DiDomenico Priorities Included in Senate Budget: Senate Makes Historic Investments in Early Education and Care and College Success, Prioritizes Regional Equity

Special to the Independent

Last week, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released a $57.9 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) that reflects the Senate’s vision of creating a more affordable, equitable, and competitive Massachusetts by investing in residents and communities across every district of the Commonwealth, while continuing to be fiscally responsible and chart a sustainable path forward. Senator DiDomenico was successful in securing historic investments for his priorities and programs that will benefit people in Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Everett and throughout the Commonwealth.

DiDomenico celebrated the inclusion of programs he championed such as, Universal School Meals funding, expanded support for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP), resources for our most vulnerable residents, early intervention services and healthcare for our children, and historic investments in education from early ed, to K-12 schools, to completely free community college for every Massachusetts student. Senator DiDomenico will file amendments to include funding for more priorities and local initiatives, and the Senate will then debate the FY25 budget proposal in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 21, 2023. 

“Budgets reflect our government’s priorities, and I am proud to support this proposal which demonstrates our commitment to uplifting our children and families, workers, and people most in need throughout the Commonwealth,” said Sal DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I am thrilled that so many of my priorities have been included in the Senate budget and through these investments, we will expand access to nutritious foods, quality education from pre-K through community college, resources for our most vulnerable residents, as well as, healthcare and housing. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair, Michael Rodrigues, for pulling together a budget that will make our state more equitable and affordable for people from every corner of the state.”

“This budget invests in our people and our communities in a way that reflects our shared vision for Massachusetts: of a Commonwealth that is more affordable, equitable, and competitive,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Historic investments in education and regional equity will improve quality of life, expand our world-class workforce, and keep residents right here in Massachusetts, while at the same time ensuring we remain prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars. I am profoundly grateful to Chair Rodrigues for his tireless work, as well as Vice Chair Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Comerford, and each of the committee members for their tireless work in shaping the state’s investments in our collective future.”

“The Fiscal Year 2025 budget brought forth by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means is a balanced and responsible plan, centered on sustainability and regional equity for all residents of the Commonwealth. It maximizes revenues and continues to build upon the progress we’ve made in key sectors of the state economy. Thank you to all my colleagues in the Senate, especially my colleagues on the Committee, whose advocacy, collaboration, and dedication helped to inform and shape this comprehensive budget plan and a heartfelt thank you to Senate President Spilka for her determined and compassionate leadership as we work together to rebuild our economy and shape our state’s long-term economic health,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $57.9 billion in spending, a $1.8 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) General Appropriations Act (GAA). This sensible spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $41.5 billion for FY25, which is $208 million less than revenues assumed in the FY24 GAA. This represents nearly flat growth, as agreed upon during the Consensus Revenue process in January, plus $1.3 billion in revenue generated from the Fair Share surtax.

As the Commonwealth adjusts to a changing economic landscape and ongoing tax revenue volatility, the Committee’s FY25 budget adheres to disciplined and responsible fiscal stewardship. It does not raise taxes, nor does it draw down available reserves from the Stabilization Fund or the Transitional Escrow Fund, while at the same time judicially utilizing one-time resources to maintain balance.

The Senate’s budget continues responsible and sustainable planning for the future by continuing to grow the Rainy Day Fund, already at a historic high of over $8 billion. The Senate’s proposal would build the Commonwealth’s reserves to a healthy balance in excess of $9 billion at the close of FY25.

Fair Share Investments

Consistent with the consensus revenue agreement reached with the Administration and House of Representatives in January, the Senate’s FY25 budget includes $1.3 billion in revenues generated from the Fair Share surtax of 4% on annual income above $1 million. As FY25 represents the second year where this source of revenue is available, the Committee’s budget invests these Fair Share revenues into an array of important initiatives to further strengthen our state’s economy by expanding access to quality public education and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Notable Fair Share Education investments include:

· $170 million for Universal School Meals.

· $150 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grant program, which is matched with $325 million in funds from the General Fund and the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund for a total investment of $475 million.

· $117.5 million for free community college across the Commonwealth. 

