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Analyzing the House Budget for FY 2016

May 4, 2015

In a quiet three days of debate, the House made few changes to the budget drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee (HWM). Many of the funding increases approved just restored funding that the HWM Committee had proposed cutting. The House voted to increase support beyond the level proposed by the Ways and Means Committee in several areas, including the following:

  • Jobs and workforce training. The Ways and Means Committee had proposed significant cuts to summer jobs programs for young people, job training to help people receiving transitional assistance to enter the workforce, and adult basic education. The House adopted amendments restoring most of this funding, but left in place cuts to other jobs and workforce training programs such as the elimination of Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Grants.
  • Economic development. The Ways and Means Committee had proposed significant cuts to the Office of Travel and Tourism (which the Governor also proposed cutting) and to the Mass. Cultural Council. The House adopted amendments restoring funding to both.
  • Public health.  The Ways and Means Committee had proposed cuts to early intervention programs and to a grant program that aims to reduce youth violence. The House approved amendments restoring the early intervention funding and most, but not all, of the violence prevention funding.

The final House budget makes some targeted investments, including modest increases for early education and care, affordable housing, and opiate abuse prevention and treatment. Like the Governor’s budget it does not address most of the long term cuts that have been made over the past 15 years, such as: the 20 percent cut to higher education that has led to increased tuition and fees; the 40 percent cut to local aid; and the 30 percent cut to environment and recreation programs that has led to reduced maintenance, staffing and hours at many state recreation facilities.

The final House Budget also follows the Governor in relying on over $600 million in temporary revenue and savings. Both the long term budget cuts and the ongoing budget gaps our Commonwealth faces have their origins in the over $3 billion of income tax cuts enacted between 1998 and 2002.

This Budget Monitor describes the amendments adopted in each area of the budget and discusses how proposed funding levels compare to the Governor’s proposals and to historic levels. For detail on those sections of the House Budget not amended, see our Budget Monitor on the House Ways and Means Budget proposal HERE.

Early Education & Care

During budget debate, the House adopted three amendments increasing funding for Early Education and Care $3.2 million above the House Ways & Means proposal. During debate the House increased funding for:

  • Grants to Head Start by $1.0 million restoring funding that was cut in February. The House appropriation matches the $9.1 million originally passed in the FY 2015 GAA budget.
  • Services for Infants and Parents by $1.9 million bringing it $3.9 million above the FY 2015 current funding and the Governor’s proposal. For a full description of this account, see the MassBudget Children’s Budget.
  • Reach Out and Read by $300,000 bringing total funding to $1.0 million, $300,000 above FY 2015 current funding and the Governor’s proposal.

Overall, The House budget provides $16.0 million more than FY 2015 current spending and $14.8 million more than the Governor proposed for Early Education & Care. This increase will result in more children receiving early education and care, but will still leave around 25,000 children waiting for support. For families of kids on the waitlist who cannot find affordable and stable care for their children, it makes it harder for parents to succeed in the workplace. See Declines in Work Supports for Low-Income Parents for more information about the long term funding decline in early education and care.


K-12 Education

Education grant programs received a modest $8.5 million in total increases during House floor debate (detailed in table below). The largest increases, of $1 million or more, are to School to Career Connecting Activities, Adult Basic Education and METCO.

The METCO amendment would result in a significant funding boost of 12 percent for FY 2016 compared to current levels.

Together, the final House budget for K-12 grant programs of $600.2 million is $37.8 million below the original FY 2015 budget and $83.3 million below FY 2009 levels, adjusted for inflation.

During floor debate, no changes were made to the HWM proposal for Chapter 70 education aid. Therefore, MassBudget’s full description of Chapter 70 aid in the HWM Budget Monitor reflects what is now in the final House budget.


