Gov. Healey discusses goals for housing crisis, childcare, MBTA at first State of the Commonwealth

BOSTON — Affordable housing, educational funding, and economic development are among the priorities that Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey outlined in her State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday evening.

It was Healey’s first State of the Commonwealth address since taking office one year ago.

Healey highlighted the work that her administration 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, making school meals free for all families, and launching MassReconnect to allow students aged 25 and older to attend community college for free, among other topics.

“The state of our Commonwealth, like the spirit of our people, is stronger than ever,” said Gov. Healy.

Governor Maura Healey said the biggest challenge facing Massachusetts is housing which threatens progress on all other fronts.

“You know the numbers. Rents and prices are at all-time highs,” Healey said. “We have to act, and we have to act now, to make it easier for everyone to find affordable places to live.”

Healey urged lawmakers to pass the Affordable Homes Act, a $4 billion proposal to make it easier for first-time homebuyers, renters, seniors and everyone to find affordable places to live. She plans to testify in favor of the bill at a Statehouse hearing Thursday.

“We’re dealing with a housing shortage that’s decades in the making. To get costs down, we have to go big, and we have to go big now,” Gov. Healey said Wednesday night.

Healey says her executive order for ‘universal, high-quality Pre-K access’ for gateway cities, announced on Tuesday, and ways to make child care more affordable and accessible.

The plan would guarantee that every 4-year-old in the 26 cities — which include Worcester, Springfield, New Bedford, Taunton and Chelsea — has the chance, at low or no cost, to enroll their child in a high-quality preschool program by 2026.

Healey’s proposal would also help an additional 4,000 low- and moderate-income families afford child care by increasing eligibility for Child Care Financial Assistance — the state’s programs that help families pay for child care and out-of-school programs.

Her budget proposal will also call for $10 million to ensure the most vulnerable young people in the state have access to mental health care.

“Let’s be a state where every young person knows that they are not alone, that they can ask for help, and that they will get help,” she said.

The address came a little more than a week after Healey announced $375 million in budget cuts for the current fiscal year as the administration seeks to close an expected $1 billion shortfall with monthly revenues coming in at a slower pace than expected.

Republican state Sen. Peter Durant said Healey glossed over many of the hardships facing Massachusetts.

“As we enter 2024, we find ourselves asking some simple, yet familiar, questions: Are we better off today than we were 12 months ago, and are we headed in a direction that will make us better off? Unfortunately, for too many families the answer is ‘no,’” Durant said in written statement.

Over the past year, Durant said, the state has become less affordable, finances are in trouble and the state is grappling with a migrant crisis costing taxpayers billions of dollars per year.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. As we enter this new year, we’re at a critical juncture, and with some course adjustments, bipartisanship, and collaboration we can get back on track,” he added.

During the speech Healey also said the influx of migrants who are putting a strain on emergency shelters and could cost the state a billion dollars this year.

This is a hard issue, with one without easy answers. It’s also not something we created. But I want to be clear: while Massachusetts did not create this problem, we’re going to continue to demand Congress take action to fix the border to get us funding,” Healey said.

Next week the Governor said she will present her budget proposal to the State House.

Healey said her budget will be balanced, responsible and forward-looking

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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