May 3, 2017

Worcester legislators highlight local priorities accounted for in House budget

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WPI's Beech Tree -- campus won't be so serene with all these robots in town.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives advanced a $40.4 billion fiscal 2018 budget last week, saying it “represents a commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

In a joint statement released April 28, four Worcester-area legislators claimed “the budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained economic health in Massachusetts as we face uncertainty on the national level.”

For the fourth consecutive year the House budget includes a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund which will result in a projected balance of more than $1.4 billion and, the statement said, “help preserve the state’s AA+ bond rating, the highest in the Commonwealth’s history.”

Worcester Reps. Dan Donahue, Mary Keefe, John Mahoney, and Jim O’Day touted a number of local items the delegation were able to advocate for and secure in the budget, with a focus on education, the environment and community services.

“This budget directly benefits the neighborhoods of Worcester by securing critical funding for some of the most essential programs and services in Worcester which support and assist some of the most vulnerable populations in our city,” Donahue said.

Worcester Public Library is in line for nearly $500,000 in the House budget, with the bulk of that ($446,131) going toward the Worcester Talking Book Library, which provides free services to Massachusetts residents of any age who are unable to read traditional print materials because of a visual or physical disability. The lawmakers also earmarked $50,000 for the library to replace its first mobile library, “Libby.”

“Our investments in education and local aid continue to demonstrate the commitment we have to future progress and success,” Mahoney said. “As the budget process moves forward, I will continue to advocate for the betterment of our city and the Commonwealth.”

The House set aside $1.4 million for Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, a public and co-educational school that enrolls academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders.

“The Worcester delegation continues strong leadership in securing funds for several important initiatives for the Worcester community,” O’Day said.

The statement noted the following spending priorities as well:

  • Friendly House: $60,000 to support Friendly House, which provides critical transitional support services to populations most in need in the Worcester area.
  • Indian Lake: $45,000 for the treatment and preservation of Indian Lake in Worcester. This funding will assist in chemical treatments, dredging, and keep one of Worcester’s main attractions for recreational activities in the region healthy and available to our communities.
  • Newton Square rotary: $150,000 to help upgrade the busy and clustered intersection at the Newton Square rotary in Worcester. It continues to be a safety hazard and extreme inconvenience for residents and local businesses.
  • Pleasant Street Neighborhood Association Network Center: $50,000 to improve the lives of youth within the Piedmont neighborhood of Worcester with an emphasis on leadership, community development and youth employment.
  • Quinsigamond Village Community Center (QVCC): $40,000 to the QVCC, which provides a variety of services from case management, employment services, community dialogues and a community food pantry.
  • Recreation Worcester: $50,000 to help fund the free year-round out-of-school time program which engages with the community to provide athletic, artistic, and academic programming for Worcester’s youth.
  • Tree Re-planting: $175,000 to re-plant trees in Worcester, as a result of Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation. These funds will allow thousands of new trees to be planted, as the most cost efficient method to solve infestation.
  • Worcester County House of Correction, Dismas House: $90,000 to support the programming and operating costs at Dismas House, which include prison and jail reentry services, transportation, recovery, therapeutic services, case management, employment search, and civil legal resolutions.

“The Worcester delegation’s team effort allows us to both prioritize funding for projects in each of our districts but also support collaborative efforts that help our city function better as a whole,” Keefe said. “When children from Friendly House’s summer programs can get to a healthy Indian Lake, we are successful.”

The fiscal 2018 budget has now been sent to the Senate for its consideration. Senate deliberations are expected to ramp up early this month.

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