Senate Ways and Means budget includes increase for higher education

The proposed budget increases spending for public higher education campuses by $41 million over FY05 and approximately $20 million over the House-passed FY06 budget. While there has been some progress toward reversing the cuts of previous years, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the proposal is about $138 million below what higher education received in FY01.

Funding appropriations for preK-12 in most ways mirror what was passed by the House earlier this month. Chapter 70 funding – state aid to school districts – is increased by 3.3 percent over FY05. Despite additional funding, the budget proposal is still $374 million below FY02 Chapter 70 spending when adjusted for inflation. In addition, the Senate adds a $55 million "reserve fund" to be used only when a bill is enacted that includes changes to the way funding is distributed, as well as to provide funding for school improvement for targeted schools. MTA supports efforts to improve school funding and to provide for school improvement efforts, but we urge the Legislature, either in conjunction with this reserve fund or as a separate effort, to do a comprehensive resources assessment to ensure that education funding will ultimately provide what is needed to ensure that all students receive an adequate education and can meet the state standards.

The Senate proposal includes the same increase in funding for lottery aid as the governor and the House proposed. The actual increase over FY05, after including the $75 million approved in the fall, is $25 million.

The Senate Ways and Means proposal only relies on using $100 million of revenue from the anticipated passage of the bill that would close corporate tax loopholes. MTA supports passing the original bill (H21) that the Governor filed with House 1. If that bill was enacted, the increase in revenues would be $170 million that could be used to reverse some of the devastating cuts to education in the past three years.

Below is an analysis of the Senate proposal.

PreK-12

  • Chapter 70 funding - Increased by 3.3 percent over FY05, same as the House budget. This is still $374 million below FY02 Chapter 70 spending, when adjusted for inflation.
  • Reserve Fund - The Senate adds a $55 million "reserve fund" to be used only when a bill is enacted that includes changes to the way funding is distributed, as well as to provide funding for school improvement for targeted schools. MTA supports efforts to improve school funding and to provide for school improvement efforts, but we urge the Legislature, either in conjunction with this reserve fund or as a separate effort, to do a comprehensive resources assessment to ensure that education funding will ultimately provide what is needed to ensure that all students receive an adequate education and can meet the state standards.
  • "Pothole" Account - The Senate is proposing $6.8 million, which was last year’s funding level. The House included $2.5 million. The money can be used by school districts for extraordinary expenses, among other purposes.
  • Lottery Aid - The Senate includes the same increase in funding for lottery aid as the governor and the House. The actual increase over FY05, after including the $75 million approved in the fall, is $25 million.
  • Regional School Transportation - The Senate includes the same increase in funding for reimbursement for regional school transportation, $4.5 million.
  • School Transportation (Non-Regional) - The Senate, like the House, does not provide any funding for non-regional school transportation. This reimbursement program has not been funded since FY03. (Sen. Stephen Buoniconti (D-Springfield) has filed an amendment to reimburse communities for about 10 percent of their costs.)
  • Kindergarten Development Grants - The Senate proposes funding this item at $2 million lower than the House ($25 million).
  • MCAS Low-Scoring Support/Intensive Support for Low-Scoring Districts - The Senate proposes to fund these items at the same level as the House.
  • Teacher/Principal/Superintendent Recruitment and Retention - The Senate adds funding for this item at $1.9 million. This was not funded in the House.
  • Alternative Education Grants - The Senate proposes to fund this grant program at $250,000 less than the House ($1,250,000).

Higher Education

The total increase for higher education is $30 million over FY05 - including supplemental appropriations made during the year. In inflation-adjusted (FY05) dollars, under the Senate Ways and Means proposal, total higher education funding will be about $138 million below what it was in FY01.

Campus Budgets

  • UMass receives an $18.4 million (4.4 percent) increase over FY05, when tuition retention is included. This is an increase of $10 million over the House-passed budget.
  • State colleges receive an increase of $10.9 million (6.10 percent) over FY05 when tuition retention for the Mass College of Art is included. This is an increase of $6 million over the House-passed budget.
  • Community colleges’ funding increases $11.6 million (5.9 percent) over FY05. This is approximately $4.6 million over the House-passed budget.

The total funding for higher education campuses has increased approximately $41 million over FY05.

Employee Rights and Benefits

  • Senate budget writers agreed to adopt House language restoring the 85/15 health insurance premium percentage split (from 80/20) for state employees hired prior to January 1, 2003, and by reducing from 25 percent to 20 percent the premium percentage share to be paid by those hired since January 1, 2003. These changes are slated to take effect on January 1, 2006.
  • A retiree cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 3 percent on the first $12,000 of retirement income has been included in the Senate Ways and Means recommendations. Non-teacher local employees would need local approval to effectuate the COLA. These provisions are the same as those adopted by the House in April.