Senate Approves Sales, Alcohol Tax Increases; Some Funds Targeted to Health
Tuesday evening, the Senate matched the House's approval of a 1.25-cent increase in the sales tax, and agreed to extend the sales tax to alcoholic beverages. We applaud the 29 Senators who voted for the sales tax increase, and congratulate Senators Walsh and Tolman who tirelessly pushed extending the sales tax to alcohol as part of an effort to adequately fund substance abuse programs.
As part of the vote, the Senate leadership distributed a list of budget cut restorations that will paid for by the increased revenue.
The restorations included a number of important health-related priorities of HCFA and our coalition partners:
- MassHealth adult dental coverage
- MassHealth day habilitation services for disabled
- Modest Medicaid rate increases (1.5% for managed care; .5% for hospitals; 1.5% for physicians)
- Medicaid medical home pilot projects
- Elder home care
- Prescription Advantage benefits ($10 million of the $15 cut compared to the House level)
- Rosie D - Medicaid benefits for severely mentally ill children
- Adult and children's mental health
- Primary care loan forgiveness
- Academic detailing
- DPH programs, including Substance Abuse, AIDS, Community Health Centers, Suicide Prevention
More details and confirmation of the Senate's intention will come when we see the actual amendment language. We are grateful for the Senate's inclusion of these critical health programs in the restoration package.
One key priority not included in the list is restoring coverage to 28,000 Commonwealth Care enrollees who would lose coverage under the Senate budget. We call on the Senate to restore their coverage during the rest of the budget debate.