I hope this Summer legislative update finds you all well and that you are all enjoying the summer so far. I wanted to provide you all with a recap of my actions so far this legislative session.
Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
In July I was very proud to support a $48.07 Billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022. This budget preserves fiscal responsibility while maintaining services, makes targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguards the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations in the Commonwealth, and ensures residents will benefit equitably as the state recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This budget reflects our values by investing in local aid, public health, our educational systems, and workforce training – each of which will play a critical role in getting us past this pandemic and back to full employment. It also includes a planned $1.1 billion deposit into the Commonwealth’s reserve ‘Rainy Day’ fund bringing its total to a record $6.0 billion which strengthens our state’s fiscal position, prepares us well to deal future challenges, and puts our state in a strong place to protect our bond rating.
Working with Minority Leader Brad Jones and Senator Jason Lewis, we were able to secure Reading $10.9 million for our schools, $3.5 million in unrestricted local aid to help pay for our police, fire, parks, and other local programs. We were also able to secure:
- $10,000 to support substance abuse and addiction awareness and education efforts at the Reading Coalition for Prevention & Support, which operates out of the Reading Police Department and offers programs and services to the community related to substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion;
- $50,000 for improvements and the re-design of the Upper Haven Street (CVS) Municipal Parking Lot to include more pedestrian-friendly features;
- $50,000 for pedestrian access improvements at the Eastern Gateway, with a focus on the intersection at the entrance to Market Basket; and
- $10,000 for the construction of a Reading Community Garden
This budget and these funds support several targeted municipal projects for pedestrian and traffic flow improvements that continue to be a major concern for residents and community leaders. Additionally, these funds will help support the Reading’s commitment to battling substance abuse and providing a healthy, safe lifestyle for all its residents.
Notably, the FY22 budget provides substantial funds to invest in the Commonwealth’s long-term obligations. As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the FY22 budget protects access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, educators, and institutions.
The budget increases Chapter 70 (schools) funding by $220M and fulfills the first-year schedules outlined in the Student Opportunity Act for both out-of-district transportation eligibility in the Circuit Breaker program and charter school tuition reimbursement. It additionally includes a $40M Enrollment Reserve account to mitigate any adverse effects of COVID-related school enrollment surges and creates a $350M Student Opportunity Act Investment Fund to ensure that we can continue to fulfill our commitment to implementing the SOA over the next five years. Finally, this budget made permanent the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit which continues to support economic growth.
Conservation Land Tax Credit
I was proud to be a part of a successful bipartisan effort to secure language in the state budget that will help preserve open space in Massachusetts by raising the annual cap on the state’s Conservation Land Tax Credit.
This land tax credit goes a long way in protecting our natural resources by encouraging landowners to permanently conserve land in the Commonwealth. This effort will increase the amount of land we are able to conserve, protect more wildlife, and naturally combat global warming. We have a responsibility to future generations to preserve our planet and the resources we all enjoy.
Infrastructure Money for Reading
I joined my colleagues in the legislature in passing a bill that will invest $350 million in municipal transportation and selected statewide transportation infrastructure projects. The bill, An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges, authorizes $200 million for municipal roads and bridges through the Chapter 90 program and $150 million to support statewide projects to address congestion, support electric vehicle infrastructure, prioritize bus infrastructure, and improve public transit.
Reading will receive $605,006 of the $200 million in Chapter 90 funding for projects to maintain, improve, and repair roadways, bridges, sidewalks, and bikeways. The bill also includes the following components:
- $25M for the Municipal Small Bridge Program;
- $25M for the Local Bottleneck Program;
- $25M for Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure;
- $25M for Transit-Supportive Infrastructure;
- $25M for Bus Prioritization and Enhancement Projects;
- $25M for Enhancements at Transit and Commuter Rail Stations.
I was pleased to join my House colleagues in overwhelmingly supporting H.3977 – An Act Regulating Sports Wagering.
Our residents have been traveling to bordering states for years to place their sport wagers. This bill offers residents the opportunity to place sports’ bets in our state rather than going to one of the other thirty states where it is legal, includes proper safeguards, help get sports betting out of the shadows, and any revenue collected would benefit Massachusetts residents. Some parts of the legislation include:
- Betting must be taken in casinos, racetracks, online and mobile platforms;
- Betting will be allowed on all major professional sports;
- Betting to be allowed on outcome of college games, but not player results;
- Must be in state and at least 21 years old to bet;
- $60M in Annual revenue to Massachusetts
- Wagers to be taxed at 12.5% for made-in-person bets, and 15% for online or mobile bets
The Public Lands Preservation Act (H.851)
I am a proud co-sponsor of the Public Lands Preservation Act (H.851) which passed the House in late July. The legislation will codify the current state policy when any entity, public or private, wants to convert conservation land to some other use. Because the current process is only a policy, there are frequent attempts to circumvent the requirements to have a public process. This important bill would protect our public parks and strengthen Article 97 of the state constitution which gives to the people of Massachusetts the right to clean air and water and protected open space.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave and UI Rate Relief
The Massachusetts Legislature and I gave final approval to a bill to avoid drastic unemployment insurance rate increases paid by employers and guarantees COVID emergency paid leave to workers.
Small businesses need our support as we focus on economic recovery. As Vice Chairman of Community Development and Small Business, I was very proud to support legislation that drastically reduces the spike in unemployment insurance rates for employers. This effort stabilizes UI rates, bolsters the long-term solvency of our UI fund, and provides critical emergency paid sick leave. Passage of the bill by the Legislature ensures that all Massachusetts employees, including frontline workers in hospitals and classrooms, will receive emergency leave for up to five paid days off for COVID-related concerns, including paid leave from work to attend a vaccine appointment.
Supplemental Budget for Fiscal Year 2021
In late July I worked with my colleagues in the legislature to pass a $261.6 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The supplemental budget addresses time-sensitive deficiencies, extends expanded voting options, provides supports for the implementation police reform law, and makes investments to support the Commonwealth’s continued recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The supplemental budget invests in childcare workforce development and provide critical support for the most vulnerable among us. It is also vitally important that we provide resources for training our public safety officials and increase rates for home health aides across the Commonwealth.
My office continues to host office hours sessions with the community, with our next session to be held on Thursday, September 9th at 11am. These sessions are a great opportunity for us to speak directly on the issues concerning you most, and I stand ready to listen and help in any way I can.
This has been a challenging year on so many fronts, and I want to recognize my Legislative Aide Anthony Langone for the extraordinary work he has done and continues to do. If you ever have any questions or are looking to sign-up for one of our upcoming office hours, please reach out to Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617) 722-2090.