Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Senate has passed a $5.07 billion general government bond bill to fund construction projects related to health care, higher education, information technology, workforce development, the environment, affordable housing and local projects. Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues on June 16 to pass the bill, which includes a moratorium on the construction of new prisons in Massachusetts.

“The Senate bond bill sets the stage for important long-term investments in the Commonwealth,” said Friedman, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m really proud of the bond authorizations I secured for projects in the 4th Middlesex district. I am also pleased to see the bill includes a feasibility study for a replacement to Bridgewater State Hospital, whose oversight needs to be moved from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health.”

A version of this legislation previously passed in the state House of Representatives, where the legislation has gone for further consideration.

Funding included for Arlington projects

Sen. Friedman secured the following local funding for the 4th Middlesex district through amendments to the bill:

  • $4,000,000 for Mystic River flooding infrastructure;
  • $500,000 for improvements to the traffic signals and general design of the Mass. Ave. and Appleton Street intersection in Arlington;
  • $250,000 for safety improvements to various roadway crossings in East Arlington;
  • $750,000 for renovations to the Maurice Buck Auditorium at the Billerica Town Hall; and
  • $500,000 for the design, construction, programming and configuration of the Mill Pond Water Treatment Plant PFAS filter in Burlington.

The bill would provide funding for construction costs related to a wide variety of public facilities— including state universities and community colleges, hospitals and courts. Funding in this legislation includes:

  • $820 million for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to acquire, maintain and repair Commonwealth owned health-care facilities;
  • $750 million for improvements and repairs at state institutions of higher education;
  • $675 million for improvements to court facilities;
  • $530 million for additional safety improvements, maintenance and repairs by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, to state institutions, including Bridgewater State Hospital. The bill includes language covering a feasibility study to replace Bridgewater State Hospital, realigning the new facility under the control of the Department of Mental Health; and
  • $100 million in grants to support municipalities in addressing local construction needs.

Additionally, the bill allocates $975 million for general state agency facility acquisition, maintenance and repair.

Bill addresses climate, water issues

The general government bond bill also includes funding to address the uneven impact of climate change on Massachusetts communities, with $400 million being allocated to projects to decarbonize and reduce the environmental impact of state-owned facilities. Furthermore, the bill includes $64 million for the Water Pollution Abatement Revolving fund, which provides local governments and utilities with grants to build or replace water infrastructure and ensure safe and renewable sources of drinking water.

The bill includes grants to address needs related to workforce development and technical expertise for start-ups. To enable Massachusetts to maintain a robust workforce prepared to meet the needs of a variety of cutting-edge industries, the bill allocates $100 million for career technical skills and capital grants. The bill also includes $16.1 million for grants to innovative early-stage entrepreneurs through the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation.

Housing-related items in the bill include $60 million for the Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust Fund, which supports affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, and $25 million for grants to support cities and towns that are producing new housing.

Additional funding in the bill includes:

  • $100 million to update information technology used by state agencies, including investments to support the educational workforce and to modernize the state’s unemployment system;
  • $51 million for the Food Security program, to fight food insecurity;
  • $50 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, to support cultural institutions throughout the Commonwealth; and
  • $20 million to support cities and towns offering hybrid meetings through technology investment grants.

A total of $98.9 million was added to the bill during course of debate.

Bill halts prison construction for 5 years

Notably, the bill also includes a five-year moratorium on the construction of new prison facilities in Massachusetts. During this time, the state would not plan or construct new prisons, and active prisons would not be expanded and could only be renovated in such a way that does not increase the state’s overall prison capacity. Records of inmate populations have shown that Massachusetts prisons are currently at historically low levels and well below maximum capacity.

This news announcement was published Wednesday, June 22, 2022. YourArlington volunteer Kim Haase prepared it for publication.