Higher Education

The House made several amendments to Higher Education line items during its floor debate (detailed in the table below). These changes resulted in a very small increase of $4.0 million (0.3 percent) over the HWM budget. Funding for Higher Education in the final House budget is $15.8 million (1.3 percent) above current funding. The largest increases are to the State Scholarship Program, Tufts Veterinary School, and Community College Workforce Grants.

Despite these small increases, funding for Higher Education in the FY 2016 House budget is $302.1 million (20 percent) below 2001 levels, adjusting for inflation. This long-term funding reduction is in part a result of income tax cuts implemented by the early 2000’s that continue to cost the state over $3 billion a year.

All other Higher Education items in the HWM budget were not changed during the floor debate. Therefore, the Higher Education section of MassBudget’s HWM Budget Monitor reflects the final House budget.


Environment & Recreation

During its floor debate the House added slightly more than $4.0 million in funding for Environment and Recreation programs.  For a full list of amendments that increased funding for programs in this spending category please see the chart below.

During its floor debate the House provided an additional $2.7 million for state parks and recreation.  The majority of this additional funding earmarks money for specific parks and recreation facilities around the state.  

Some other highlights of changes adopted during floor debate include:

  • Prohibiting the use of any state funds to rebuild the Long Island bridge in the Boston Harbor until the state looks at the feasibility of providing alternative forms of transportation like a ferry, conducts an environmental impact study and drafts a re-use plan for the island.
  • Creating a task force to examine and recommend improvements to current state standards that allow electricity generated through solar power to connect into the existing electrical grid.
  • Directing the Division of Capital Assets Management to provide the Legislature a listing of all properties, including recreational facilities such as boathouses, skating rinks, and athletic fields that are leased by the state.  The report will include the name of the state agency that owns each property, the entity leasing the property and the terms of the lease, the yearly cost of maintenance and the amount the state has raised in revenue from each lease over the last 10 years.
  • Requiring the Department of Conservation and Recreation to add a surcharge of $1 to the cost of admission and parking at the Douglas State Forest. The revenue raised from this surcharge will go to the Douglas State Forest Maintenance Fund to help pay for police, fire and other emergency services personnel in the town of Douglas.

For more details on the HWM Committee budget for Environment and Recreation programs that did not receive increases during the House debate, please see the Environment and Recreation section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


MassHealth (Medicaid) & Health Reform

During floor debate, the House added $16.6 million to MassHealth and Health Reform programs, primarily to increase payments to providers. The House also included a variety of amendments intended to reduce health care costs by redirecting care away from hospital emergency rooms. See the Public Health and Mental Health sections of this Budget Monitor for descriptions. For the MassHealth and Health Reforms sections of the House budget unchanged by amendments, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

In budget language describing the operations of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the House included an amendment to reimburse providers for the tax liability incurred for their annual insurer fee under the federal Affordable Care Act, and also additional payment for pediatric specialty hospitals. This funding shows up in the line item funding MassHealth Fee-for-Service costs, which received an additional $7.4 million. The House also directed MassHealth to report on the feasibility of federal reimbursement for transitional support services– short-term services for persons recovering from addiction.

The House added $8.8 million to supplemental rates for nursing home providers, including $2.8 million for incentive payments for facilities that established cooperative employment arrangements between workers at the facilities and their employers. These incentive payments were included in the FY 2015 budget, but not in the Governor’s proposal.

The House also added back language included in the Governor’s proposal that would allow the Executive Office to restrict MassHealth adult dental coverage.


Mental Health

During budget debate, the House adopted three amendments increasing the proposed appropriation for mental health services by a total of $805,000. One of these amendments, described below, develops a new program aimed at reducing hospital emergency room use. A related amendment creating “mobile integrated health care” is described in the Public Health section of this Budget Monitor.

