Investing in Opportunity

This week, I joined my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a balanced fiscal year 2020 budget that invests heavily in education, economic development, and local aid, strengthens Cape Ann’s local economy and celebrates its history.

The funding in this year’s budget for Cape Ann is reflective of our area’s people, our collective history, and our economic future. Investments in our residents through support of the Open Door, our public safety officers, our schools, and our environment are priorities reflected in this budget. Specific funding for lobster processing, marine science, the Blue Economy and marine genomics all foster opportunity and economic prosperity for our district. The collaboration within our state delegation, our local partners in government and our community has proven productive and yielded much success for Cape Ann.

The budget provides $5.17 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $268 million increase for investments in schools over FY2019, nearly double the average year-to-year increase over the past five years, as well as $345 million for special education reimbursement. Additionally, to ensure that we are investing in the whole child, especially those most in need, the budget provides:

  • $2 million to establish a grant program to address the need for integrated student health and wellness supports
  • $10.5 million for a reserve for low-income students

With the opening of the new Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute building on the waterfront and the presence of the state Department of Marine Fisheries and the UMass Amherst Marine Station, Cape Ann is uniquely positioned to continue to grow its marine genomics and blue economy industries, supporting our historic maritime-based industries while creating opportunities for new jobs for Cape Ann residents. The FY2020 budget invests in this potential in several ways, including:

  • $200,000 for a program of collaborative research to study communicable diseases in shellfish, managed by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI) in coordination with UMass and the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, which will provide new insights into communicable diseases in shellfish, providing better data with which we can manage those resources
  • $25,000 for the planning and design of regional broadband infrastructure in order to ensure that Cape Ann has necessary bandwidth to handle the amount of data that GMGI and other information-intensive companies need
  • $55,000 for a study of the North Shore’s blue economy to ensure we are prepared for smart growth in our marine industries

Cape Ann has a long and rich history, evident as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of Essex this year and the 400th year since the settlement of Gloucester in a few years. To celebrate this history, the budget allocates:

  • $50,000 for the design, research, and distribution of a commemorative publication of the history of the City of Gloucester on the occasion of the 400th year from its founding, inclusive of all its diverse peoples
  • $35,000 for the Essex Bicentennial Committee for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Essex

In addition to nearly $5 million of unrestricted general government aid and $11.2 million in Chapter 70 aid to Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, the budget also contains several local aid items, including:

  • $50,000 to purchase additional sets of firefighter turnout gear for the Gloucester Fire Department
  • $40,000 for the planning and design of a new public safety building in Essex
  • $25,000 for the replacement of filters at the Rockport water facility

To help protect the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens, the budget allocates over $20 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program, which helps to fund food pantries such as The Open Door, which serves Cape Ann. The budget also provides $100,000 for The Open Door, so that they may better serve our most vulnerable citizens on Cape Ann, as well as those forced into food insecurity by circumstances such as the federal government shutdown at the beginning of this year.

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is one of the state’s most effective local aid programs and has been a tremendous resource to our cities and towns, funding the restoration of Gloucester City Hall, the Rockport Meeting House, Essex Town Hall, and many other of our treasured local landmarks and spaces. I’m glad to report that the budget includes a one-time adjustment to filing fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, which will increase the state match to local community preservation committees to nearly 30 percent. At the beginning of this legislative session, I was joined by over 100 of my colleagues in filing a similar proposal and I am glad that this increase was included. In addition, the budget contains language to transfer of up to $20 million of the FY2019 surplus to the Community Preservation Trust Fund.

I’m pleased that this budget focuses on lifting up and providing opportunities to the residents of Cape Ann through collaboration with state, local, and private partners. The legislation is now on Governor Baker’s desk, awaiting his signature. I look forward to seeing the allocations in this budget put to work in the coming year.

Tarr and Ferrante Secure Support For Local Priorities in State Budget

Gloucester lawmakers Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante have secured a significant amount of state support for innovative and important initiatives serving Cape Ann communities in the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget bill now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker.

The lawmakers authored, proposed, and successfully championed, amendments which will aid in public safety, water quality, economic development, fisheries, marine genomic research and efforts to support the anniversary celebrations of Gloucester and Essex.

