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.