House Ways & Means Releases FY09 Budget Plan
The House Committee on Ways and Means released its FY09 budget proposal today. The $27.9B budget includes $100M+ in cost savings. At today’s press conference, Chairman Robert DeLeo said his number one priority was to keep the state’s commitment to cities and towns. DeLeo said his Committee went through the budget line by line to ensure that cuts didn’t “cripple” specific agencies or hurt the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens.
DeLeo addressed the need for new revenue, citing the cigarette tax recently passed in the House. DeLeo said this budget will “lay the groundwork for the future” and “prepares the Commonwealth for potential fiscal woes ahead.”
There is mixed news for health care funding. We are pleased the MassHealth Outreach and Enrollment grants were level funded at $3.5 million and that the MassHealth smoking cessation program was made permanent. Children’s health programs, including CMSP, Early Intervention, and Healthy Start were level-funded. Commonwealth Care is funded at $869 million, the same amount included in the Governor's budget plan in January -- though the Patrick Administration now estimates the cost of CommCare will be substantially higher, by as much as $100 million.
The budget did not include two of HCFA priorities: creating an Office of Health Equity and the BEST Oral Health program. The Office of Health Equity would coordinate efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. Rep. Byron Rushing will file an amendment for the Office. The BEST Oral Health program brings needed oral health education, screenings, preventive measures, and referrals to children under age five in Hampden County. The BEST program is a three year pilot program and this will be its final pilot year. Rep. Cheryl Coakley Rivera will take the lead and file an amendment for the BEST program.