Press Release

Press Release  Governor Healey Announces Second Year Agenda to Lower Costs, Improve Quality of Life Through Education, Housing and Infrastructure

Governor commits to passing Affordable Homes Act, launching transformative early literacy plan, reauthorizing life sciences initiative, making new climatetech investments, historic funding for roads, bridges, MBTA
For immediate release:
1/17/2024
  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll

Media Contact for Governor Healey Announces Second Year Agenda to Lower Costs, Improve Quality of Life Through Education, Housing and Infrastructure

Karissa Hand, Press Secretary

Boston — Governor Maura T. Healey tonight delivered her first State of the Commonwealth address since taking office one year ago. Her speech drew on the strength and resilience of Massachusetts, beginning first and foremost with its people. She highlighted the work that her administration has accomplished during its first year to lower costs for people and grow the economy, from passing the state’s first tax cuts in 20 years to introducing the most comprehensive housing bill in state history. She then laid out an aggressive agenda to continue addressing high costs, improve quality of life through education, housing and infrastructure, and drive innovation and job creation through landmark investments in life sciences and climatetech. 

“We set high goals for our first year in office. I stood here a year ago and made promises. And because we came together, and we acted with urgency, we delivered results. We met every one of our goals,” said Governor Healey. “Today, Massachusetts today is more affordable, more competitive, and more equitable than it was a year ago. And the state of our Commonwealth, like the spirit of our people, is stronger than ever.” 

The Governor announced several new initiatives for 2024 that will continue to build on this progress – including launching a nation-leading early literacy strategy, reauthorizing the Life Sciences Initiative, initiating a new climatetech initiative, and increasing roads, bridges and MBTA funding in the state budget to record levels. 

These commitments build on the Governor’s agenda for affordable, accessible child care that she announced on Tuesday. Her four-pronged plan includes achieving universal high-quality Pre-K access for all four-year-olds in Gateway Cities by 2026, expanding child care financial assistance for thousands more families, continuing her record-levels of state funding for C3 grants to stabilize providers, and signing an Executive Order directing her administration to take a “whole-of-government" approach to child care. 

2023 Accomplishments 

Governor Healey highlighted her administration’s accomplishments in its first year, particularly their efforts to make life more affordable for residents and strengthen the state’s economy. 

In reflecting on the past year, the Governor pointed to the $1 billion tax cuts package she signed with the partnership of the Legislature as a milestone accomplishment. Starting this spring, families will benefit from the most generous child and family tax credit in the nation. Seniors will see their circuit breaker credit double from $1,200 to $2,400, and renters, commuters, businesses and people dealing with lead paint and septic systems will save money as well. It also increased the estate tax threshold so that families are able to pass on more of their hard-earned money. 

Governor Healey introduced Elaine Correia from New Bedford. She is 87 years old and has lived in her home for 61 years. Under the new tax cuts, her senior housing credit will double from $1,200 to $2,400 because no one should have to worry if they can afford to stay in the home they love. 

Together with the Legislature, the administration made breakfast and lunch free for all students, fully funded the Student Opportunity Act, expanded ConnectorCare to deliver health care savings to 45,000 people, paid off student loans for health care workers, increased financial aid at state colleges and universities, and made community college free for students aged 25 and older through MassReconnect

Governor Healey invited Danita Mends and MassBay Community College President David Podell to the State of the Commonwealth. Ms. Mends is a mom from Roxbury who couldn’t advance in her career without a college degree. Thanks to MassReconnect, she is now enrolled in MassBay and says her no-cost degree is “life-changing” and that she will pass the lesson she’s learned about the importance of education on to her young son. 

The Governor also highlighted the work that her administration has done, with the partnership of the Legislature and Congressional delegation, to revitalize services for veterans in Massachusetts. She appointed the state’s first cabinet-level Secretary of Veterans Services, U.S. Army Reserves Major Jon Santiago, broke ground and opened new, state-of-the-art veterans homes in Holyoke and Chelsea, respectively, and filed the HERO Act to ensure veterans get the services and resources they need and deserve. 

The administration also stepped up to host a work authorization clinic in partnership with the Biden-Harris Administration to help nearly 3,000 new arrivals get work permits and then connect them with jobs. Salem State Hospital, for example, recently hired migrants, which enabled them to be fully staffed in their housekeeping department for the first time in years. 

Massachusetts continued its leadership in standing up for civil rights and freedoms, including by taking steps to protect access to medication abortion. Governor Healey and the Massachusetts State Police established a new hate crimes unit to help keep all communities safe. The Governor hosted the first ever Youth and Families Pride event at the State House. They also successfully implemented the Work and Family Mobility Act and helped issue 100,000 learners permits and 60,000 licenses in just six months. 

Governor Healey also issued new clemency guidelines to center fairness and compassion, and she became the first Massachusetts governor in 40 years to recommend pardons in her first year – pardoning a total of 13 people. 

