Coming in hot to kick off House budget week is Senate President Karen Spilka, who has a few noteworthy announcements in store for her address at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce government affairs forum Monday morning. 

Spilka will outline her plan to make community college free to all students, according to her office. She’s postulating that this move can help the state bolster its workforce and attempt to train the next generation of young people so they can remain in Massachusetts. It’s a timely theme, considering headline after headline points to the state’s reported workforce shortage and increasingly unsustainable cost of living.

According to Spilka’s office, the pricey plan — one report estimated offering tuition-free community college to all would cost the state about $170 million per year — will be woven into her chamber’s annual budget due for release next month. The early commitment immediately provides one predictable obstacle in upcoming House and Senate budget negotiations, as the House’s budget set to be debated this week does not feature universal free community college.

Spilka also plans to announce a proposal for a new public-private partnership to create more child care seats statewide, targeting an area that has long been a priority for her. The program would provide matching funds up to 50 percent of the cost of each new child care seat an employer creates, according to Spilka’s office. Exactly how many seats that could involve, and how much money that program will cost, are blanks we’ll be waiting for Spilka to fill in later Monday.

On a third point, Spilka’s office said the Ashland Democrat will make a “forceful” call in support of “Raise the Age” legislation, which would gradually expand juvenile jurisdiction to include young adults between the ages of 18 and 20. Spilka has said before that the measure is one of her priorities, and criminal justice advocates have long been pushing for its passage.

Her appearance at the Chamber event comes two days before the House will begin debating its fiscal 2025 budget, and weeks before the Senate unveils and advances its own rewrite.

Spilka’s first two ideas in particular are likely to carry substantial costs at a time when revenues are lagging and her counterparts in the House are calling for fiscal responsibility. That opens up other questions: is the Senate preparing to propose a budget with a bigger bottom line than the House’s — and even Gov. Maura Healey’s — spending plans? And if not, what are SenateDemocrats eyeing to cut to free up resources?

(Copyright (c) 2024 State House News Service.

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