The full House added a new line item to fund a Behavioral Health Pilot program, targeting the region affected by the closure of Quincy Hospital. This program, funded by a proposed appropriation of $500,000, would implement a program of “field triage” for patients with behavioral health needs. In particular, emergency service providers would receive training to support the care of patients at home, or to direct patients requiring acute care to community settings when appropriate, rather than to hospital emergency rooms./pr>

Community-based mental health services for children and for adults both received additional funding, targeted to specific community programs. Children’s and adolescent mental health received $55,000 for a juvenile fire setter program, and adult mental health services received $250,000 more, a portion of which was earmarked for mental health services for immigrants and refugees.

For a discussion of the House budget for Mental Health unchanged during debate, see HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Public Health

During debate the House amended the House Ways and Means (HWM) budget proposal, adding $7.4 million to a variety of public health programs. For a discussion of the HWM budget proposal unchanged during floor debate for Public Health, see HERE. Most of the amendments were relatively small (less than $1 million), adding funding for specific community public health programs. (Among the amendments adopted by the House were two specific initiatives designed to divert patients away from hospital emergency rooms using coordinated community health services and behavioral health supports. One of these amendments is described below, the other related amendment is described in the Mental Health section of this Budget Monitor.)

The House added language creating a new “mobile integrated health care” program within the Dept. of Public Health’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality. This program is intended to prevent unnecessary hospital emergency room visits by supporting coordinated chronic disease management, post-discharge follow-up counseling, behavioral health supports, preventive care, and coordination with paramedic providers to encourage the use of community health facilities rather than hospital emergency rooms.

The House passed an amendment to add $2.0 million to grant programs targeted to reducing youth violence. These grants provide support to community afterschool programs that are designed to prevent teen pregnancy, bullying, and suicide, while providing positive alternative activities. With the amendment, the funding for this line item is $3.8 million, $350,000 less than current FY 2015 funding.

The House added $1.5 million to the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, for a total of $98.6 million. There is language specifying how this funding would be used, including the earmarking of $100,000 for a statewide program to improve care for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The House removed language requiring that the budget support 75 new short-term placements (“beds”) for people moving from acute substance abuse treatment to longer-term residential rehabilitation and 75 additional residential recovery beds. The number of beds is no longer specified.

The House also added $1.0 million in funding to the Early Intervention Program, bringing the total to $27.6 million. This is the same amount as recommended by the Governor, and just slightly above FY 2015 totals. This program provides a variety of community-based therapies to infants and toddlers who already are showing developmental delay or who are at risk of developmental delay. In particular, the program has seen an increase in referrals for children involved with the Dept. of Children and Families, and children who have been exposed to alcohol or other addictive drugs.

The full House also restored funding for the Postpartum Depression Pilot program, proposing $200,000 for the program. This new program, first funded in FY 2014, supports screening and treatment services for new mothers at community health centers in Holyoke, Jamaica Plain, Lynn and Worcester.

The full House also included funding for the Healthy Relationships Grant Program, a competitive grant program in for public middle and high students to promote healthy relationships and address issues of teen dating violence. The House added $150,000 for this program, the same amount that had been included in the FY 2015 budget, but which was eliminated with mid-year funding cuts before the program had been able to get off the ground.


State Employee Health Insurance

The House made no changes to the HWM proposal for State Employee Health Insurance. For a description, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


During its budget debate the House provided a modest increase of $1.9 million in state funding for affordable housing. The final House budget proposes spending $430.0 million for Housing programs which is about $4 million more than the Governor’s FY 2016 budget proposal and $4.5 million less than the current FY 2015 budget. For a full list of amendments that increase funding for these programs please see the chart below.

Some key amendments passed by the House include:

  • An increase of $800,000 to $44.0 million for shelter and assistance to individuals who are homeless. The final House budget for this account is $3.1 million more than the amount the Governor recommended and $1.1 million more than current spending in FY 2015.
  • Directing the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to propose regulations regarding requirements that public housing applicants provide social security numbers or taxpayer identification numbers in order to qualify for housing.  The House budget also requires DHCD to study how many applicants could be denied access to housing if they are required to provide the documents.  This amendment replaced one passed earlier in the House debate that required all applicants to provide social security numbers to be qualified to receive public housing. The original amendment also directed DHCD to look at criminal records information for any member of an applicant’s household who is 14 years or older.  The House replaced this initial amendment because of concerns that applicants, including immigrants who have fled domestic violence or children who are citizens but whose parents are not, could be denied access to public housing.

