By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — House and Senate legislators stamped their approval Monday on a new $34 million state budget that will bring nearly $2 million in state funds to the region should Gov. Deval Patrick issue his final approval within the next week.
Notably, the budget would allocate $300,000 for sand harvesting and other repairs to be made at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, which suffered significant beach erosion over the winter, along with $1 million for directed patrols by the state police along the beach during the busy summer season.
“We were able to obtain funding for all of our budget priorities in the district,” said Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport.
In addition to the beach repairs and police patrols, Costello and Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, also announced that the budget includes $400,000 for the operation of the Newburyport Shellfish and Purification Plant on Plum Island, $90,000 for the Newburyport-based C-10 Research and Education Foundation, $20,000 for Amesbury-based Our Neighbors’ Table, and funds for phragmites mitigation from Gloucester to Salisbury. These are expenses that local lawmakers annually include in the budget.
Obtaining funds for Salisbury Beach was a particularly important priority for state legislators after a run of powerful winter storms devastated the beach and left several areas severely eroded. Costello and O’Connor Ives each said restoring Salisbury Beach and funding additional patrols would help it maintain its status as a major tourist attraction and a powerful economic engine for the region.
The state will also increase the surcharge for camping and parking at Salisbury Beach State Reservation from $2 to $3. Costello said that based on receipts from recent years, the fee increase will bring in an additional $75,000 to $90,000 to the Salisbury Preservation Trust Fund. That means day use fees will rise to $10, and overnight camping fees to $18 for Massachusetts residents.
“This money is critical to maintain and enhance Salisbury Beach for future generations,” Costello said.
The $400,000 allocated to the Newburyport Shellfish and Purification Plan will help the facility maintain its operations, as will the $90,000 for the C-10 Research and Education Foundation, which monitors emissions from the Seabrook Station nuclear reactor and compiles data for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and for MEMA.
“C-10’s important work to monitor radiation levels within the 10-mile fall-out radius of the Seabrook nuclear power plant is a critical public safety service that can now continue,” O’Connor Ives said.
The $20,000 allocated to Our Neighbors’ Table will help support the Amesbury-based food pantry’s efforts to help feed local residents who are in need.
Lawmakers also included $500 million in new taxes, which were approved along party lines with Democrats voting overwhelmingly to approve them. The taxes include 3-cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax, $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax, applying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax to computer system design services and increasing taxes on utilities.
Overall, O’Connor Ives said the final state budget includes $920.2 million in unrestricted local aid for cities and towns, an increase of $21.2 million over last year, along with increases in Chapter 70 aid, special education and state aid to public libraries.
O’Connor Ives said she believes the budget allocations will make a real difference for residents of the Merrimack Valley and is hopeful that Gov. Patrick will accept the budget soon so the funds can be put to work quickly.
Patrick will have 10 days from the time of the budget’s approval to consider it and announce new amendments or vetoes before he signs it.