Final state budget for FY07
Before adjourning, the Legislature overrode nearly all of the governor’s vetoes of provisions in the FY07 budget. While the governor vetoed several hundred items in the Legislature’s budget, including a number of education items, the Legislature restored all of the funding for vetoed preK-graduate school education items, leaving the final budget for education the same as that passed by the Legislature on June 30.
The Legislature will now meet in informal sessions twice a week through December. Only matters that receive unanimous agreement of those present can be taken up during informal sessions. Therefore, any controversial bill that did not pass during formal sessions is not likely to move and will have to be re-filed next year.
Funding for FY07 Chapter 70 aid to cities and towns totals $3.505 billion, which is a $216.6 million increase over FY 2006 and an increase over both the House and the Senate budgets. However, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment, Chapter 70 funding is still $479 million (12 percent) below the FY02 level.
MTA lobbied the House and Senate to not only increase Chapter 70 but also to ensure that any changes to the formula that increased funding were done equitably and moved in the direction of providing adequate resources for all students.
In the winter, MTA helped draft legislation to increase the foundation budget in a manner that all districts would receive additional funding. This bill was filed by Representatives John Scibak (D-S. Hadley), David Linsky (D-Natick) and Bob Spellane (D-Worcester), along with many other legislators. MTA encouraged members to advocate for the "Funding Schools for Student Success" bill. The lobbying by MTA members and staff was important in helping to shape the Chapter 70 debate in the House and the Senate budget. In fact, several of the provisions of the bill were part of the final budget.
K-12 Education Grants
MTA was also successful in helping to increase funding for several important education programs, including:
- Regional School Transportation: $55.5 million, an increase of $15.5 million over FY06
- METCO: $19.6 million, an increase of $2 million over FY06
- Kindergarten Development Grants: $27 million, an increase of $2 million over FY06
- SPED "Circuit Breaker": $207 million, an increase of $6 million over FY06
MTA worked to help ensure passage of several pieces of important legislation this year that have now become law, including:
- Allowing school nurses to be granted professional teacher status. [More]
- Creditable service for vocational teachers.
- The Early Education bill that is currently awaiting action by the governor requires the state to begin planning for universal, voluntary, quality early education programs for three and four year olds.
- Ensuring that ESPs continue to receive health insurance during the summer.
- Retiree COLA of 3 percent on the first $12,000 was included in the budget. (Lobbying continues to raise the COLA base.)
Other bills were advanced through the legislative process. While not yet enacted, these bills will become easier to move in the next legislative session. For a comprehensive update- see the MTA’s Legislative Tracking Chart at www.massteacher.org
MTA was successful in working with other unions in stopping attempts to take away the right of municipal employees to be able to bargain over health insurance.
MTA prevented the Legislature from taking up the governor’s legislation to expand the power of the Finance Control Board in Springfield. However, MTA was not able during formal sessions to pass legislation to require final and binding arbitration for Springfield teachers.
FY07 State Budget
Group Health Insurance Premiums
Several efforts to increase the amount of money state employees pay for their group health insurance premiums were beaten back in this budget. As a result, state employees will not see their premiums increase to 25 percent. Rather, they will remain at the current levels: 20 percent for employees hired before June 30, 2003 and 15 percent for employees hired after June 30, 2003. The Governor vetoed the Legislature’s budget proposal, which left the premiums as they were in the past. Had his veto been sustained, state employees premiums were increased. However, the House overrode his veto 152-5 and the Senate overrode it by a margin of 38-0.
Funding for public higher education increased by 3.9 percent over FY06’s state budget by the following amounts:
- UMass: $29.4 million, 6.6 percent
- State Colleges: $7.1 million, 3.6 percent
- Community Colleges: $5.4 million, 2.5 percent
Romney vetoed numerous line-items for public higher ed campuses across the state. All those line items were subsequently overridden, including the largest one -- $5 million for UMass. The overrides for the state colleges total $3.6 million and $2.8 million for the community colleges.
Despite the highest increase in funding in several years, public higher education is still $366 million or 26.5 percent lower than FY01, when inflation is taken into account
Deficiency Budget (H5210)
Retroactive Pay Raises
The final installment of the retroactive pay raises due for units at UMass and state college administrators was included in the deficiency budget. Romney vetoed this retro pay, but the House and Senate overrode that veto unanimously on the last day of the formal sessions. An outside section to include retirees as recipients of the retro pay passed the House on August 2 and is expected to move through the Senate shortly. If Romney again vetoes this provision, it cannot be overridden during informal sessions. Therefore, it will not be able to pass until the beginning of the next legislative session in 2007.
Funding for two UMass units was also included in the deficiency budget:
- Professional Staff Union (Amherst/Boston)
- Professional Staff Union/Unit B in Amherst
Funding for these two contracts was signed into law on July 28 when Romney signed the deficiency budget.
'03 Creditable Service
The bill granting up to four years of creditable service for certain state employees who were previously paid as '03 consultants to the state was initially rejected by Romney on July 5. The House and Senate subsequently rejected Romney's amendment to the legislation. He then signed the bill into law on July 19.