The Senate Ways and Means Committee last week endorsed its $33.9 billion budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, relying on $430 million in new taxes, $800 million in revenue growth and $627 million in reserves and one-time funding to support a $1.4 billion increase in year-to-year spending.
Like the House, the Senate plans falls well short of making the investments sought by Gov. Deval Patrick in transportation and education through his $1.9 billion tax proposal. Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor said the administration was reviewing the budget, with the governor’s priorities in mind.
UMass officials are also likely to seek more than the $15 million increase in funding proposed by Senate Ways and Means, which they says falls short of what is necessary to freeze tuition and fees hikes next year.
The House proposed boosting funding for higher education to reach a 50-50 split with UMass over two years, and with state universities and community colleges over three years. At Senate spending levels, it would take four years to reach that goal.
Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said he supports ramping up state support for education funding, but would not offer an amendment next week out of deference to the work done by Ways and Means on the budget and the negotiations that will take place with the House after the Senate vote.
“Obviously as an advocate for public higher education, I want it much faster than that but I also know this is a process. I’m feeling hopeful that by the end of the process we can have a strong budget for public higher education on the governor’s desk,” Rosenberg said.
The House last month endorsed the creation of a new Bureau of Program Integrity to work on reducing fraud, improving oversight and standardizing eligibility determination processes for welfare benefits across agencies. The bill also required that electronic benefit transfer cards come with photo IDs.
Brewer said Department of Transitional Assistance officials have met with Senate leaders to outline their 100-day plan for reforming the agency after questions were raised about benefits going to recipients no longer eligible, or who no longer lived in Massachusetts.
“All of us are opposed to waste, fraud and abuse,” Brewer said. “It sullies the atmosphere for those that deservedly need to get those benefits and we’re all committed to making that happen.”