The House Committee on Ways and Means is working to finalize its fiscal 2025 state budget proposal, due to be released in early April, as legislative activity on the spending plan ramps up.

The MMA is continuing its advocacy efforts around municipal budget priorities, including its testimony at the March 1 hearing on local and school aid before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and six Legislative Breakfast Meetings in March to facilitate direct conversations between local officials and state legislators. The MMA has also submitted written testimony outlining municipal priorities for the budget.

The MMA is calling for the Legislature to support at least a 3% increase in the main discretionary local aid account, Unrestricted General Government Aid, which has seen steady increases in recent years but remains below 2008 levels, even without adjusting for inflation.

The MMA is also highlighting an outside section in the governor’s budget proposal that would allow the Massachusetts State Lottery to create an online platform, known as iLottery, but does not address how proceeds from the new platform would be allocated. The Lottery was created more than 50 years ago with the sole purpose of funding state aid to cities and towns, and the MMA’s position is that any new Lottery proceeds should continue to be used to support the UGGA account.

The MMA and local officials are also focusing on the importance of supplementary funding for local road and bridge maintenance, as was included in the fiscal 2024 state budget, and asking legislators to build on the governor’s proposal to use $124 million in “Fair Share” surtax revenue for this purpose.

Key accounts
Chapter 70: The governor proposed increasing Chapter 70 school aid by $263 million, funding year four of the six-year Student Opportunity Act’s implementation schedule, but two-thirds of operating districts (211 out of 318) would receive only the minimum per-student increase of $30. The MMA is calling for minimum aid of $100 per student, which would require an additional $35.4 million. The MMA is also asking legislators to address the very high increases in mandated local contributions in the foundation budget formula, which continue to far outpace the growth in local revenues in recent years.

Special Education Circuit Breaker: The MMA supports the governor’s proposed $492 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, and the use of $75 million included in the fiscal 2023 closeout supplemental budget for special education.

Charter schools: The MMA continues to make the case for comprehensive charter school finance reform, noting that charter schools divert a high percentage of Chapter 70 funds away from many municipally operated school districts and place increasing strain on the districts that serve the vast majority of public schoolchildren.

Student transportation: The MMA is asking the Legislature to fully fund state commitments to several accounts, including for regional school districts, transportation for out-of-district vocational students, and the transportation of homeless students under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.

Rural schools: The MMA is urging legislators to increase rural school aid to reach the $60 million recommendation in the 2022 report from the Commission on the Fiscal Health of Rural School Districts.

PILOT: The MMA is advocating for additional funding for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes for state-owned land, and consideration for how state-owned land uniquely impacts different municipalities.

Surtax funding for local roads and bridges: Given the loss of purchasing power of existing funding sources and other local budget pressures, the MMA is requesting at least $150 million in the state budget for local road and bridge maintenance, which would benefit every municipality in the Commonwealth.

Disaster relief: The MMA is expressing strong support for the governor’s proposed Disaster Relief and Resiliency Fund, which would be an important first step in ensuring that municipalities have resources immediately available to help when extreme weather events strike.

Budget process
The House is expected to debate its budget bill during the week of April 22, with the Senate deliberating its own bill in May. Differences between the two bills will then need to be worked out in order to get a final budget bill to the governor for the new fiscal year in July.

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