Westfield, Southwick receive budget earmarks

State Rep. John Velis and state Sen. Donald F. Humason Jr.

BOSTON – Westfield and Southwick are among the communities that will benefit from $700,000 in regional earmarks in the state budget, which were secured with help from state Sen. Donald F. Humason, R-Westfield, state Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield and state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick.

The Massachusetts State Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Conference Committee Report Monday with a vote of 39-1.

“The annual budget is a document meant for the entire state but it has profound impact on our local municipalities,” Humason said.

Humason acknowledged that the budget was passed past the June 30 deadline for the new fiscal year.

“Although our budget is 22 days ‘late,’ I believe it is still a worthy spending plan and I was pleased to vote ‘yay’ on its passage this afternoon” said Humason Monday. “More than just funding state agencies the money in the budget goes back to local aid in the form of Chapter 70 educational funds, regional school transportation, Charter School reimbursement, library funding, grants to our Councils on Aging and unrestricted general government aid to our cities and towns.”

Velis said it was a good budget for the city, but he was disappointed that it took so long to pass.

“This is great news that the budget passed, but the governor released it in January, the House got it in April and it went to Senate in May,” Velis said.

The budget totals $43.11 billion and does not contain any new broad-based taxes. It represents a less than 2% increase over last year’s budget.

Velis was happy to see there were no new taxes before exploring all revenue sources, such as marijuana sales and gambling funds. “It doesn’t make sense to increase taxes and fees without exhausting other potential revenues,” he said.

Among the awards are:

  • $85,000 for an asphalt recycler for the town of Southwick
  • $25,000 for classroom safety and security upgrades at the Woodland, Powder Mill and Regional School in the town of Southwick
  • $15,000 for improvements to the playground at Highland Elementary School in Westfield
  • $50,000 for improvements to the biology laboratory in Wilson Hall at Westfield State University
  • $100,000 to Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield for a grant program to prevent and treat opioid addiction and related substance abuse
  • $40,000 for the maintenance of the war memorials in the towns of Russell, Montgomery, Southampton, and Westfield
  • $15,000 for the Westfield Historic Industries Preservation Project
  • $25,000 to the City of Westfield for the maintenance of Billy Bullens baseball field


Southwick Select Board Chairman Russell Fox said he was grateful for the funds.

“Obviously it’s good news any time the town receives additional funding,” said Fox. “This is good news for our school system and for the town to repair the roads.”

Mayor Brian P. Sullivan thanked the city’s legislators for their hard work.

“The city is so thankful for the work Senator Humason and Representative Velis do for us in Boston,” said Sullivan. “From Highland Playground to Bullens Field maintenance, many kids and young adults will benefit from their hard work. I want to thank them for their commitment and leadership.”

Velis said sometimes, earmarks happen almost by chance.

“I was at Highland Elementary School one day and asked the principal if there was anything I needed to know and she told me to look to my left, and there was the playground,” Velis said. That glance turned into a slew of questions and a meeting with Highland PTO member Rebecca Hart who helped spearhead efforts to get a new playground, which is happening this fall.

Velis also noted that the funds for Bullens Field are another big boost to city youth and adults alike.

“We need to keep that field in good shape, and this is the seed money that can help it grow,” Velis said, adding that he hopes the Starfires baseball team will help with needed field work.

Humason said the overall budget is favorable.

“It emphasizes many Senate priorities including local aid, modest increases in education and, modest increases in higher-ed funding, increases to our Councils on Aging, and more. It also includes a number of my local earmarks for communities in my district” said Humason.

The legislature allocated an additional $269 billion boost to the state’s Chapter 70 account, the largest annual increase the state has ever allocated. The state’s rainy-day fund was also raised to $3.3 billion dollars.

“I like the increase in Chapter 70. Education is going to continue to be a big concern,” Velis said, adding there would be an education bill put forward this fall to address even more concerns.

Widely supported by members in the House and the Senate, as well as Gov. Charlie Baker, the MassHealth drug pricing control reform was adopted. This reform would permit the secretary of health and human services to directly negotiate supplemental rebate agreements with manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and, for certain drugs, hold a public hearing on a proposed value.

The budget is now in Baker’s hands. He has 10 days to review and take action on the budget. Baker has the authority to veto any funding allocated in the proposal. However, the Legislature can override those vetoes if they so choose, which requires a vote of 2/3 of the House and the Senate.



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