“Residents in our communities are very fortunate to have people who are committed to helping others. Each of the programs, projects and ongoing initiatives identified for support in the state budget came about as a result of our strong partnerships with local officials and organizations,” said Senator Tarr, the Senate’s Minority Leader. “Our area fared well because it is served well by those partnerships and the efforts of individuals that are involved in them.”

“The funding in this year’s budget for Cape Ann is reflective of our area’s people, our collective history and our economic future. Investments in our residents through support of the Open Door, our public safety officers, our schools and our environment are priorities reflected in this budget,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D- Gloucester). “Specific funding for lobster processing, marine science, the Blue Economy and marine genomics all foster opportunity and economic prosperity for our district.  The collaboration within our state delegation, our local partners in government and our community has proven productive and yielded much success for Cape Ann.”

Among those items which were included in the final budget:

  • Lobster Processing – a major provision to strengthen the Massachusetts lobster processing laws to allow the sale, transport and processing of shell-on lobster parts
  • $50,000 to assist the Gloucester Fire Department with the purchase of 40 units of firefighter protective clothing known as turnout gear
  • $200,000 for a program of collaborative shellfish research by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, Division of Marine Fisheries and UMass Amherst/Marine Station in Gloucester
  • $25,000 for the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute to plan and design regional broadband infrastructure
  • $35,000 for the Essex Bicentennial Committee for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Essex
  • $50,000 for the research, design, and distribution of a commemorative publication of the history of the City of Gloucester for the 400th Anniversary
  • $40,000 for the planning and design of the public safety building in Essex
  • $25,000 for the replacement of water filters at the water treatment facility in Rockport
  • $100,000 for the Open Door Food Pantry
  • $55,000 for phase two of the ongoing efforts to develop a plan to foster the growth of the North Shore Blue Economy
  • A provision to ensure that the state’s $500,000 Buy Local program includes locally harvested seafood, including fish and shellfish

In addition, the budget also contains $16.4 million in Chapter 70 education aid and unrestricted local aid for Cape Ann communities.

A six-member conference committee working to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget reached consensus this week on a compromise spending plan for the new fiscal year that began on July 1. Senator Tarr appointed one of the three Senate members of that conference committee.

Governor Baker has until August 2 to approve or disapprove of the contents of the $43.1 billion budget proposal which was approved by both legislative branches by a near unanimous vote on July 22.

Showcasing Cape Ann

Last month, Governor Baker brought his cabinet to Cape Ann, giving our communities the opportunity to showcase local initiatives, highlight areas of concern, and discuss state investments.

Senator Bruce Tarr and I started off the day by joining Secretary of Education James Peyser and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta at Gloucester High School to have a look at some of our innovative education initiatives on Cape Ann. We toured the biology, robotics, engineering, 3D printing, and advanced manufacturing classrooms. These classes, which have been made possible by state grants and private partnerships, give our students a preview of emerging and important fields and provide an opportunity to identify areas of interest prior to entering college or the workforce. I was especially impressed by the students in the robotics class, who gave an insightful presentation of the projects they are working on and the knowledge they have used from other subjects in class.

At Gloucester City Hall, Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and members of the cabinet gathered to listen to local officials and community members. Gloucester Health Department Director Karin Carroll spoke about health outreach programs to local youth, including combating youth vaping. Michele May and Andrea Bodnar of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute gave a presentation about the research they are conducting and their wildly successful education initiative at the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy. It was later announced that GMGI had been awarded a $174,000 capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to build and equip a state-of-the-art cell culture laboratory.

Later in the day, we joined Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and other administration officials in Rockport to view improvements at the drinking and wastewater treatment plants funded by state grants. Rockport has been awarded more than $161,000 in Gap Funding Program grants, allowing the town to make investments that will not only save money, but also reduce energy use by 46 percent and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 197 metric tons every year.

Returning to Gloucester City Hall, we joined a meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders for a meeting on adolescent mental health issues. Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken organized the meeting as all of us on Cape Ann have made a priority of providing mental health services to children and adolescents. Many of us have concerns that the availability of services is currently inadequate.

I am glad that we had this chance to showcase Cape Ann’s innovative thinking, investments in the future, and sense of community to Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and members of the administration.

