Governor to file budget blueprint on heels of annual address

Miami Herald Finance 7 months ago

Lawmakers are about to get their first peek at Gov. Charlie Baker's latest state budget.

The Republican governor is scheduled to submit his election-year spending plan — likely to top $41 billion — to the Democratic-controlled Legislature on Wednesday.

In his state of the state address on Tuesday, Baker mentioned a few of his budget priorities, including additional aide for communities hosting families from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after the recent devastating hurricanes.

Baker also has told cities and towns to anticipate a $37 million increase in unrestricted state aid, and school districts to expect nearly $120 million in additional state funding, bringing K-12 education to more than $4.7 billion.

He said the spending plan also will help bolster the state's transition to a greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

"Despite the tremendous progress we've made and will continue to make in Massachusetts, our climate is still changing," Baker said in his speech on Tuesday. "That's why we'll dedicate an additional $2 million to climate adaptation and resiliency planning efforts in our 2019 budget, providing additional support to municipalities and accelerating statewide hazard mitigation planning."

Baker said the state also has work to do to strengthen behavioral health services. He said the budget proposal will include more than $83 million in new funding for the Department of Mental Health to strengthen community-based services for adults with serious mental illness.

He said the services will provide active outreach and engagement services, residential supports, clinical coverage 24/7 and include peer and recovery coaches as part of the treatment team.

Baker's budget also will include changes intended to help thousands of people on public assistance find good-paying jobs. The governor said that includes additional skill building funds for low-income workers. He said the funds will be targeted to job openings in different regions of the state so people can take the next step up the wage ladder.

And to increase the take-home pay for more than 400,000 working families, Baker also is proposing a doubling of the earned income tax credit.

Baker's spending plan marks the beginning of Beacon Hill's budget process. The House and Senate will each come up with their own version of the budget before hammering out a compromise version.

The 2019 fiscal year begins July 1.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker delivers his state of the state address in the House chambers Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Boston. Baker called for improvements in education, transportation and housing Tuesday in his last state of the state address before seeking a second term in office. Stephan Savoia AP Photo

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