Representative O’Day, House Pass Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Thursday, April 26, 2012: (Boston)- State Representative Jim O’Day joined with his colleagues yesterday in engrossing a $32.4 billion dollar budget for Fiscal Year 2013.  The budget, which passed with bipartisan support, closes a projected $790 million budget gap through cuts and adjustments to state spending, one-time revenues, and a $400 million withdrawal from the Rainy Day fund.

A number of Representative O‘Day’s budget priorities were realized with the engrossment of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.  Language to establish a commission to aide unaccompanied homeless youth was included in a consolidated amendment relating to Health and Human Services.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that nearly 6,000 high school students are homeless and on their own. Thousands more homeless youth are not reflected in these numbers because they have already dropped out of school. There is a desperate need for increased shelter and housing options for youth living without their parents or guardians.  The language included in the FY 2013 budget will establish a commission that will combine the State’s top experts on youth homelessness issues to identify solutions to the growing and pervasive problem.  About the problem of unaccompanied homeless youth, Representative O’Day commented “It is unconscionable that young people are left to fend for themselves, without shelter or caregivers.  The goal of these efforts is to improve housing and residential stability, reduce the risk of harm and improve educational, physical, and mental health outcomes for this population.  I am incredibly encouraged that the House recognizes this problem and has taken action to remedy it.”

Also included in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget is language to include social workers into Group 2 of the state retirement system.  “Every day, DCF social workers face life and death decisions and frequently work in violent environments.” said Representative O’Day.  “The time has come to give social workers retirement parity for their dedication to the families they serve and the risks they assume in their jobs.”  As a formal social worker, Representative O’Day is grateful that the House has recognized these dangers with the inclusion of social workers into Group 2 in this year’s budget.

Furthermore, Representative O’Day successfully advocated for $1,000,000.00 in additional funding to be allocated for the Department of Transitional Assistance caseworkers for the administration of our Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.  Given the current economic times, eligible clients for the SNAP program have grown exponentially, while staff supporting the administration and oversight of the program has dwindled.  The additional funding will allow the Department of Transitional Assistance to better support and implement this critical program that provides nutrition to our most vulnerable.

Representative O’Day also was the lead sponsor of an amendment that included language to establish a commission study on the importance of jail diversion initiatives for the mentally ill.  It is imperative that, while the Commonwealth is not in the economic position to provide the initiative with funding, it be prudent in addressing the unmet needs when it comes to the mentally ill and the criminal justice system.

Finally, Representative O’Day successfully fought for $25,000.00 in funds for the maintenance and upkeep of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Green Hill Park in Worcester.  Regarding funding for the memorial, Representative O’Day said “Even in tough economic times, it is imperative to honor our veterans and also important that we preserve the physical memorial for future generations to better remember the impact that the Vietnam War had on our nation.”

The Fiscal Year 2013 House Budget importantly makes a significant investment in Local Aid to help lessen the burden of the recession on municipalities.  Locally, Representative O’Day successfully advocated for an increase in both Chapter 70 education funding and local aid for both the City of Worcester and the Town of West Boylston.  Both communities saw increases in local aid and Chapter 70 funding across the board.  Worcester saw an increase of over $9 million in education funding and $2.5 million in local aid, while West Boylston saw an increase of over $35,000 for Chapter 70 and a $48,000 increase in local aid.  

Representative O’Day also was pleased to find that the FY ’13 House Budget provides $11.3 million dollars to municipalities to transport homeless students in accordance with the McKinney-Vento Federal Law, previously considered an unfunded mandate.  Representative O’Day hosted a legislative briefing on the importance of this funding in March, and was pleased that with the help of his colleagues Theodore Speliotis (D) Danvers and Thomas Stanley (D) Waltham, funding was made available so that homeless student’s can maintain some sense of stability in their education while facing uncertain times at home.

Representative O’Day was also a co-sponsor of many amendments that were ultimately adopted.  The so-called “Community Preservation” amendment, an update on the state’s highly successful Community Preservation Act of 2000, was co-sponsored by Representative O’Day.  The adopted amendment will broaden the acceptable use of CPA funds and make CPA funding more accessible to urban areas like Worcester.  CPA funds are used to fund open space preservation and for housing or historic rehabilitation projects.  Representative O’Day was also the cosponsor of an amendment, offered by Representative Kay Khan of Newton, that increased fiscal support by $200,000.00 for the Department of Disability Services for implementation of much needed and critical services.  

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:            
Contact: Rep. Jim O’Day/Robert Oftring
Tel: (617) 722-2370