Representative Ferrante Secures Funds for Local Projects

Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a balanced fiscal year 2019 Budget and the House Economic Development Bill which contain funds to support our fishermen, create new opportunities for those seeking a decent living, help protect the most vulnerable members of the Cape Ann community, and celebrate Cape Ann’s history as it moves into the future.

“As Cape Ann faces economic challenges both locally and nationally, investment in our people is a top priority to ensure that we grow good, well-paying jobs on Cape Ann for a healthy economy and community,” Ferrante said. “The Budget and Economic Development Bill passed by the House invest in Cape Ann’s workforce by supporting programs that continue to provide new opportunities to those seeking new skills.”

Continuing a commitment to Gloucester’s burgeoning marine genomics industry, the budget allocates $150,000 for the development and implementation of a state marine genomics program to be run by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI) in coordination with UMass and the state Department of Marine Fisheries. In the economic development bill, $1.3 million is to be expended to upgrade infrastructure and technology to help GMGI unlock the power of the marine genomics data being harvested in Gloucester.

“GMGI has already begun to make an impact on Cape Ann as their new building on the harbor undergoes construction and as the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy welcomes its third class of lab-ready students. This program will further grow local opportunities in the marine biotechnology field,” Ferrante said. “Combined with investments in our technological infrastructure, this will help to establish Cape Ann as a beacon of marine genomics research, and provide new data on marine resources in order to help both our fishermen and the environment.”

To support Cape Ann’s historic industry, the Economic Development Bill provides for an increase in funding for the operation of the Fishing Partnership, which delivers health care coverage, safety training, and legal and financial services to over 7,000 fishing families in Massachusetts. Over 700 households in Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex take advantage of services provided by the Fishing Partnership.

“As the daughter of a fisherman and an attorney who represented those in the fishing industry, I understand the challenges that fishermen and their families face in getting affordable health care coverage and navigating through legalese instead of the ocean,” Ferrante said. “The Fishing Partnership provides a critical service to members of this industry that are often overlooked.”

Funding for Wellspring House’s “Ability to Benefit” program operated in cooperation with North Shore Community College, which was first secured by Ferrante in the FY18 budget, is continued in the FY19 budget. This program provides a pathway for adult students with work experience, but without a high school diploma or GED, to enter NSCC. A successful pilot will open up possibilities for federal financial aid for future programming.

“Too often, we’ve seen people limited not by the ability or willingness to achieve, but due to a lack of resources and adequate support. Wellspring House has been providing those resources to help people succeed on Cape Ann for over thirty years,” Ferrante said. “The first class of Ability to Benefit students graduated from the program on July 12th. With this program, partnering with North Shore Community College, Wellspring is once again creating opportunities for people to make a living wage where there have previously been barriers to success.”

In addition to investing in programs to lift up Cape Ann residents, the budget also directs funds to local programs that help those in need. The Open Door will receive $25,000 for a food rescue and composting program to help continue to better serve Cape Ann residents that are experiencing food insecurity. The Grace Center will receive $75,000 to continue their day programs that assist the homeless and those with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Cape Ann is lucky to have such robust services for those in our community who are in need, run by dedicated and caring individuals,” Ferrante said. “The Open Door and the Grace Center of Gloucester are two such organizations that continue to provide valuable services to our residents with dignity and compassion.”

With Gloucester’s 400th anniversary approaching, the budget allocates $125,000 to help prepare for the celebration of America’s oldest seaport and the first colonial settlement in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The funds require a $125,000 match on the part of Gloucester Celebration Corporation, the organization in charge of planning the festivities of Gloucester’s 400th anniversary.

“Gloucester’s heritage is the heritage of Massachusetts. The first settlers in Massachusetts Bay Colony came from Gloucester and it was the maritime tradition of Gloucester and Cape Ann that sustained the early colony,” Ferrante said. “While this anniversary will commemorate 400 years since the founding of Gloucester, it will also celebrate those traditions and values that represent Massachusetts and endure to this day throughout the Commonwealth.”

The budget also contains $75,000 to upgrade Gloucester’s public safety communication infrastructure, $4.8 million in unrestricted government aid to Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, and over $11 million in Chapter 70 aid to the Gloucester Public Schools, Rockport Public Schools, and Manchester Essex Regional School District.