For more details on the HWM Committee budget for Housing programs that did not receive increases during the House debate, please see the Housing section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Child Welfare

During budget debate, the House adopted amendments increasing funding in four line items for Child Welfare totaling $2.5 million. Much of the increase is tied to specific earmarks. The House added $400,000 for Services for Children and Families with earmarks adding up to more than the increase. Earmarks include:

  • $25,000 for Rick’s Place of Wilbraham
  • $25,000 for a feasibility study for the construction of a youth center in Methuen
  • $25,000 for Groundwork Lawrence
  • $50,000 to the Weymouth teen center
  • $25,000 for the Planned Learning Achievement for Youth program in Amherst
  • $75,000 for the Catholic Charities Laboure Center
  • $100,000 for the Fragile Beginnings program
  • $200,000 for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County
  • $50,000 for the Plymouth County Children’s Advocacy Center

The House also provided:

  • a $100,000 earmark for Family Support and Stabilization services to Square One Daycare in Springfield bringing the total appropriation for family support services to $44.7 million.
  • $1.7 million for Support Services for People at Risk of Domestic Violence, bringing the total appropriation to $26.1 million. Portal to Hope, which provides services in Everett, Malden and Medford, received a $150,000 earmark.
  • $308,000 for Social Workers for Case Management, level with the Governor’s proposal of $201.8 million and $16.3 million over FY 2015 current spending. Projected spending for case workers is actually $7.4 million more than the FY 2015 current appropriation levels. That difference may need to be accounted for before the end of the current fiscal year.

The Massachusetts Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission received $150,000 through an earmark included in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services account (4000-0300). This commission was introduced in the FY 2013 budget and has received this same amount in the last two fiscal years. The commission is continuing to try and determine the amount of need that exists and how to deliver services to homeless youth under the age of 24.

One amendment added during debate would require fingerprint checks for all persons older than 14 in a family applying to become foster, kinship, or adoptive families, and also for many of the people contracting with DCF to work with these kids. Some of these checks are already required by Federal and/or state laws.


Elder Services

During its floor debate, the House added roughly $2 million to the House Ways and Means proposal for Elder Services programs. Amendments included:

  • $50,000 to Elder Protective Services for the establishment of regional Financial Abuse Specialist Teams;
  • $642,000 to the Elder Congregate Housing Program. This increase maintains level funding from FY 2015;
  • $750,000 for the Elder Nutrition Program, to provide home delivered meals. This proposal would still leave total support below current FY 2015 spending levels; and
  • $550,000 for added services and facility improvements to Council on Aging centers. This additional funding is entirely earmarked to specific cities and towns around the Commonwealth.


Disability Services

Together through our state budget we support a range of programs and services for individuals with disabilities that promote well-being, inclusion and meaningful participation in our local communities.
During floor debate, no changes were made to the HWM proposal for disability services. Therefore, MassBudget’s full description of Disability Services in the HWM Budget Monitor reflects what is now in the final House budget.

Juvenile Justice

The Department of Youth Services received no additional funding over the House Ways & Means proposal. For more information on Juvenile Justice in the House budget proposal, please see the Juvenile Justice section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor.

