|The House and Senate passed their own versions of next year’s fiscal 2018 state budget earlier this month, and the budget conference committee has been meeting to iron out the differences and present a balanced budget for adoption by the full legislature.
However, declining state tax collections have opened a gaping hole in the current fiscal 2017 budget, and state leaders are revisiting and lowering their revenue assumptions for next year – this could lead lawmakers to make across-the-board budget cuts in next year’s budget, including to unrestricted municipal aid (UGGA), education funding, and many other vital programs. This process is taking longer than expected, which is why lawmakers have passed a temporary one-month budget to keep state government operating through the end of July.
It is imperative that you contact your Representatives and Senators as soon as possible and ask them to protect local aid as a top priority – cities and towns have balanced their budgets based on receiving the full $39.9 million expected increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, $30 per student in minimum aid for Chapter 70, and full funding of vital accounts, including special education reimbursements. Cuts to these local aid programs would create budget shortfalls for all 351 cities and towns, and force communities to re-open their budgets to impose mid-year program cuts.
Please call your legislators today and ask them to fully protect local aid
Please click here to download a copy of MMA’s letter to House and Senate leaders detailing local aid priorities in the fiscal 2018 state budget
UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID (UGGA)
Please ask your legislators to make it a top priority to protect the full $39.9 million increase in the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) account that was included in both the House and Senate budgets. It is important to note that the UGGA program is funded almost entirely by Lottery and gaming revenues, including $64 million from the Plainridge Park Casino. Most of the remaining amount would come from Lottery proceeds that the State Treasurer has forecast at $965 million next year. Almost all of the UGGA account is funded by gaming revenues that are supposed to go directly to cities and towns, and should not be diverted for other purposes.
CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID
Please ask your legislators to support an increase for Chapter 70 school aid that provides at least $30 per student in minimum aid, starts the implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations to increase the state’s funding commitment, and protects communities with low-income students.
SPECIAL EDUCATION “CIRCUIT BREAKER”
Please ask your legislators to support full funding of the Special Education “Circuit Breaker” Program, which would require $294.4 million, as proposed by the Senate.
CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS
Both the House and Senate budgets significantly underfund the charter school reimbursements. Fixing this program in an absolute priority, because a record level of Chapter 70 aid is being diverted away from cities and towns to fund charter schools, which only serve about 4% of the students. The Senate budget would increase funding by $3 million, while the House budget level-funds the program at $80.5 million. This $3 million increase is critically important to those communities that are struggling under the deeply flawed system. Please ask your legislators to keep this $3 million increase.
BRINGING FAIRNESS TO SHORT-TERM RENTALS AND TAX POLICY
The MMA is strongly supporting the Senate language that would modernize and close loopholes in the room occupancy excise, and provide cities and towns with authority to set local rules for the industry. New technologies and business practices have changed how people book and pay for vacations, business trips and other short-term stays away from home. The Senate provision would apply the same rules across all types of occupancy, and is a complete package in that it also closes the internet reseller loophole. Industry leader Airbnb has also endorsed the Senate provision, which demonstrates that this solution offers a strong foundation to fix this issue from both the municipal and business perspective. This is an urgent issue and we ask you to call your legislators to support this proposal to allow the local hotel-motel excise to cover these short-term and seasonal rentals.