Legislature closes $733m budget gap, rejects Baker’s MassHealth cuts

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts legislature today to pass a full FY2018 state budget that closed a budget gap of $733 million due to below benchmark revenue. The budget keeps intact key programs for Malden, as well as funding for schools, local aid, and seniors.

“This was a very tough budget cycle, and I’m glad that many important programs for Malden weathered the process,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “I will continue fighting for funding for our city services, our local non-profits, and for our entire community.”

The budget was balanced by reducing state spending and identifying efficiencies in state government. Notably, the legislature rejected Governor Baker’s proposal to drastically cut MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program for disabled and very low income people. In June, Baker urged budget negotiators to rewrite eligibility rules to push 140,000 people living below 138% of the federal poverty line off of MassHealth. The move would have made Massachusetts the only state to roll back the Obama-era Medicaid expansion that a majority of states have adopted to support low-income people and combat poverty.

Many Malden-specific programs were preserved at the urging of Representative Ultrino and other members of the city’s legislative delegation, including Senator Jason Lewis and Representatives Donato and Brodeur. Funding for Portal to Hope, a nonprofit that provides services to survivors of domestic violence, was preserved at $150,000. Malden-based Housing Families received $100,000 in the FY18 budget to assist in its mission of ending family homelessness.

Larger programs that have a direct impact on the city’s budget were also protected. Chapter 70 public education funding will increase in FY18 by $119 million over the previous year, equaling an increase of at least $30 per student. Municipal aid is also increased to a total of $1.061 billion through the UGGA fund, which provides direct assistance to cities and towns for general government services. Special education reimbursements for public schools through the special education circuit breaker also increased to $281 million, providing much-needed cash to school districts for certain special education costs.

These investments protect Malden city and school services in FY18, and help maintain important nonprofits in the community that help some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Representative Ultrino was also instrumental is expanding the scope of a housing program to cover both at-risk seniors and seniors already experiencing homelessness. The new language will help prevent elder homelessness, and allow caseworkers to advocate to keep seniors in their homes.

“It is often said that the best measure of a society is how it cares for those with the greatest need during difficult times,” said Representative Ultrino. “I’m proud that our state continues to defend working class people and their families, and that we have rejected the politics of convenience that would harm our poorest residents.”

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