As Massachusetts begins its annual budget process, automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts (so-called sequestration) are starting to hit funding for programs our families depend on, including college financial aid, work-study jobs, Head Start, services for the poor, public health efforts, law enforcement, and programs for our seniors.
The gridlock and fiscal uncertainty in Washington puts even more pressure on state and local governments to fund and provide vital services, and to do so efficiently and effectively with limited resources.
To do just that, we are moving forward with a common sense funding plan for the Commonwealth. With this budget process underway, I strongly encourage you to tune in and let your voice be heard. I have been discussing current and anticipated needs with small businesses, local officials and families throughout our district, and will advocate our shared priorities throughout the debate. They include:
- Local aid and schools. My top priority is increased aid for cities and towns in our district and equitable funding for our public schools, including by moving every school district toward its target state aid level and supporting special education funding for students whose needs cannot be met within the public school system. This support is more important than ever, as our municipalities and school districts continue to provide vital services, our economy continues to recover, and federal funding remains uncertain.
- Investing in early education and care. Investing in early education is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase future academic achievement, support innovation and job creation, and decrease reliance on government services. We must ensure that early childhood programs are safe, high-quality and affordable to all families. Governor Patrick recently visited our district, meeting with young learners and their educators at the Franklin Early Childhood Center in Melrose. I will continue to work with the governor and my colleagues to support new investments in early education as well as income-eligible childcare subsidies for the thousands of families who are on waiting lists for these programs.
- Supporting our seniors. Economic uncertainty hits our seniors particularly hard, and many in our district need assistance for transportation, home care, heating their homes, and food. Senior centers in our district provide meals, as well as valuable health, educational and recreational opportunities for many seniors who may be otherwise isolated. Mystic Valley Elder Services in Malden, that serves many communities, administers a program that serves 2,000 meals per day. Among my budget priorities are support for Elder Nutrition Services, including Meals on Wheels and meals served at senior centers, as well as home care programs that allow seniors to remain at home and receive care in the most effective way.
- Standing with our veterans. Too many of our veterans are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and mental health issues. As we welcome home more veterans, we owe it to them to consider the quality and level of the services they deserve. This year I will advocate funding for two programs that serve veterans with education and job training, mental health, and benefits counseling services in our district: North Shore Veterans Counseling Services and the Train Vets to Treat Vets program.
- Transportation. It is time for our state to address its transportation challenges head-on, and to do so in a sustainable way. Throughout this budget debate and our current legislative session, transportation must remain a top priority. We must invest in a comprehensive, modern transportation network that includes all areas of the state and breaks our reliance on debt and emergency funding.
- Preserving a lifeline. It is critical that we maintain support for our most vulnerable citizens, including those with disabilities, homeless children and families, and those who are fleeing violence and abuse. During this budget cycle I will do all I can to provide funding for services, safe shelter and legal assistance for those who have nowhere else to turn.
I have heard from people throughout our district that they see a clear link between continued economic growth and job creation and making the necessary investments in education, accessible and cost-effective health care, and human services. We must develop a budget that reflects our values and effectively and accountably invests our resources.