2024 Priorities 

Governor Healey outlined her administration’s priorities for 2024, beginning with the FY25 budget proposal she will file next week. 

“The budget I file next week will be balanced, responsible and forward-looking,” said Governor Healey. “It will build on our progress, and we will take new steps to lower the cost of housing and child care, strengthen our schools and help all young people reach their potential, get our roads and rails moving, help businesses and workers thrive, and meet the climate challenge by creating good jobs across our state. This is the work ahead of us, and there’s no time to wait.” 

Housing 

That work starts with housing. Governor Healey highlighted the action her administration has taken over the past year – establishing a standalone housing secretariat and appointing the state’s first Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities, tripling support for housing development in Gateway Cities, funding new rental vouchers, and identifying surplus state land that could be used for the development of new housing. 

In the year ahead, the Healey-Driscoll administration will be focused on passing the Governor’s $4.1 billion Affordable Homes Act. It will create middle-class housing, make homeownership a reality for families that have been priced out, build affordable homes at every income level, repair public housing, create supportive housing for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, and support good construction careers with strong labor standards. 

Governor Healey introduced Abelardo Corona and Gabriela Amezcua from Haverhill. They have two young children and dreamed of buying their first home in their community, but they thought they’d have to move out of state to afford it. Instead, they were connected with a MassHousing mortgage and MassDreams grant, which enabled them to buy a home in Haverhill. The Affordable Homes Act would increase funding for MassDreams and the Commonwealth Builder Fund, which creates housing for first-time homebuyers, to make these opportunities available to even more families. 

Governor Healey also emphasized the importance of the MBTA Communities law and the opportunity that every community has to be a part of the solution and build more housing to lower costs. 

Child Care and Preschool 

After housing, Governor Healey pointed to child care as one of the most significant cost burdens facing Massachusetts families. Last year, the Healey-Driscoll administration delivered nearly half a billion dollars to stabilize providers through C3 grants and expanded financial assistance for more families. 

Yesterday, Governor Healey announced that she is going to build on that progress by setting a goal to achieve universal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for every four-year-old in all 26 Gateway Cities across Massachusetts by the end of 2026. This will help 23,000 more children access an early education that sets them up for success, while relieving financial pressure on families. 

The Governor also announced that her FY25 budget will include funding to expand child care financial assistance to reach an additional 4,000 low- and moderate-income households. Under this plan, family costs will be capped based on what they can afford. It will also raise the cap for receiving financial assistance from 50 percent to 85 percent of the state median income. With this change, a single mom with two kids who earns $100,000 and two parents with three kids who make $143,000 would qualify for assistance. 

Governor Healey also signed an Executive Order establishing a whole-of-government approach to advancing new solutions to address the state’s child care challenges. The administration will convene the entire cabinet, as well as providers, businesses and advocates to work together to expand access and lower costs for families. 

Education 

Governor Healey outlined efforts to ensure that our K-12 system is delivering the high-quality education that our students, families and educators deserve. She pledged to yet again fully fund the Student Opportunity Act with record levels of local aid. 

The Governor also announced a transformative plan to improve early literacy education in Massachusetts and reach every young student with the best possible instruction. Secretary of Education Dr. Patrick Tutwiler and his team are developing an initiative called Literacy Launch to help make sure our schools, educators and students aged three through third grade have access to the highest quality, evidence-based reading instruction available. The initiative will accelerate the timeline for school districts and early education programs to adopt high-quality literacy materials and provide technical support, coaching, and professional development to educators. It will also update approval criteria and accelerate review timelines for teacher education programs to require evidence-based early literacy training. This will be a five-year initiative, starting with a proposed $30 million in the FY25 budget. 

Last year, the Healey-Driscoll administration expanded Early College programs to nine new schools, reaching a total of 58 schools and 8,200 students. The Innovation Career Pathways program is now in a total of 78 schools with 6,900 students participating. The administration also launched a new Clean Energy Innovation Career Pathway to train the next generation of clean energy leaders. In the FY25 budget, the Healey-Driscoll administration will also continue to expand these critical programs to connect students with hands-on worked-based learning and a head start in higher education.  

Behavioral Health 

To ensure that young people have the wraparound supports they need, the Healey-Driscoll administration last year supported implementation of 26 Community Behavioral Health Centers, which have served thousands of people, including children and youth. Since CBHCs opened in January 2023, emergency room stays related to mental health for all MassHealth members fell by 50 percent, according to Massachusetts Behavioral Health Access. Governor Healey committed to continue investing in CBHCs while also increasing investments in social and emotional education, expanding school-based supports, and delivering $10 million to develop intensive program models, including residential opportunities, that provide relief to families and ensure that the most vulnerable young people can get the support they need.   

Economic development 

Governor Healey previewed investments in her administration’s upcoming Economic Development Bond Bill. Building on the vision laid out in Secretary Yvonne Hao’s “Leading Future Generations” economic development plan, the bill will expand economic opportunity in every region of the state and make it easier for companies of all size to do business in Massachusetts. 

