Massachusetts lawmakers approve more than $52B budget plan
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers approved a $52.7 billion state budget Monday, more than two weeks into the state’s new fiscal year.
The unanimous votes in both chambers came after a six-member House and Senate conference committee finished hammering out the details of the final compromise budget plan over the weekend. The agreement was crafted after each chamber approved their own versions of the spending plan earlier in the year.
The budget negotiators increased by more than $2.6 billion their original estimate for available tax revenues for the 2023 fiscal year, based in part on a hefty budget surplus for the current fiscal year.
The budget — which now heads to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature — does not include any new broad-based taxes.
The state has been operating on an interim budget since the new fiscal year began on July 1 to avoid any disruption in government services while the final details of the new budget were worked out.
The budget plan approved by lawmakers Monday includes $1.2 billion in unrestricted aid to cities and towns, nearly $6 billion for local school aid and more than $110 million to increase access to school meals.
The plan also sets aside $266 million to help the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority address safety concerns spotlighted in a recent review of the transit agency by the Federal Transit Administration.
In addition, the budget creates a two-year pilot program aimed at providing individuals and families who earn up to 500 percent of the federal poverty level — about $68,000 a year for an individual and $139,000 for a family of four — access to subsidized health care coverage with reduced premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
The legislation also includes several nonbudget related sections, including one eliminating fees for parole and probation and a second banning marriage of people under age 18 in Massachusetts. Advocates said Massachusetts would become the seventh state to ban marriage for those under 18.
The brighter fiscal outlook for the state also allowed budget negotiators to plan to funnel more money into the state’s rainy day fund — which could top more than $7.3 billion by the end of the 2023 fiscal year. The fund is used to help the state bridge budget spending gaps in the event of a sudden economic downturn.
The budget now goes to Baker, who planned to attend a meeting of the Republican Governors’ Association in Colorado during the first part of the week and return to Massachusetts on Wednesday evening.
Baker has 10 days to review the budget, sign it and issue any vetoes. The House and Senate, controlled by Democrats, can seek to override individual vetoes, although they would likely have to take the votes quickly before the end of the formal session on July 31.
Lawmakers are also hoping to send a separate $1 billion tax relief proposal to Baker’s desk by the end of the month.