Legislature passes $34 billion state spending plan for FY14

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The Legislature this afternoon approved a $34 billion state spending plan for fiscal 2014 that includes a $21 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid and a $130 million increase for Chapter 70 education aid.

The governor now has 10 days to review the budget and consider what items he might veto or return with proposed amendments.

Last week, the Legislature approved a transportation finance package that provides new revenues, some of which have been used to fund transportation-related spending in the fiscal 2014 budget bill. The governor is reviewing the revenue bill, but has said that he expects to return it with proposed amendments.

The compromise state budget bill was released last evening by a legislative conference committee. A conference committee last night also released a supplemental budget bill – also passed by the Legislature today – to help close the books on the just-ended fiscal year.

FY14 General Appropriations Bill
The Legislature’s fiscal 2014 budget bill would bring the Cherry Sheet UGGA account to $920 million. While both branches had agreed on the amount, there was disagreement on whether to fund the increase from fiscal 2014 revenues and include the full $920 million on the Cherry Sheet or to use a portion of any fiscal 2013 year-end surplus to pay for the increase, which would have delayed availability of the funds until later in the year. The conference committee settled on using current year revenues and including the entire amount on the fiscal 2014 Cherry Sheet.

The final budget bill adopted the Senate’s approach to calculating Chapter 70 education aid and local contribution amounts, increasing the appropriation to $4.3 billion. This approach, provided in Section 3 of the budget bill, ensures that all school districts can reach the “foundation” level of spending. It also includes an additional step toward phasing in aid and local contribution targets and a minimum increase for all districts of $25 per student.

The Division of Local Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are expected to provide updated municipal and school aid data early this week.

Section 3 (local aid numbers) from Legislature’s FY14 state budget (157K PDF)
Link to DLS for fiscal 2014 Cherry Sheet local aid numbers based on final budget bill

The fiscal 2014 budget bill also includes a $22 million increase in special education “circuit breaker” reimbursements, bringing the total to $252 million and providing estimated full funding of the state’s share by law.

The budget also includes $75 million to reimburse municipalities and school districts for a portion of school aid lost as tuition payments to charter schools. Full funding would require an estimated $103 million.

Reimbursements for the McKinney-Vento homeless student transportation mandate would total $7.4 million, about half of estimated costs. And payments to regional school districts to help pay for student transportation costs would increase by $7 million to $52 million.

For municipal accounts, the budget includes level-funding, at $27 million, for Cherry Sheet payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) reimbursements and $7 million for the Shannon anti-gang grant program.

In addition to appropriations for next year, the fiscal 2014 budget bill includes more than 200 sections that would change state law, including many that affect local government. The final budget includes sections (50 and 110) that would loosen the current statutory 10-mile residency requirement for local police and fire employees and allow an extension of the limit through local collective bargaining agreements. The MMA opposed this section and sought language that would prevent looser requirements being imposed through arbitration.

FY13 Supplemental Budget Bill
The fiscal 2013 supplemental budget bill includes several important appropriations for the just-ended fiscal year that will be paid to cities and towns in the new year.

The budget includes $8 million to fully fund the state’s obligation last year to reimburse cities and towns for school aid losses attributable to charter schools, and an estimated $8.3 million to cover state-mandated costs for the special U.S. Senate elections in April and June.

The supplemental budget includes a proposed law change that would ban the practice used by insurance companies of paying the patient for emergency medical services and require direct payment to cities and towns and local EMS providers. The budget section would also clarify that cities and towns are responsible for setting fees for ambulance services.
Written by MMA Legislative Director John Robertson