$734M supplemental boost
Budget focuses on MBTA hiring, expands free school meal program
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.