Nearly three weeks into the FY19 fiscal year, the legislative conference committee charged with developing a compromise FY19 state budget released a $41.88 billion spending proposal.
On a positive note, the FY19 budget does provide a 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment increase to the first $13,000 in pension benefits for retired members of the state and teachers’ retirement systems, and it raises the cap on the number of hours per year public sectors retirees may work in public service jobs from 960 to 1200. It also includes language requiring that all centers and institutes at UMass Boston be funded at no less than their FY18 levels, save for under extraordinary circumstances. Should the university decide that it must pursue cuts, it would be required to issue a report detailing its reasons and to provide advance notice to the Legislature.
While overall state spending and public education funding will be increased modestly in FY19 under this plan, the state has once again failed to provide meaningful resources and support to our students, schools and universities. Additionally, the Legislature did not include in its proposal several MTA-backed policies, including provisions that would have mandated at least 20 minutes of recess daily for students in grades K-5, frozen health insurance premium percentage splits for certain municipal retirees, and enacted widespread reforms in the Group Insurance Commission’s composition and decision-making processes.
Governor Baker has 10 days from July 18 to act on the Legislature’s budget recommendation. Should he veto or amend sections of the proposal, the House and Senate will have a few days to hold override votes on vetoes or to take action on amendments before formal sessions wrap up at midnight on July 31.