The Senate late yesterday passed a $2.8 billion supplemental budget bill to close out fiscal 2023 that includes funding to address the ongoing emergency shelter crisis, conditional funding to address extraordinary special education cost increases, and important municipal finance rule changes.

The Senate bill (S. 2502), similar to the House version passed last week, would allocate $250 million for the emergency shelter system, as requested by the governor in her September supplemental budget proposal. The language in the Senate bill, however, does not require targeted spending allotments within the total allocation, as the House proposes, but does require the administration to report on the spending every two weeks.

Like the House, the Senate included $75 million to address extraordinary cost increases for special education in eligible school districts, following a decision made last October by the Operational Services Division that allows out-of-district special education private schools to increase tuition by 14% in fiscal 2024.

The Senate bill also includes a section to address costs associated with administering early voting and mail-in voting, providing $5 million for grants from a reserve account to be issued by the secretary of state. Both the House and Senate bills would schedule the state’s 2024 primary election on Sept. 3.

Both bills also would authorize municipalities to amortize, over fiscal 2025 through 2027, costs incurred as a result of recent natural disasters, an important mechanism for impacted communities. The Senate bill includes $15 million for additional disaster relief for affected municipalities.

The Senate bill includes several of the municipal finance law changes that were included in a supplemental budget bill filed by the governor in March. Of note, the Senate bill would provide increased clarity on spending and accounting for opioid settlement funds.

The bulk of the spending in the House and Senate bills, $2.12 billion, is for MassHealth fee-for-service payments.

The two chambers must now reconcile differences between the bills before a final version can be sent to the governor.

Written by