Transitional Assistance

During debate, the House passed two amendments increasing funding for Transitional Assistance programs. The House added $6.3 million to The Employment Services Program bringing the total House appropriation to $11.3 million. This still leaves support for employment and training programs for TAFDC clients $551,000 below FY 2015 current spending and 79 percent below the inflation adjusted FY 2001 appropriation. Cuts to employment and training programs over the last 15 years have made it harder for parents to improve their skills, and get and keep jobs that allow them to support their families. For a more in depth analysis on funding for education and job training programs, see Declines in Work Supports for Low-Income Parents. The House also leaves Pathways to Self Sufficiency, another job training program for TAFDC clients unfunded. The Governor proposed $3.3 million for this program. It was funded at $11.0 million in FY 2015 GAA budget, but it received two different 9C cuts during the year eliminating the program in FY 2015.

The House added $6.0 million to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) during floor debate. This increase includes a $40 rent allowance for recipients in unsubsidized housing and a clothing allowance of $150 for back to school needs. Both had been left out of the HWM proposal.

Funding for TAFDC is directly tied to caseload levels which have dropped significantly over the past year, although they may be dropping partially because of new administrative changes that are making it harder for clients to maintain their benefits. The FY 2016 funding proposals in the table below are a result of the continued drop in projected caseload levels for FY 2016. However, it is important to note that under this program, grants given to families have lost significant value over time due to inflation. Instead of decreasing the appropriation, the House or Governor could have proposed increasing the value of the grant to help these children and families fight to stay out of poverty. For a more in depth analysis of the decrease in the value of TAFDC grants over time, see TAFDC: Declines in Support for Low-Income Children and Families.

The House also adopted an amendment which directs the Department of Transitional Assistance along with the Office of Health and Human Services to provide a report on current measures to detect fraud and to study the implementation of a biometric (fingerprinting) authentication system.


Other Human Services

During budget debate, the House adopted a number of amendments for veterans providing an additional $1.1 more than the House Ways & Means proposal, primarily in earmarks.

  • Veteran’s Service Administration increased $300,000 with earmarks for:
    • $30,000 for the Veterans’ Oral History Project at the Morse Institute Library in Natick
    • $35,000 for the Vietnam Veterans of America in Massachusetts
    • $85,000 for Assistance Dogs for veterans
    • $150,000 for Heidrea for Heroes
  • Veteran’s Outreach Centers increased $310,000 with earmarks for:
    • $200,000 for Nathan Hale Outreach Centers
    • $10,000 to the New Patriots Veterans Outreach Center
    • $50,000 to New England Veterans Liberty House
    • $100,000 for the Springfield Veterans First Program
    • $50,000 for the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center
    • $100,000 to Soldier On for service for homeless veterans in Western Massachusetts
  • Assistance to Homeless Veterans increased $250,000 with earmarks for:
    • $30,000 to Our Neighbor’s Table in Amesbury for transitional services
    • $220,000 for the Soldier On shelter in Leeds
  • War Memorials increased $115,000 with earmarks for:
    • $50,000 for maintenance of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Worcester
    • $30,000 for the Citizen Soldiers Monument in Spencer
    • $25,000 for a Civil War monument in Barre
    • $10,000 for maintenance of the Korean War Memorial in Charlestown


Economic Development

In Massachusetts, we support workforce and business development programs to boost the skills of working people and stimulate economic growth. During the floor debate, the House added $17.4 million in amendments for economic development. This brings total funding for economic development in the House Budget to $133.9 million, which is the same level as the current FY 2015 budget and $12.2 million above the Governor’s proposal. For detail on the HWM economic development proposals that were not amended, see MassBudget’s full description of Economic Development in the HWM Budget Monitor.

Other notable amendment increases include:

  • $500,000 for YouthWorks (formerly Summer Jobs Program for At-Risk Youth). This bring total funding for YouthWorks in the House Budget to $9.5 million, which is $1.0 million below the Governor’s proposal and $330,000 below current FY 2015 levels. YouthWorks pays the salaries to about 5,000 low-income and at-risk youth living in targeted communities for summer and some year-round jobs.
  • $5.5 million for the Office of Travel and Tourism, a state agency dedicated to promoting Massachusetts as a travel destination. This amendment restores most of the cuts made by the Governor and HWM proposals to current FY 2015 levels.
  • $2.6 million for the Mass. Service Alliance, which serves as the state commission on service and volunteerism. This brings the total appropriation to $3.2 million, surpassing current FY 2015 by nearly 1.1 million.
  • $2.0 million for the Mass. Cultural Council, which provides grants and services to nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists in Massachusetts. This amendment restores cuts made by the HWM proposal to current FY 2015 levels.

