Boston Herald

$734M supplement­al boost

Budget focuses on MBTA hiring, expands free school meal program

- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

Gov. Maura Healey filed a $734 million supplement­al budget proposal that invests in public health, free school meals, clean energy and technology, and recruitmen­t efforts to enhance the MBTA’s strapped workforce.

The bill, filed Friday, builds upon the $55.5 billion fiscal year 2024 state budget proposal the governor submitted on March 1.

“In our supplement­al budget, Lt. Gov. (Kim) Driscoll and I are proposing additional investment­s that will move us forward on our goals of increasing affordabil­ity, competitiv­eness and equity in Massachuse­tts,” Healey said in a statement.

The supplement­al budget would direct $171 million to extend state-funded universal free school meals through the 2023-24 school year.

It also directs the Executive Office of Education to report, by Jan. 15, 2024, on ways to modify or extend this program “in a way that promotes equity, maximizes federal revenue and improves predictabi­lity and sustainabi­lity of funding into the future,” Healey wrote in a letter to the Legislatur­e.

“The universal school meals program has proven to be a success in expanding access to nutritious meals for all students, and it’s essential that we keep it running and evaluate our options for the future,” Healey said.

While the bill doesn’t provide funds to hire 1,000 new MBTA employees, as promised by the governor in her inaugural address, it does allocate $20 million to enable the T to “better recruit and retain employees to meet its needs and deliver safe, reliable service across the system,” Healey said.

“We also know that workforce challenges are fueling the serious service issues at the MBTA, which is why we are proposing dedicated funding for hiring and retention,” Healey said. “This includes money that could be used for incentives such as hiring and retention bonuses, increased pay for bus operators, and a robust marketing campaign.”

Healey said a $35 million investment would triple the operating budget of the Massachuse­tts Clean Energy Center, keeping the state on “the cutting edge of clean technology and decarboniz­ation,” and allowing for new partnershi­ps with public higher education institutio­ns and trades to grow the clean energy industry.

The funding would authorize the Clean Energy Center to establish the Salem Offshore Wind Terminal and allow the Salem

Port Authority to acquire port land needed for the project, Healey said.

“This funding will play a key role in supporting our efforts to tackle the climate crisis and make Massachuse­tts a global leader in the clean energy economy,” she said.

The bill would also direct $200 million toward a “critical health and human services and workforce reserve” to cover projected deficienci­es in fiscal year 2023 and expenses in early FY24 for the “continuati­on of COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts.”

This includes “temporary staffing relied upon to respond to health crises in our nursing homes, group care settings, state hospitals and soldiers’ homes,” Healey said.

While Healey officially declared an end to the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency, effective May 11, her administra­tion plans to propose a new law that would extend three emergency orders beyond that date.

“The legislatio­n would permanentl­y extend staffing flexibilit­ies for advanced life support ambulances, temporaril­y extend staffing flexibilit­ies for freestandi­ng dialysis providers, and temporaril­y extend flexibilit­ies for the administra­tion of prescripti­on medication­s to clients of state agencies who reside in community settings,” Healey said.

 ?? NANCY LANE — BOSTON HERALD ?? Gov. Maura Healey said her $734 million supplement­al budget will increase affordabil­ity and competitiv­eness in Massachuse­tts.
NANCY LANE — BOSTON HERALD Gov. Maura Healey said her $734 million supplement­al budget will increase affordabil­ity and competitiv­eness in Massachuse­tts.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States