Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) voted last night to pass the FY 2015 House Budget. She was joined by all of her Democratic colleagues and 27 out of 29 Republicans.
The House Budget is fiscally responsible as it reduces reliance on one time revenues, the stabilization fund, and accelerates payment on pension liabilities from 30 years to 26 years by adding an additional $163 million payment for pension liabilities.
Massachusetts currently has one of the highest bond ratings of any state in the country at AA+. During this downturn economy it was one of only two states to receive an increase in its bond rating. Moreover, Massachusetts has the fourth largest stabilization fund in the country and leads among non-fuel producing states.
This budget increases unrestricted government aid and Chapter 70 funds by $125 million and fully funds health and human service reimbursements.
This budget additionally invests in government efficiencies and oversight; substance abuse initiatives, mental and behavioral health; municipal police training and reforms the Department of Children and Families as recommended by substantive audits and reviews.
This budget also maintains freezes in public higher education costs, making college more affordable for students and makes significant investments in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Programs.
Representative Ferrante led on three amendments to benefit Cape Ann:
The restoration of $1.2 million for Student Awareness of Fire Education Programs;
Funding in the amount of $100,000 for the start-up costs for Community Development Corporations, such as Gloucester Harbor Community Development Corporation, which focuses on assisting properties within the Designated Port Areas, with investment from tax credits; and
Funding for the North Shore Health Project in the amount of $120,000 for a pilot program to treat Hepatitis C. Representative Ferrante also worked with Acting Chair Jennifer Benson to require primary care doctors to offer a Hep C screening for patients born between the years of 1945 and 1965.
Further, Representative Ferrante worked with her republican colleague Representative Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) on the following amendments for Cape Ann:
$83,400 to address the green crab issue on Cape Ann and in the Ipswich Bay clam flats; and,
$704,319 to mitigate costs related to the merger of the Essex North Shore Regional School District.
(See attached for other state wide budgetary items).
Moreover, Representative Ferrante worked with her colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats to achieve the following support for state wide programs which also benefit Cape Ann and her residents:
Reduces social worker caseload ratios to not more than 28, not more than 10 may be in out-of-home placement;
Codifies background checks by requiring state and national fingerprint-based background checks and Sex Offender Registry checks for all current and future foster parents;
Licensing requirements for all employees within three years of employment;
Requires a further emergency management review form the Office of Child Advocate, the Attorney General and the Inspector General;
Disqualifies individuals from becoming foster parents if they or other individuals residing within the household have been convicted of child abuse or violent crimes;
Medical screening for all children within DCF care within 72 hours of entering the program;
Upgrades to technology and record keeping practices;
Education and Early Education
$10,000,000 to serve 1,200 children, ages birth through age 5, who are receiving no child care;
$18,464.890 for the Services of Infants and Parents;
$400,000 for Bay State Reading Initiative which is serving the Beeman and Veteran’s Schools;
$1,786,319 for Pot Hole money, a $213681 increase over FY14;
$257,513,275 for Special Education Circuit Breaker, a $5,000,000 increase over FY14;
$9,805,978 for public libraries, a $226,503 increase over FY 14;
$1,710,000 for After-School Programs in STEM and ART activities;
A special commission to investigate public school libraries;
Foundation Budget Review Commission which will enable a systematic and comprehensive re-evaluation of the foundation budget and an examination of current education needs and models for effective and efficient resource allocation;
Ferrante said, “This budget funds the appropriate level of investments in our cities and towns, our educational system and common wealth of our citizenry as evidenced by the overwhelming bipartisan support received for this budget. This budget delivers important investments to our Commonwealth and to Cape Ann, in the form of better science for our fisheries, study effects of climate change on our area, and investment in our working Harbor.”
Ferrante continued to say, “I am pleased that Representative Hill and I were successful in obtaining relief for our school districts as we move forward with our commitment to our vocational students to give them the best education at North Shore Technical School and have struck the right balance between commercial fishermen and clammers relative to green crabs.”
“This budget,” continued Ferrante, “holds enormous promise in the efforts to curb and to treat opiate drug addiction and to reform the Department of Children and Families, which has let too many of us down, especially the children in its care. Along with the treatment of drug addiction, I am proud that the House of Representatives appreciates the work of our very own North Shore Health Project and has selected it for a pilot program to cure Hepatitis C patients.”
“In conjunction with the investment in Hepatitis C treatment,” Ferrante continued, “We were able to strengthen our community hospitals and to make them a stronger partner as we address the health issues in our communities.”
Environment, National Resources, Farming and Fisheries
$300,000 for “Buy Local” Initiatives;
$450,000 for fisheries research;
$1,000,000 to coordinate and implement strategies for climate change adaption and preparedness;
$15,000,000 Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program for regional food banks including Open Door
Hospital, Medical Services and Women’s Health Issues
Nursing Home stabilization for facilities such as Sea Coast and Golden Living, and,
Reform of repayments to hospitals for more equitable reimbursements to Community Hospitals such as Addison Gilbert;
$100,000 for the Commission on the Status of Women;
$6,200.000 for Family Planning Initiatives;
Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Drug Addition
A 19.4 percent increase, $15.7 million increase since FY2011 in treating substance abuse;
Expansion of the Prescription Monitoring Program which successfully identified 280 people “doctor shopping for opiates” with 40% of providers participating;
Increase in penalties for heroin distribution;
Increase in participation of cities and towns in nasal narcan first responder programs;
Funding for 5 new drug courts to hear cases of drug offenses involving addicts;
Approximately $20 million to treat mental illness
Public Safety & Security
$4.3 million for Municipal Police Training;
Tourism, Arts and Culture
$4,000,000 for Regional Tourism Councils;
$15,126,651 for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism;
$9,600,000 for the Massachusetts Cultural Council;
$200,000 for the Bay State Games;
$25,000,000 for Community Preservation Trust Fund;
$15,000,000 for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation; and
Youth at Risk
$4,150,000 for at Risk Youth through YMCA programs.