In addition to amendment increases, the House budget leaves cuts to several jobs and workforce training programs, including:

  • Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Grants were cut entirely by the HWM budget and the House did not restore it. These grants provide training in precision manufacturing for unemployed and underemployed workers.
  • One-Stop Career Centers received a 10 percent cut by the HWM budget and the House did not restore it to current FY 2015 levels. One-Stop Career Centers help job seekers improve their skills and navigate the job search process.

The House also proposes the creation of a special commission to study the impact of low-wage passenger service jobs, such as ticket sellers, baggage checkers and other customer service jobs, at Logan International Airport. Specifically, the commission will investigate the structure for providing subcontracted passenger services and its broader impact on safety, security, and costs to taxpayers. It will also study the impact of these low wage jobs on children, families, communities, and the overall local economy.


Local Aid

The Municipal Regionalization and Efficiencies Incentive Reserve was the only local aid program increased by the House by during its floor debate. The amendment called for an additional $1.0 million, bringing the program’s funding to $5.8 million in the House final budget. The program is now roughly $1.0 million over the Governor’s proposal, but $7.5 million below what was planned at the beginning of FY 2015.  This program offers one-time grants to cities and towns to support municipal improvements.
During floor debate no changes were made to the HWM proposal for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA).  For a better understanding of these changes, please see the Local Aid section of our HWM Budget Monitor.

It is important to note that the Commonwealth’s capacity to fund a range of vital programs, such as local aid, has been hindered by a series of significant state-level tax cuts during the 1990's and 2000's combined with the Great Recession. While over the past several years funding for general local aid has increased with or slightly above inflation, it still remains 43 percent below FY 2001 levels, adjusted for inflation. For historic funding detail, please see the Local Aid section of our Budget Browser.


During floor debate, the House added $100,000 to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund, earmarking these additional funds for use by Berkshire Rides. This organization works to increase accessibility to service agencies and community life throughout the North Adams region by connecting individuals to transportation options.

The House also adopted changes to the rules governing the structure of the board of directors for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The House amendment would change existing law, increasing membership from 7 to 11 and would more specifically define the qualifications that would be required of members.1 The House rules also would set the length and timing of members’ appointment terms.

Otherwise, no changes were made during floor debate to the HWM proposals for Transportation. For information on transportation proposals included in the House FY 2016 budget, see the Transportation section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor.


Law & Public Safety

During floor debate, the House added a combined total of $10.6 million to a dozen different Law & Public Safety accounts (see table, below). The more sizeable increases range from $1 million to $2.6 million. Most of the increases are accompanied by additional language, earmarking funds for a number of specific programs or purposes in various cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. The final amendment language, including all earmarks, can be found here.

For information on Law & Public Safety proposals included in the House FY 2016 budget, see the Law & Public Safety section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor.



During floor debate, the only change made by the House to the HWM revenue-related budget proposals was to increase the cap on the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) program. The House expanded the amount of credits available through the program from $2 million annually to $5 million.2 For landowners who donate land for public use and/or preservation, the CLTC provides a tax credit of up to 50% of the value of the land donated.3 The donated land must first be certified by the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as being of special public interest.

Otherwise, no changes were made during floor debate to the HWM proposals for revenue.

For information on revenue in the House budget proposal, see the Revenue section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor.

Non-Tax Revenue

During floor debate, the House did not make any significant changes to proposals for non-tax revenue. For a description of non-tax revenue initiatives in the final House budget, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.