Markey, House Pass Balanced Fiscal Year 2015 Budget
Plan Helps Fund Dartmouth’s 350th Anniversary Celebration While Focusing on Reforms and Enhancing Support for Commonwealth’s Most Vulnerable Citizens; Calls for No New Taxes or Fees;
(Boston) – State Representative Christopher M. Markey (D- Dartmouth) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing a balanced FY’15 budget focused on economic growth and increased government accountability and oversight.
The $36.32 billion proposal emphasizes the importance of enhanced fiscal predictability and sustainable investments without assuming the availability of federal funding, a practice that has raised Massachusetts bond rating to AA+, the highest in the state’s history. Building on its responsible yet proactive approach to combating the recession, the budget contains multiple measures to generate revenue, achieve sustainable economic growth and create jobs.
“This budget reflects and extends the fiscally-prudent, targeted and inventive initiatives that have led to Massachusetts’ recent economic growth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “The House continues to invest in key areas like education and local aid that strengthen towns and businesses and benefit residents. We propose strong measures to care for the state’s most vulnerable residents, including increased oversight and resources for the Department of Children and Families and funding to improve mental health and substance abuse programs.”
Markey, who represents all of Dartmouth and portions of New Bedford, pointed to several local successes in the annual spending package, including adoption of his Buy Local amendment which will direct $300,000 toward the enhancement and promotion of local agriculture. He singled out as a key addition the $50,000 designated for the Town of Dartmouth for the planning and execution of the Town’s 350th anniversary celebration. “The Town and the Dartmouth 350 committee have been working hard to secure private partnerships and make this an event to remember and, through this state money, we’ll see dividends in increased tourism and more visitors celebrating with us. That means more dollars spent in local businesses,” said Markey. Dr. Cynthia Marland, Dartmouth 350th Committee Chairperson, also expressed her gratitude for the funding. “The Town of Dartmouth truly appreciates the efforts of the House of Representatives and Representative Christopher Markey. These state funds will enhance the celebration of the Dartmouth 350 including the June 8 Incorporation Day with fireworks, our Parade on September 7, and the many village celebrations throughout the summer,” said Marland. She also added that citizens should visit Dartmouth350.com to find out about upcoming events and to get involved.
Markey, the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, also mentioned several provisions of the budget meant to make the justice system run more smoothly and fairly, including a 4% increase to the District Attorney’s budget. “We’ve heard from all of the District Attorneys, and how costs associated with prosecution have increased, and we believe that this significant increase will ease that burden,” added Markey. The budget also called for an increase in funding to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) from $13 million to $15 million. MLAC is a program established by the Commonwealth to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems have access to legal information, advice and representation.
This budget enhances the Commonwealth’s partnerships with municipalities by not only boosting local aid, but also increasing predictability of funding levels. In March, the House and Senate adopted a Joint Local Aid Resolution, which includes a $25.5 million increase to Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and a $100 million increase to Chapter 70 education funding. The early announcement allowed cities and towns to prepare appropriately as they crafted their municipal FY’15 budgets.
This year’s spending bill underscores the House’s ongoing commitment to strengthening its educational systems in order to bolster communities and provide residents with a competitive edge. It invests in the expansion and enhancement of STEM programming, and increases funding to state universities, community colleges. The House plan especially invests in the UMass system, enabling it to continue to work towards the goal of freezing tuition and fees. This spending package also funds a competitive grant program for Adult College Transition Services to help low-income workers succeed in college programs.
Family Support Services, Employment Services and Shannon Grants are also enhanced by this budget. The budget provided increased funding for homelessness programs, increased funding for Emergency Food Assistance and creates a pilot program to provide nutritious meals for homeless families. Representative Markey applauded the efforts of his colleagues, and remarked at how this year’s budget achieved its intended balance. “This budget represents prudent and careful planning, yet still addresses key needs like substance abuse services, behavioral and mental health services, elder services, public safety and education,” said Markey.