot of families in my district.” Cullinane said raising the tax credit will assist 415,000 families statewide.

The state budget includes $11.7 million for year-round employment of at-risk youth. Of that, $200,000 has been carved out for a grant at St. Mary’s Center for the Women at Work program in Dorchester–fought for in both branches by State Rep. Dan Hunt and State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry.

“The work that St. Mary’s does is God’s work and is something that needs our help,” Hunt said.

St. Mary’s 22-week job readiness training program addresses the vocational needs of women who face multiple barriers to employment, including homelessness, lack of a GED or high school diploma, history of substance abuse or domestic violence, and difficulty obtaining or retaining employment, according to the program’s website.

“We have to continue to fight for our priorities for the budget,” Hunt said.

Two other priorities for Dorcena Forry: $150,000 for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and another $150,000 for the Massachusetts Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Heroes Memorial, which would pay tribute to Massachusetts veterans killed after Sept. 11, 2001.

Another roughly $90 million of the state budget is slated for substance abuse prevention and treatment statewide, including $250,000 for the Gavin Foundation of South Boston.

State Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz hails the creation of an income-eligible wait list, which for $12 million would take 2,000 kids off the income-eligible preschool waitlist and place them into early education programs. Another $1.7 million will fund the Food Innovation Trust Fund, meant to support healthy and available food options in under-served areas.

One key issue for many in Dorchester has already been cut in the budget process: Cracking down on billboards. Hunt’s previous legislation did not make it onto the version on the governor’s desk, but it also does not include provisions the administration pushed for on MassDOT advertising, Hunt said, making it a moot point. “When and if we do a transportation bill, I’ve already had conversations with the speaker to file that stuff again,” he added.