The Governor applauded the scientists, doctors and community leaders who positioned Massachusetts to win the ARPA-H national hub – the nation’s medical innovation moonshot. She said the administration will set out to reauthorize the Life Sciences Initiative, building on the success of prior life sciences authorizations and leveraging ARPA-H to advance innovation, health equity, and affordability.  

And for the first time, Governor Healey will propose a historic, multi-year capital investment in climatetech to make Massachusetts the climate innovation lab for the world. It will help companies open, stay and grow in Massachusetts, power the state’s efforts to meet its climate goals, produce cutting-edge technologies, and create a generation of good, union careers across the state. 

Governor Healey highlighted two Massachusetts businesses that are prime examples of the opportunities in this industry. Commonwealth Fusion is a clean-energy innovator that started at M.I.T. and now has 500 employees in Devens. Sublime Systems is a Somerville startup bringing low-carbon building materials and 70 manufacturing jobs to Holyoke with the partnership of the state. 

Climate 

From day one, the Healey-Driscoll administration has been focused on leading the fight against climate change and driving the clean energy economy. On her first full day in office, Governor Healey appointed Melissa Hoffer as the first ever cabinet-level Climate Chief in the country to lead a whole-of-government approach to climate policy. They later created the first green bank in the country dedicated to decarbonizing affordable housing. Governor Healey also injected historic levels of funding to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.  

The administration also opened the largest Request for Proposals for wind power in New England history. Just recently, Vineyard Wind in New Bedford sent power to the grid for the first time – on its way to being the largest offshore wind farm in North America.  

The transition to clean energy provides enormous workforce opportunities. Governor Healey committed to working with organized labor, industry leaders, and higher education on pathways to good, green careers. She pledged to fund no-cost HVAC training at community colleges across the state. This investment will train more than 400 students in the first year to install and maintain heat pumps that help decarbonize our buildings. 

Farms and municipalities across the state experienced major damage from severe flooding this year. Governor Healey also recalled visiting farmers who had their livelihoods threatened. Jay and Lisa Savage from Deerfield were in attendance. Jay is a fourth-generation potato farmer who had hundreds of acres of crops destroyed by flooding.  

Together, Governor Healey and the Legislature passed $20 million in relief and United Way of Central Massachusetts launched a Farm Resiliency Fund that has distributed millions of dollars in relief. The administration also issued the state’s first comprehensive plans for coastal and statewide resilience.  

Governor Healey tonight proposed establishing a permanent Disaster Relief Resiliency Fund, an issue championed by Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Natalie Blais. She also pledged to increase funding to help cities and town shore up riverbanks, fix failing dams and drainage systems, and plan for the future. 

Infrastructure 

Governor Healey has committed to aggressively compete for federal funding opportunities, particularly those that support critical infrastructure projects. She created the new Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office, hired Quentin Palfrey as Director, and filed legislation to unlock $800 million in additional state funding to make applications more competitive. 

The results are already coming in. MassDOT won $372 million and is competing for another $1 billion to rebuild the Cape Cod Bridges. MassDOT also won $108 million to advance West-East Rail, and is moving forward with additional projects, such as Palmer and Pittsfield, with state funds. The state has also won $24 million to rebuild Leonard’s Wharf at the Port of New Bedford and $33 million for electric school buses. 

In 2023, the Healey-Driscoll administration made historic investments in the state’s transportation system. MassDOT awarded over $2 billion in new construction to contracts to repair or improve roads, bridges, sidewalks and more in municipalities. Governor Healey announced that she would be increasing funding for local roads and bridges to record levels in her FY25 budget proposal, with special investments dedicated to rural communities. This will support more transportation projects in communities across the state to improve quality of life. 

Governor Healey also appointed Phil Eng as General Manager of the MBTA, the first time in years that the agency has been led by a transportation expert. The T exceeded the Governor’s hiring goal of 1,000 – they hired nearly 1,500 workers, beating their hiring target by 50 percent and representing the best year of hiring the T has ever had. The administration and the T also negotiated an historic contract with the Carmen’s Union to boost recruitment and retention. 

Under General Manager Eng’s leadership, the T reduced slow zones and continues to execute on their plan to eliminate existing speed restrictions by the end of the year. They opened commuter rail platforms in Lynn and Ashland on or ahead of schedule, and commuter rail ridership has exceeded 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels. 

Governor Healey announced that her FY25 budget proposal will double the operational funding support for the MBTA in the annual state budge. The budget will also propose to fund a system-wide reduced fare program for low-income riders.  

The administration will also sustain its new investments in Regional Transit Authorities statewide and will appoint a Transportation Financing Task Force of public and private leaders to chart a sustainable financial course for our transportation system in the clean energy era. 

A full version of Governor Healey’s remarks can be found here and the full video can be found here

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Media Contact for Governor Healey Announces Second Year Agenda to Lower Costs, Improve Quality of Life Through Education, Housing and Infrastructure

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