Governor Proposes Significant Re-Investments in Essential Public Health Services, Raising Healthy New Revenues

Governor Patrick’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, released yesterday, includes a significant increase in funding for essential public health infrastructure and regulatory functions. These include inspections of health care facilities, pharmacies, food safety, and air quality – areas which are severely strained and currently pose unacceptable risks to the public. Most other Department of Public Health (DPH) programs – including chronic disease prevention and direct service programs – are level funded. The result is a modest overall increase in DPH funding.

The Governor’s proposal includes an end to the sales tax exemption on candy and soda, a $1.00 increase in cigarette taxes, and an equalization of tax rates on smokeless tobacco products and small cigars (so called “other tobacco products”).

MPHA enthusiastically supports the Governor’s proposal to raise additional revenue that will support the Commonwealth’s infrastructure to prevent, monitor, and respond to disease and injuries. We call on the Legislature to support the Governor’s proposals.

Read MPHA’s full summary of the Governor’s budget proposal here.


Governor’s Budget Bolsters Essential Infrastructure

The Governor’s budget proposes additional funding that would provide for the hiring of 38 additional staff at DPH to bolster core infrastructure activities including:

Health Care Safety and Quality – increased funding of $2.5 million (19% increase)

  • Additional and timelier inspections of safety and quality regulations in more than 2,300 health care facilities;
  • Additional inspectors for the board of pharmacy; and
  • Support implementation of new responsibilities under the health care cost containment law (Chapter 224) that aim to reduce health care costs.

Environmental Public Health Services – increased funding of $860,000 (15% increase)

  • Increase the number of food safety inspectors to address severe deficiencies in staffing;
  • Improve licensure and inspection of over 17,000 facilities using radiation sources, including x-ray and mammography; and
  • Reduce the backlog of requests for indoor air quality assessments at schools and other public buildings with potentially dangerous air quality concerns.

The Governor’s Budget Supports Healthy Revenues
Governor Patrick has once again included several targeted provisions that would generate additional revenue for the state:

  •  A $1 increase in the cigarette tax and equalization of tax rates on “other tobacco products.  Together, these changes would raise over $135 million annually, while leading to nearly 25,000 adult smokers quitting along with a 9% drop in youth smoking.
  • Elimination of the sales tax exemption for candy and soft drinks.  This change would raise $51 million annually, while supporting the goal of decreasing over-consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages. 


Transportation Investments that Advance Health Equity

As MPHA announced last week, Governor Patrick has proposed a package of tax changes that would raise significant new revenue while holding down increases for low and moderate income families. These revenues would support new investments in transportation, including public transit, walking and biking – investments that would have major impacts on health outcomes and health equity. To learn more, check out the great infographic from NewPublicHealth.org, Better Transportation=Healthier Lives.
Next Up: The House – We Need Your Support!
The action moves now to the House, which will debate their budget in the spring. Over the next few months, we encourage you to join us in calling on the legislature to support these investments in public health and these new revenue sources. Stay tuned to learn how you can get involved!