Take Action: Public Health Priorities at Risk in Final Stages of State Budget

A six-member Conference Committee begins deliberations this week on the state’s fiscal year 2016 budget. The Conference Committee will decide the final funding levels for public health programs and the fate of important policies contained in the budget.

Please take a few minutes in the next week to contact your Representative and Senator and ask them to weigh in with the Conference Committee on key priorities that will advance health equity! 

You can find your Legislators’ contact information here. If you don’t know who your Legislators are, please click here.

TOP PRIORITIES

  • Adopt Senate funding and language for Mass in Motion (within 4513-1111) at $250,000 in dedicated funds and $3,902,386 in overall line item funding. The Mass in Motion program, covering more than 60 communities, is helping to improve access to healthy eating and physical activity in schools, neighborhood retailers, parks and playgrounds, and streets. Communities that have been participating since the program’s inception have shown a drop in the percentage of overweight children compared to the state as a whole. State funding for Mass in Motion is contingent on federal matching funds and leverages private funding.
  • Adopt Senate language for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (within 7007-0300). More than one million residents, nearly 20% of the state’s population, live in communities with limited access to grocery stores. The Food Trust Program, established in law in 2014, would provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to support new and expanded food retailers and other local food enterprises in low and moderate income communities. Similar models across the country have created thousands of jobs and leveraged significant private investment.
  • Adopt House funding and Senate language for the State Laboratory and Communicable Disease Control Services (4516-1000) at $13,700,641. The State Public Health Lab is responsible for the testing of samples for influenza, TB, salmonella, lead poisoning, bioterror agents, and insect-borne diseases like EEE and West Nile Virus; monitoring of disease reporting by local health departments, physicians, hospitals, and laboratories; investigation of and response to disease outbreaks; and helping local health departments respond to disease threats. Language in the Senate budget would create a December deadline on completion of a capital feasibility study that is underway to consider relocation of the lab to a modern facility.
  • Adopt Senate language increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (S1930, sections 31C through 31G). This language will increase the state EITC from 15% to 22.5% to increase economic mobility, improve children’s health, and provide pathways out of poverty. For those with low incomes, having more cash in hand is essential to meeting basic needs, and the EITC is associated with fewer babies born at a low birth rate, the purchase of more fruits and vegetables, and better ability to afford health care costs.
  • Adopt Senate language closing the tax loophole on flavored cigars (S1930, sections 34A and 105T). We need to protect our kids from the tobacco industry that targets them with flavored tobacco products like strawberry cigarillos and grape cigars. This language will close a tax loophole on flavored cigars, reducing availability of these addictive and deadly products to our youth. Additional revenue, estimated at about $4 million, will be directed to support local efforts to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.

IMPORTANT: If you are represented by one of the Conference Committee Members listed below, it is crucial for you to ask them for their support on these priorities. Committee members play an important role in determining the outcome of the final budget.

Conference Committee Members for 2015:

Rep. Brian Dempsey (District here)

Rep. Stephen Kulik (District here)

Rep. Todd Smola (District here)

Sen. Karen Spilka (District here)

Sen. Sal DiDomenico (District here)

Sen. Vinny deMacedo (District here)

For additional information on these priorities or for other questions about state public health funding, please contact Rebekah Gewirtz at rgewirtz@mphaweb.org or Maddie Ribble at mribble@mphaweb.org.

Thank you for working alongside us for a healthier Massachusetts!

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