State Senate okays $40.8B budget; leaves revenues uncertain Local aid programs are highlighted

The Massachusetts Senate passed a $40.8 billion budget last week that emphasizes investments in local aid, education, health and human services, housing, and workforce development.

Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, who represents Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston, and Hyde Park, sponsored or co-sponsored several adopted amendments to bolster funding for a number of local programs and aid services.

Reconciliation of this bill with the $40.3 billion House budget that was passed last month is still to come, after which the final legislative budget will be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

In a statement on Wednesday, Forry said, “The budget we passed in the Senate focuses on families, individuals and ways to improve their quality of life through investments in education, increasing housing that’s affordable, and, more importantly, emphasizes mental health and substance abuse treatment.”

She added: “I supported many programs in the district which were successfully included in the budget, along with several statewide initiatives that directly impact the district such as suicide prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Forry also highlighted boosts to the Good Samaritans program (a $400,000 increase for suicide prevention), Boston Scholar Athletes ($25,000 in funding for athletic and professional training programming), $50,000 for Youth & Family Enrichment Services, $100,000 for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, $50,000 for Mattapan Integrative Care, and $140,000 for the Suffolk County Children’s Advocacy Center.

Another amendment calls for $135,000 funding for the College Bound Dorchester pilot program “Boston UnCornered,” which will support 500 young people and is aimed at reducing recidivism, providing academic and vocational skills, and ensuring a sustainable pathway to living wage employment.

Forry’s amendment to create a commission to study the taxi cab industry in Massachusetts was also adopted. If okayed, the commission would assess taxi rules and regulations, industry viability, competitive issues facing the industry, financial burden, the cost and financing of medallions, and vehicle-related issues.

Forry and co-sponsoring senators Thomas McGee, Joseph Boncore, John Keenan, and Patrick O‘Connor successfully advanced an amendment providing funding for the metropolitan beaches, including Savin Hill’s Malibu Beach. The funds would be for maintenance and staffing and would provide $190,000 in grants for community programming on those beaches.

To date, state tax collections are down from initial projections. As reported by the State House News Service, the governor’s budget staff expects tax collections for fiscal 2017, which ends June 30, to fall between $375 million and $575 million below their October 2016 projection, which anticipated a decline of $175 million.

The budgets passed by the Senate and House will not balance these new revenue projections, and any alterations will be made during the House-Senate negotiations.