House passes 2014 budget bill

The Massachusetts House, by a vote of 127-29, passed its version of the FY14 budget on April 24 after adding nearly $135 million in spending to the House Ways and Means Committee proposal. The House budget includes $27 million in additional spending for education and local aid over the initial proposal.

The boost in education spending added money to METCO, the special education circuit breaker, regional school transportation, extended learning time, the alternative education grant program, universal pre-kindergarten programs and higher education scholarships. The House added $5.3 million in Chapter 70 spending for some districts. The MTA also supported an increase in funding for Gateway Cities to establish career academies and programs for English language learners.

Local aid was also increased by $21.3 million over last year, partly using new gaming licensing revenue.

The House budget includes a 10 percent increase in funding to public higher education institutions.  This would allow the University of Massachusetts to achieve a 50-50 split between state funding and tuition and fees over the next two years. The additional money would allow UMass to freeze tuition and fees for the next school year.

The House voted 107-46 to study the issues around tuition rates for immigrants, avoiding a direct vote on a budget amendment that would have reversed Governor Deval Patrick's directive extending the tuition break to immigrants who qualify for legal status under a new federal program.

An amendment to establish an Early Education Commission, which would include representatives from the MTA and AFT-MA, was adopted.

Attempts to roll income and sales taxes back to 5 percent were defeated. Also rejected was an amendment that would have capped the film-tax credit program.

The Senate will take up debate on the budget in May. After that, a conference committee will meet to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions. After votes in both branches on the conference report, the FY14 budget goes to the governor for his approval or rejection.

For additional information about the FY2014 budget process, visit the Education Funding News section of our website.