Markey, House of Representatives Pass Fiscal Year 2014 State Budget
State Representative Christopher M. Markey (D-Dartmouth) joined his colleagues in the Legislature on Monday to adopt a $34 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014 (FY14). While providing for our spending priorities, the savings made with this Budget through increasing the stabilization fund and reforming of the use of EBT cards. The spending plan prioritizes local aid for cities and towns, increases in health care related programs, and includes funding to tackle the cost of higher education for students across the state. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Representative Brian Dempsey confirmed that the approved budget leaves Massachusetts with over $1.5 billion in its stabilization account at the end of fiscal 2013, making the Commonwealth one of only four states with over $1 billion in its “rainy day” fund.
EBT reform was also significant in this budget. The budget will require photograph on all EBT cards, for persons over the age of eighteen. In addition, the budget establishes a Bureau of Program Integrity and a Task Force both designed to eliminate fraud, and make are welfare system more efficient.
The budget prevents University of Massachusetts students from facing a 4.9% increase in tuition and fees for next year and increases funding for State Universities, Community Colleges, and increased access to subsidized child care. Other highlights from the budget include a 2.4% increase in Unrestricted Local Aid funding, which is the first increase since FY 2010. Markey, whose district includes all of Dartmouth and portions of New Bedford, pointed to this increase in local aid as a pivotal component. “Our cities and towns have spoken and this budget shows the Legislature is paying attention and responding in kind,” he said.
Also, language from Representative Markey’s “Buy Local” amendment passed the Conference Committee’s budget, providing $200,000 to help support and enhance “buy local” agricultural efforts in Southeastern Massachusetts and other parts of the State. “This program, despite its relatively small budget, has had a huge impact on local agriculture. It’s the greenest form of economic development, and it’s something farmers and growers can build upon. I’m proud of my fellow legislators for recognizing the importance of local agriculture and reaffirming their support for this program,” Markey said.
Markey praised House Speaker Robert DeLeo and his leadership team for their thoughtfulness and guidance in the budget process, noting their diligence will help continue to make state government more efficient. “This reform-minded budget strikes a good balance and, most importantly for me, addresses the greatest responsibility our government has; protecting our young children, senior citizens and veterans. Also, as evidenced by the funding of a new State Police Class and other investments, we are addressing future critical Public Safety needs proactively and taking great steps to better protect the public. That’s the kind of government I’m proud to be a part of,” Marked said.