· $105 million to expand financial aid programs for in-state students attending state universities through MASSGrant Plus, which is in addition to the $175.2M for scholarships funded through the General Fund.

· $80 million for childcare affordability, expanding access to income-eligible childcare to families making 85% state median income.

· $65 million for early education and care (EEC) provider rate increases.

· $15 million for the CPPI Pre-K Initiative, matching $17.5 million in funds from the General Fund, for a total of $32.5M to support a pathway to universal pre-kindergarten expansion, including in Gateway Cities.

· $10 million for wraparound supports to boost community college and state university student persistence, which is matched with the $18 million in SUCCESS funds from the General Fund, for a total of $28 million.

· $10 million for early literacy initiatives.

· $7.5 million for school-based mental health supports and wraparound services.

· $5 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways

Notable Fair Share Transportation investments include:

$250 million for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund (CTF), which will leverage additional borrowing capacity of the CTF and increase investments in transportation infrastructure by $1.1 billion over the next 5 years. This $250 million includes:

$127 million to double operating support for the MBTA.

· $63 million in debt service to leverage additional borrowing capacity.

· $60 million in operating support for MassDOT.

$125 million for Roads and Bridges Supplemental Aid for cities and towns, including $62.5 million for local road funds through a formula that recognizes the unique transportation issues faced by rural communities.

$120 million for Regional Transit Funding and Grants to support the work of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) that serve the Commonwealth, which together with General Fund spending funds RTAs at a record $214 million.  Fair Share funding includes:

$66 million in direct operating support for the Regional Transit Authorities.

· $40 million for systemwide implementation of fare-free transit service.

· $10 million to incentivize connections between regional transit routes.

· $4 million to support expanded mobility options for the elderly and people with disabilities.

· $24.5 million for Commuter Rail capital improvements.

· $23 million to support implementation of a low-income fare relief program at the MBTA. 

· $15 million for municipal small bridges and culverts.

· $7.5 million for water transportation, funding operational assistance for ferry services. 


The Senate Ways and Means FY25 budget proposal implements the Senate’s Student Opportunity Plan by shaping polices to make high-quality education more accessible and by making significant investments in the education system, from our youngest learners to adults re-entering the higher education system.

Recognizing that investing in our early education and care system directly supports the underlying economic competitiveness of the Commonwealth, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.58 billion investment in early education and care. The FY25 budget will maintain operational support for providers, support the early education and care workforce, and prioritize accessibility and affordability throughout our early education and care system. Notable funding includes:

$475 million for a full year of operational grants the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Grant program, This is the second fiscal year in a row that a full year of C3 grants have been funded using state dollars in the annual state budget. The Committee’s budget also makes the C3 program permanent while also adding provisions to direct more funds from the C3 program to early education and programs that serve children receiving childcare subsidies from the state and youth with high needs. Currently, more than 92 percent of early education and care programs in the Commonwealth receive these grants. This program, which has become a model nationwide, has proven successful at increasing the salaries of early educators, reducing tuition costs for families, and expanding the number of available childcare slots beyond pre-pandemic capacity.

$80 million for childcare affordability, expanding eligibility for income-eligible childcare to families making 85% of the state median income.

$65 million for center-based childcare reimbursement rates for subsidized care, including $20 million in new EEC provider rates.

$53.6 million for EEC quality improvement initiatives, with $6 million supporting the Summer Step Up program.

$32.5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, which empowers school districts to expand prekindergarten and preschool opportunities through public-private partnerships. This is double the amount that was appropriated for this initiative in FY23.

$20 million for Childcare Resource and Referral Centers to assist parents, childcare providers, employers, and community groups in navigating the state’s early education and care landscape.

$18.5 million for grants to Head Start programs, which provide crucial early education and childcare services to low-income families.

$5 million for grants to early education and care providers for childhood mental health consultation services.

$2.5 million for a new public-private pilot program to encourage employers to create and support new childcare slots, with an emphasis on serving children most in-need.

