Baker’s FY20 Budget Proposal Level Funds Public Health Dep’t, Highlights Include Funding for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, New Fees on Prescription Opioids & E-Cigarettes

On Wednesday, January 23, Governor Baker announced his budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. Governor Baker’s budget proposal includes a 1.5% increase in funding over FY19 spending. It level funds the Department of Public Health with an overall budget of $423 million.

Good News

MPHA is pleased to see investments in childhood lead poisoning prevention and healthy food access as well as some modest funding increases in core public health infrastructure line-items. Please note that small increases in funding generally represent salary and other maintenance costs, rather than investment in program capacity.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Trust Fund (1595-4506) $2.7 million, new funding. This funding will support the Department of Public Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which does not currently have the capacity to provide essential prevention and remediation activities to reduce the devastating impact of lead poisoning. 

Food Stamp Participation Rate Programs (4400-1001), $8.6 million, an 18% increase. This line-item supports programs to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal nutrition programs. The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) is funded through this line-item–it is MPHA’s understanding that $5.03 million of this funding is intended for HIP.

Bureau of Environmental Health (4510-0600) $4.14 million, a 2% increase. The Bureau of Environmental Health protects the public from environmental health threats such as foodborne illness outbreaks, toxic lead exposure and harmful exposure to radiation.

State Public Health Lab (4516-1000) $12.8 million, a 4% increase. 
This line-item protects the public from harm caused by communicable diseases, such as Zika, Ebola, West Nile Virus, rabies, and influenza as well as tests for and protects from bio-terror agents.

Critical Operations and Essential Services (4510–0100) $19 million, a 7% increase from FY19.  This  line-item supports critical services across the Department of Public Health including emergency preparedness, environmental health assessments, implementation and enforcement of regulations, programs to reduce health inequities, community health programs, violence prevention, and inspections of nursing homes, food safety, and water quality

Needs Attention

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (4513–1111) is level funded at $3.4 million in core program funding. MPHA and our allies will work to ensure language for the Mass-in-Motion Program is included in the legislature’s budget.

Massachusetts Food Trust Program (within 2511-0100). The Governor’s budget fails to dedicate funding for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (it is currently funded through the main MA Department of Agricultural Resources line item). MPHA and our allies will advocate for inclusion of $100,000 in dedicated funding for the MA Food Trust in the legislature’s budget.

Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) (1595-6370), $82 million in base funding, with $4 million additional for performance-based grants, 2% decrease. RTAs connect residents to the opportunities and resources needed to maintain and achieve optimal health including education, good jobs, health care, and addiction services. The Governor’s budget proposal would represent a cut to funding that was included in last year’s budget and would lead to service cuts and/or fare increases across the state MPHA and our partners will advocate for increased investment in RTA’s in the legislature’s budget.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (7004-9024), $100 million, level funded. MRVP is an effective tool in helping low-income families achieve housing stability.

MassHealth Data on the Social Determinants of Health (Within
4000-0500).  MassHealth data about screening and interventions related to the social determinants of health is essential to understand the activities, successes, and challenges of ACOs and social service providers in responding to these needs. MPHA and our partners will work to ensure that, as in FY19, language is included in the legislature’s budget to ensure public availability of this data.

Other Highlights

Baker’s proposal also includes:

  • $266 million in funding across several state agencies for substance use treatment and services.
  • A new fee on prescription opioids, which would fund substance use programs. To learn more about substance use funding in the Governor’s FY20 budget proposal, click here to read the Association for Behavioral Health’s analysis
  • A new fee tax on e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Click here to read a statement from Tobacco Free Massachusetts explaining these taxes as well as concerns about funding for the DPH tobacco prevention and cessation program.
  • A new real estate tax to address climate change
  • Accompanying legislation to prohibit hand held use of cellphones while driving
  • A plan to allow MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid Program, to negotiate prescription drug costs directly with drug makers to reduce program costs.

Next Steps and Opportunities for Action

The budget process moves on now to the House of Representatives. The House Ways and Means Committee will be developing their budget proposal over the next six weeks, and the full House will debate the budget in late April. MPHA will be working hard to advocate for adequate funding for DPH and the programs that reduce health disparities and help all Massachusetts residents stay healthy.

We need your voice! Stay tuned over the next few weeks for the release of the MPHA complete list of funding priorities and to learn how you can get involved to speak up for public health in the state budget. Follow MPHA on twitter and  Facebook  for updates on upcoming actions.

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