Senate Ways and Means releases Budget for 2012
On May 18, the Senate Ways and Means Committee released its version of the FY12 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Like House 1 and the House-passed budget, the $30.5 billion proposal is less than last year’s budget because the FY11 budget relied on federal stimulus funds which helped the state provide funding for essential services. However, federal funds are not available for the upcoming year’s budget.
The budget gap between maintaining current services and expected revenues is nearly $2 billion. In order to present a balanced budget, as is required by law, Senate Ways and Means, like the Governor and House before them, proposes to make significant cuts to local aid, higher education and safety net programs.
Overall funding levels for education are reduced as a result of the loss of the federal stimulus funds. The loss of federal monies that helped protect higher education last year is not made up by state dollars this year. This results in a proposed cut of 7.5 percent ($61.5 million) to college campus accounts. Chapter 70 spending for preK-12 is slightly more than in FY11, while local aid is cut by 7 percent. Early education and most education grant programs are proposed to take some cuts or be level-funded.
Municipal Health Insurance
The Senate Ways and Means budget includes sections that would modify the collective bargaining of municipal health insurance. This plan will shift costs to employees by increasing out of pocket costs, but also includes some protections for retirees and the sickest individuals, such as health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts and other methods to mitigate these costs. Labor is willing to do its part during this fiscal crisis so that there will be additional funds to allow our cities and towns to provide the services we all value – public education, public safety and safe roads and bridges among them.
The Senate’s language is a significant improvement over the House’s version, which stripped unions of virtually any role in the process to provide savings to our cities and towns. Changes are needed to the Senate language in order to provide additional protections to all employees and retirees. The MTA and other labor organizations, as well as the retirees, will be working throughout the Senate budget debate to further strengthen labor’s core requirements.
Protect your voice in deciding health care coverage. Tell your state senator to protect our access to health care!
The Senate Ways and Means proposal for funding Chapter 70, Local Aid and most grant programs is similar to that proposed by the Governor in House 1 and to the House budget:
- Chapter 70 – State Aid to Local School Districts
Chapter 70 is reduced from current FY11 funding levels ($4.47 to $3.99 billion, a decrease of $82 million) as a result of the loss of $221 million in federal stimulus money. The state’s share of Chapter 70 in FY11 was $3.85 billion.
For FY12, state funding in the proposal sees an increase of $139 million. This is the same increase as proposed by the Governor and by the House. While this is a cut in Chapter 70 funds available for our local schools, this funding level is sufficient to keep all school districts at the required foundation spending level. Over half of the districts still have unspent federal Education Jobs money available that can be used at the beginning of FY12. In many cases, this will prevent major cuts.
- Other Local Aid – Unrestricted General Government Aid
In addition to Chapter 70 funds, cities and towns receive state funds through Local Aid. In some communities, as much as 50 percent of this other local aid helps pay for public schools. The Senate Ways and Means proposal funds local aid to cities and towns (Unrestricted General Government Local Aid) at $834 million. This is a $65 million decrease from FY11; a 7 percent cut for each city and town. This is the same as proposed by the Governor and passed by the House.
- PreK-12 Education Grant Programs
Special Education Circuit Breaker – Senate Ways and Means funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $183 million, a $50 million increase from the current FY11 budget, but $30 million less than both the Governor and the House.
Regional School Transportation – Funding at FY11 level of $40.5 million.
Full Day Kindergarten – Reduces funding from FY11 level by $2 million ($20.9 million). The Governor and the House level-funded this program.
Expanded Learning Time – Reduces funding by $778,361 to $13.1 million. The Governor and the House level-funded this program.
METCO – Senate Ways and Means proposes a $642,852 cut to METCO (from $17.6 million down to around $17 million). The Governor had proposed to level-fund this program, as did the House.
Senate Ways and Means proposes additional small reductions to several other programs, including MCAS low-scoring support and literacy programs.
Early Education and Care
Senate Ways and Means proposes to decrease funding for Early Education and Care by $10.7 million from the FY11 current funding, and by nearly $13 million from the House budget of $512.6 million.
- Campus Line Items -- Beginning in FY12, all campuses are allowed to retain tuition from out-of-state students. Senate Ways and Means proposes to fund each campus at a level which, with assumed tuition retention, holds each campus at its FY11 state appropriation. However, this is a cut of about 7.5 percent, or $61.5 million, since federal stimulus monies were used in FY11 to fund higher education, but these funds will not be available in FY12. This proposed funding level is essentially the same as the Governor’s House 1 proposal and the House passed budget.
- Scholarship Program proposed to be funded at $86.5 million, down $3 million from the current FY11 budget, $1.8 million from the Governor’s House 1 and $1.1 million below the House budget. (The House added funds to this item as an amendment.)
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – The Senate Ways and Means proposal provides for a 3 percent increase on the first $12,000 in pension benefits for retired members of the state and teachers' retirement systems, as the House budget did.
Tell Your Legislators: It's time to raise the COLA!
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