EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 27, 2014

State budget bill peppered with add-ons

(Continued)

Under Jones’ plan, taxpayers — both individuals and businesses — would still need to pay off their past tax liabilities but the state would waive all penalties that accrued for nonpayment.

The first $20 million in back taxes collected under the program would be directed into a fund to help local police departments purchase the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

EARLY EDUCATION

The House budget includes $7.5 million in additional spending to reduce a long waiting list of low-income families seeking subsidies for prekindergarten and other child care programs. But that was only half of what the governor sought and advocates contend it would not be enough to make a sizable dent in the waiting list.

Several amendments would bolster funding for early education, including one sponsored by more than 40 lawmakers that would boost the spending increase targeted to reduce the waiting list to $15 million. Another would create a $25 million reserve fund to help pay salaries and benefits for early education teachers and child care workers.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

State law requires that school districts be reimbursed 100 percent of per-pupil costs in the first year after a student moves from a conventional public school to a charter school, and 25 percent in each of the following five years. But reimbursements have fallen short in recent years, complicating attempts to raise the cap on charter schools in low-performing school districts. One amendment would increase funds set aside for charter school reimbursements from $80,000 to $104,000.

LOCAL AID

House leaders say amendments to increase local aid will not be considered during the budget debate, since the House and Senate previously approved a resolution calling for a $25 million increase in unrestricted aid for cities and towns and $100 million more in Chapter 70 aid for public school districts. Still, Republicans hope to offer a proposal that would require the state to return to cities and towns at least 50 percent of any unanticipated tax revenue surplus at the end of the next fiscal year.

PILGRIM’S PROGRESS?

Many budget amendments seek relatively small appropriations for local initiatives. One example: $310,000 to begin planning for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in 1620.

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