Senator Jason Lewis today announced that the state Senate has passed the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The budget makes critical investments in public education, including early childhood education and public higher education, as well as transportation, public health, and public safety, while responsibly addressing important needs for specific populations, from veterans’ services, to child welfare, to care for our seniors and those with disabilities, to substance abuse treatment and prevention.
“In recent years, strong fiscal management and consistently on-time and balanced budgets have led to one of the largest rainy day funds in the nation and the highest bond rating in our Commonwealth’s history,” said Senator Lewis. “I’m pleased that this budget continues on that path. I’m also pleased that provisions I championed, dealing with strengthening our Chapter 70 education aid and studying how to most wisely and efficiently use our limited resources, were included in the budget.”
This Senate budget took important steps to address key needs, including: record levels of Chapter 70 education aid and unrestricted local aid from the state to cities and towns; robust support for early childhood education, to help reduce wait lists; a strong commitment to public higher education, to prevent increases in tuitions and fees; fully funding the special education circuit breaker for the third year in a row; and much-needed funds to support new substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
Senator Lewis was successful in securing a number of significant amendments to the Senate’s budget. One successfully adopted amendment calls for the establishment of a Government Efficiencies Commission, which would identify opportunities to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of programs and services across state government. The Commission is modeled after a similar successful effort in Connecticut that resulted in $400 million in taxpayer dollars saved. Another amendment Senator Lewis secured was for $250,000 for the Mass in Motion program that promotes opportunities for healthier eating and more active living in our communities. Currently, Malden, Melrose, and Wakefield are Mass in Motion communities.
Senator Lewis also played a lead role in achieving one of his top priorities for the budget: inclusion of the proposal for a Chapter 70 Education Foundation Budget Review Commission, which will enable a careful and thorough examination of current educational needs and best practices, an important step toward achieving more adequate and equitable funding for our public schools.
During the budget debate, Senator Lewis made his maiden speech in the Senate, on the topic of the Prevention and Wellness Trust, an initiative for which he led the effort in passing. The Trust is designed to serve as a conduit for high-impact, competitive grants to community partnerships across the Commonwealth to implement programs that address the most prevalent, most preventable, and most costly health conditions facing Massachusetts residents. The results of these investments in prevention will allow us to meet both the moral imperative of saving lives and reducing chronic illness and the economic imperative of saving money by containing unsustainably increasing healthcare costs.
The Senate budget can be viewed online at: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2015/Senate. The budget will now go to a Conference Committee for reconciliation with the budget passed by the House of Representatives last month. The final version of the budget is expected to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick next month.