MTA president praises Senate budget

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau praised the Senate Ways and Means Committee's FY 2007 budget proposal as "a major stride in restoring funding for preK-12 education, public higher education and local aid – all of which have endured drastic cuts since the beginning of the decade."

The full Ways and Means proposal, which contains both higher education and preK-12 funding, was released on May 17. The committee had previously released its Chapter 70 spending proposal.

Higher Education
Boudreau called the Senate Ways and Means Committee's higher education budget proposals "a major step toward restoring the monies that were cut from campus budgets earlier in the decade."

The proposals add an additional $58 million to campus accounts, with $31.2 million going to the University of Massachusetts, an increase of 6.9 percent; $16.6 million going to the state colleges, an increase of 8.4 percent; and $17.2 million going to the community colleges, an increase of 7.9 percent. The total increase in higher education funding jumps to $72 million, or 7.4 percent, when full tuition retention is included, which the Senate proposal calls for.

Boudreau also noted that the Senate did not change the premium contributions that state employees pay for their health insurance.

Senate Ways and Means Vice Chair Steven C. Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) called the budget proposals a first installment on the Legislature's seven-year commitment to fund  public higher education as set forth in S. 2380, the  Higher Education Funding/Reform bill, which was engrossed in the Senate this spring and currently awaits action in the House.

Boudreau praised Panagiotakos, committee Chair Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) and the entire Senate Ways and Means Committee for their "responsible and far-sighted" proposals. She also singled out Sen. Robert A. O'Leary (D-Barnstable) and Stanley C. Rosenberg (D-Amherst) for their "strong and continued advocacy of public higher education."

The Ways and Means proposal hikes Chapter 70 funding by more than $210 million over FY 2006 levels.

"This additional funding will help some communities that otherwise would have had to make hard choices about cutting education programs," Boudreau said. However, she noted that, according to MTA's analysis, when inflation and enrollment are taken into account, Chapter 70 funding is still $425 million, or 11 percent, below what it was in FY 2002, and that many programs, including MCAS remediation, class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten, "are either not funded at all or are funded below their FY 2002 levels."

Boudreau lauded the Senate for "recognizing that the foundation budget categories... need to be adjusted." She urged the Legislature to do the "necessary research" to determine how the foundation budget categories must be changed "to reflect the actual cost of preparing all students to meet the standards the state has set" and "to determine what funding is necessary to narrow the achievement gap."