BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday filed a nearly $1.6 billion supplemental budget, most of which would be used to provide unemployment insurance relief for employers, which he says is critical to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation relies on a roughly $5 billion budget surplus based on better-than-expected tax revenues.
“Thanks to careful management of the commonwealth’s tax revenues and strong economic activity, Massachusetts has an unprecedented surplus at the close of fiscal year 2021, and this legislation ensures those resources are put to work to support local economies and small businesses,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “Our proposal to provide employers with unemployment insurance relief is fiscally responsible and would provide much-needed support for businesses and workers across the commonwealth."
Driven by pandemic-related claims, the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is funded by a payroll tax on employers, is expected to be $4 billion in the red by the end of next year, according to state figures.
The governor's proposal to provide $1 billion to the fund would relieve employers’ future obligations. Business groups have been lobbying for help with the unemployment insurance burden.
The supplemental budget bill would also finally implement the income tax charitable deduction — first approved by voters nearly 20 years ago — helping charities and nonprofits who supported vulnerable populations through the pandemic.
The proposal requires legislative approval.
The largest teachers' union in Massachusetts says it supports requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees and eligible students in the state's public schools and colleges.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association announced its stance Tuesday, following a 46-4 vote by its board of directors at an emergency meeting Monday night.
Vaccinations are critical to protect students and educators, the union said.
“The MTA believes that as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the delta variant spreads, a vaccination requirement — with provisions and responsible accommodations negotiated locally under collective bargaining laws — is vital to the continuation of in-person learning in Massachusetts," the union said in a statement.
Vaccinations must be accompanied by other precautions and building improvements, including upgraded ventilation, mask availability, and accessible COVID-19 testing, MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a statement.
The union was also critical of state education officials for not issuing mask requirements for public schools. A spokesperson for state Education Secretary Jim Peyser had no comment.