The House on April 25 approved a nearly $42.8 billion state spending plan for fiscal 2020 with just a few changes in the main municipal and school aid accounts compared to the bill released by the House Ways and Means Committee earlier in the month.

The Ways and Means recommendation had already added funding for a number of school programs above amounts proposed by the governor in January, and House members largely stuck to the committee plan. Over four days of budget work on 1,370 amendments, House members added about $75 million in spending, mainly through 10 large consolidated amendments.

The amendments would add funding for local and regional public libraries and Shannon anti-gang grants. The House also approved dozens of earmarked spending items for programs and projects in cities and towns across the state.

The final House budget includes $1.13 billion for Unrestricted General Government Aid, a $29.7 million increase over current funding and the same increase proposed by the governor. This would increase UGGA funding by 2.7 percent, which matches the projected growth in state tax collections next year and is consistent with state revenue sharing policy over the past four years.

The House approved a $218 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, which would reach $5.13 billion next year, with a provision that every city, town and school district receive an increase of at least $30 per student. The governor had proposed $18 million less for Chapter 70, with minimum new aid of $20 per student.

The House did not adopt an amendment, supported by the MMA, to increase minimum aid to $50 per student.

The House budget builds on the governor’s plan to continue to implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the basic spending standard set under state school finance law. This includes increasing the factors in Chapter 70 for health insurance, special education, English language learners, and low-income students.

The House did not attempt to make permanent changes to the Chapter 70 statute in the budget bill. Separate school finance legislation is expected to be taken up later in the session.

The final House budget includes a $23 million increase for charter school mitigation payments, bringing the total to $113 million, which is still far below full funding of the current statutory formula. The House adopted the governor’s recommendation to change the six-year mitigation schedule to a new three-year schedule (at reimbursement percentages of 100, 60 and 40 percent), and make other adjustments in the program.

The House budget added $5 million more than the governor did to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, bringing it to $329 million. The MMA estimates that the program would be underfunded next year at this level.

The House budget added funding for regional school transportation reimbursements (at $73.9 million) and for reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students (at $10.1 million).

The House budget matched the governor’s level-funding of payments in lieu of taxes at $28.5 million.

The House approved an amendment that would set aside up to $10 million from any fiscal 2019 year-end surplus to supplement the state match for the Community Preservation Act next November.

The state budget bill is now before the Senate, where the Ways and Means Committee is expected to release its recommendation in mid-May.

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