State budget allots $50k to rehab Greenway entrance structure

Members of Dorchester’s State House delegation say that the $41.7 billion state budget signed into law last week by Gov. Charlie Baker achieved a healthy balance between financial responsibility and necessary funding for community projects.

Overall, the budget calls for a 3.2 percent increase in spending in fiscal year 2019.

“This is a budget that we can be incredibly proud of both as a state and on the local level as well,” said State Rep. Dan Cullinane, whose 12th Suffolk district includes parts of Dorchester and Mattapan.

The approved spending plan includes a larger tax credit for low-income families, a $160 million investment in public education, and a $200 million in funding for substance abuse treatment. It also sets aside $368 million for the state’s “rainy day fund,” raising state reserves to their highest level since 2007 and protecting against a future economic downturn.

“We must keep in mind and plan for the future to continue maintaining fiscal discipline,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a State House press release.
Baker vetoed only $48.9 million of the budget, some of which was over-ridden and reinstated by the Legislature during deliberations following the signing of the budget last Thursday.

One of these overturned vetoes amounted to a sizable investment in criminal justice reform: $3 million earmarked for community based residential reentry programs. The funding, which was at first rejected by Baker, was secured after override efforts led by Cullinane and Rep. Evandro Carvalho, two Dorchester representatives who have advocated for reductions in recidivism rates in the past.

Cullinane explained that the funds would “make sure folks leaving incarceration are provided with enough stability to make sure they don’t return and restart that vicious cycle...people who have paid their debt to society will have a foundation to start their new life.”

On the local level, Cullinane trumpeted his effort to secure $50,000 in funding that he says will help renovate an old comfort station in Mattapan Square. The empty circa 1913 structure— owned by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation— sits at the entrance to the Neponset Greenway. Cullinane says he hopes a coffee or ice cream shop will occupy the space once it is renovated to put a finishing touch on the Greenway project.

A significant slice of the budget pie was set aside for a local nonprofit, the Haitian American Business Expo (HABE), an online index of Haitian-American-owned businesses in the Boston area. Cullinane said he worked with the HABE to create an employment portal that will help connect businesses with potential employees and customers, something he described as “an important match for that community.”

Additional funding went to New England Community Services (NECS), a mentoring organization that provides life coaching and engagement opportunities to young adults in urban Boston areas.

Elsewhere, Rep. Dan Hunt of the 13th Suffolk District said he successfully secured funding for a number of programs, including St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children, Harbor Health Services, and the Louis D. Brown Peace Insitute.