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Though the annual State of the Commonwealth address certainly was the capstone of the week, Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito made other important announcements, including the release of the administration’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, and the awarding of the next round of Complete Streets funding.

$40.5 billion budget invests in local aid, education, workforce development, and key support services without raising taxes

On Wednesday. Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and Secretary Kristen Lepore unveiled the administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal, a $40.508 billion spending plan which funds key priorities including local aid, education, workforce development, housing and homelessness services, and substance misuse prevention programs, while keeping spending in line with recurring revenues and does not raise taxes.

The budget “reaffirms our commitment to the hardworking people of the Commonwealth to propose a balanced budget that significantly invests in education, workforce development and funds to fight the opioids epidemic,” said Governor Baker, highlighting new initiatives like the ‘Learn to Earn’ program to shrink the unemployment and underemployment gap and a $4,000 tax credit for employers hiring an unemployed veteran.

Lt. Governor Polito said that this year’s budget proposal continues the administration’s promise “to give communities a voice and place at the table on Beacon Hill,” building on the support given to cities and towns in the administration’s previous budgets. In addition to the promised increase in unrestricted local aid, the proposal provides “historic levels of Chapter 70 education aid, funding for the Community Compact program, and other grant programs to provide local government with the resources they need to be successful.”

Watch highlights from the announcement:

$580 Million in Loans to Fund Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure Projects

While addressing the annual New England Water Environment Association conference, Lt. Governor Polito announced that the administration has identified 70 projects, impacting 44 communities across the Commonwealth, that are eligible to receive $580 million in 2% interest-rate loans to fund construction and planning projects designed to improve water quality, upgrade or replace aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and cut treatment plant energy use and costs.

The State Revolving Fund offers substantial funding at an affordable rate, which allows state government to increase the availability of safe, clean drinking water and ensure the proper disposal of wastewater. “Through these State Revolving Fund loans our administration is committed to working with our municipal partners to secure the capital needed to build the treatment plants and replace the water mains, while integrating renewable energy components into the projects,” said Lt. Governor Polito.

Haverhill launches 3-1-1 constituent line, made possible through Community Compact funding

On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Polito joined Mayor James J. Fiorentini in Haverhill to help formally inaugurate the city’s new 311 telephone number.

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About a year ago, Gov. Charles Baker introduced so-called “Community Compacts,” giving communities small grants in exchange for developing best practices. Polito came to City Hall then to announce Haverhill’s receipt of a $15,000 grant to buy consulting services from UMass Boston’s Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management. In turn, the center helped the city receive a $60,000 grant to buy the technology to make 311 work. With only six cities using such a call center, Polito said, Haverhill has become a model.

“An example for other communities to learn from and, perhaps, embed into their community,” Polito said.

Two employees now staff the phone bank, answering resident’s questions or referring them to the appropriate city department for more detailed information. Constituent Service Representatives Ellen Case and Victoria Torres work under the direction of Allison Heartquist. Questions in both English and Spanish are answered.

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15 communities receive Complete Streets funding for safety and accessibility upgrades

On Thursday, Lt. Governor Polito joined MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other officials to distribute a total of $5.5 million to 15 communities in funding for the Complete Streets Funding Program. A “complete street” is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes and for all people, taking into account the ages and abilities of individuals. In September 2016, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the first round of awards from the Complete Streets Program to 11 communities which totaled over $4.4 million.

“Our administration is committed to encouraging safe and reliable travel,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “And with our Complete Streets Program, municipalities are empowered to design and build infrastructure projects that improve safety and accessibility, while promoting livability and local economic development goals.”

Lt. Governor Polito inks four more Community Compacts with town officials

Rockport, Lynn, Sudbury, and Wayland may each be very different towns in location and demographics, but that is why the Community Compact program is designed to give the municipalities the opportunity to tailor it to their specific needs. The best practices chosen range from financial management structure to stormwater management to citizen engagement. Of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns, 256 have now signed Community Compacts with the administration, and more are in the application pipeline.

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