Building off the Senate’s unanimous passage of the comprehensive EARLY ED Act in March, the Committee’s FY25 budget codifies several provisions of the Act, transforming the state’s relationship with the early education sector by improving affordability and access for families, increasing pay for early educators, and ensuring the sustainability and quality of early education and care programs.

In K-12 education, the Senate follows through on the commitment to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by Fiscal Year 2027, investing $6.9 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $316 million over FY24, as well as increasing minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $104 per pupil, delivering an additional $37 million in resources to school districts across the state. With these investments, the Senate continues to provide crucial support to school districts confronting the increasing cost pressures that come with delivering high-quality education to all students.

In addition to the record levels of investment in early education and K-12, the Committee’s budget removes barriers to accessing public higher education by codifying into law MassEducate, a $117.5 million investment in universal free community college program that covers tuition and fees for residents, aimed at supporting economic opportunity, workforce development, and opening the door to higher education for people who may never have had access. The FY25 budget permanently enshrines free community college into law in an affordable, sustainable, and prudent manner across the Commonwealth, while leaving no federal dollars on the table.

Other education investments include:

$492.2 million for the special education circuit breaker.

$198.9 million for charter school reimbursements.

$99.4 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs.

$28.3 million for higher education wraparound services, including $18.3 million in General Fund resources, to support wraparound supports to the influx of new students coming to community colleges campuses because of MassEducate. 

$15 million for Rural School Aid supports.

$15 million for Early College programs and $13.1 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success.

$5 million to support continued implementation of the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Higher Education law,  including $3 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative to help high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 access higher education opportunities; and $2 million for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Trust Fund.

$2.25 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, continuing our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide.

$1 million for Hate Crimes Prevention Grants to support education and prevention of hate crimes and incidences of bias in public schools.

Community Support

The Committee’s budget—in addition to funding traditional accounts like Chapter 70 education aid—further demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to partnerships between the state and municipalities, dedicating meaningful resources that touch all regions and meet the needs of communities across the Commonwealth. This includes $1.3 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $38 million over FY24, to support additional resources for cities and towns.

In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $53 million, an increase of $1.5 million over FY24. PILOT funding is an additional source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investments include:

$214 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $120 million from Fair Share funds to support our RTAs that help to connect all regions of our Commonwealth.

$46.6 million for libraries, including $15.6 million for regional library local aid, $17.6 million for municipal libraries and $6.2 million for technology and automated resource networks.

$25 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture, and creative economic initiatives.

Health, Mental Health & Family Care

The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $20.33 billion, providing more than two million people with continued access to affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care services. Other health investments include:

$3 billion for a range of services and focused supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Nearly $2 billion to protect and deliver a wide range of mental health services and programs, including $622.3 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers.

$582.1 million for nursing facility Medicaid rates, including $112 million in additional base rate payments to maintain competitive wages in the Commonwealth’s nursing facility workforce.

$390 million for Chapter 257 rates to support direct-care providers across the continuum of care.

$197.9 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families.

$130.5 million for children’s mental health services.

$113 million for the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program to prevent service reductions and maintain accessible eligibility thresholds.

$75.5 million for domestic violence prevention services.

$30.9 million for Early Intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.

$33.8 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families.

$28 million for grants to local Councils on Aging to increase assistance per elder to $15 from $14 in FY 2024.

$26.7 million for student behavioral health services across the University of Massachusetts, state universities, community colleges, K-12 schools, and early education centers.

$25 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults.

$25.1 million for family and adolescent health, including $9.2 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding.

$20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives.

$14.2 million for suicide prevention and intervention, with an additional $1.4 million for Samaritans Inc. and $1.1 million for the Call-2-Talk suicide prevention hotline. This investment will fully fund 988, the 24/7 suicide and crisis lifeline.

$14 million for maternal and child health, including $10.4 million for pediatric palliative care services for terminally ill children and a policy adjustment to ensure that children up to age 22 can continue to be served through the program.

$12.5 million for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program.

$6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students.

$5.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused.

$3.9 million for the Office of the Child Advocate.

$3.75 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma.

$2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety.

The full FY25 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.

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