Senate Ways and Means Committee releases budget plan

The Senate Ways and Means Committee’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal, like the one approved earlier this month by the House, provides moderate overall improvements over 2015 on preK-12 education spending. In addition, the committee’s version increases investment in public higher education campuses.

The full Senate is scheduled to begin debate Monday on the $38.01 billion proposal, which was released May 12.

MTA President Barbara Madeloni said that while the Senate Ways and Means proposal is an improvement over the House’s plan, areas of concern remain.

“This budget goes further than the House does in recognizing the fundamental importance of providing Massachusetts children with a solid education foundation,” she said. “But this version underfunds charter school reimbursements to sending districts by 40 percent, includes cuts to the METCO program and shortchanges kindergarten development grants.”

While the committee’s budget includes $24 million more than the House plan for public higher education campuses, it falls short of building on the reinvestment in higher education that began gaining momentum last year.

Here are some details about the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s proposal:

  • It maintains the premium split for state employees who receive their health insurance through the Group Insurance Commission, as does the House version. Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed budget would increase the percentage that state employees pay.
  • It provides $4.51 billion, $3 million more than the House budget, in Chapter 70 education funds for local and regional school districts. Like the House plan, this amount allows for a $25-per-pupil increase. The version proposed by Baker would include a $20-per-pupil increase.
  • It provides $271.6 million, $10 million more than the House budget, to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, which reimburses districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities.
  • It increases funding by $17.9 million, $4.5 million over the House version, for Early Education and Care.
  • It increases funding for state universities and community colleges by $19.7 million. Funding for the University of Massachusetts would increase by $18.7 million over what was originally appropriated in 2015. The Ways and Means version also includes in-state tuition retention for the University of Massachusetts for fiscal 2017.

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