By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press
BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers approved a $52.7 billion budget on Monday, more than two weeks into the state’s new fiscal year.
The unanimous votes in both houses 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 deal was crafted after each chamber approved its own version of the spending plan earlier in the year.
Budget negotiators raised their initial estimate of tax revenue available for fiscal year 2023 by more than $2.6 billion, partly on the basis of a large budget surplus for the current fiscal year.
The budget – which is now heading 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 start of the new fiscal year on July 1 to avoid any disruption to government services while the final details of the new budget were worked out.
The budget plan approved by lawmakers on 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 provides $266 million to help the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority address safety issues highlighted in a recent review of the transit agency by the Federal Transit Administration.
In addition, the budget creates a two-year pilot program to provide individuals and families who earn up to 500% of the federal poverty level – approximately $68,000 per year for an individual and $139,000 for a family of four people – access to subsidized health care. coverage with reduced premiums, co-payments and deductibles.
The legislation also includes several non-budget sections, including one eliminating parole and probation fees and a second banning marriage for people under 18 in Massachusetts. Lawyers said Massachusetts would become the seventh state to ban marriage for those under 18.
The state’s brighter budget outlook has also allowed budget negotiators to plan to pump more money into the state’s rainy day fund — which could top more than $7.3 billion. by the end of fiscal year 2023. The fund is used to help the state fill 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, may seek to override individual vetoes, although they are likely to vote quickly before the end of the official July 31 session.
Lawmakers also hope to send a separate $1 billion tax relief proposal to Baker’s office by the end of the month.