Lawmakers signal budget accord reached

No details provided but a vote is planned for Friday

THE LEAD BUDGET NEGOTIATORS for the House and Senate announced a deal Thursday evening to resolve differences between the branches over an annual state budget for the fiscal year that began Saturday, indicating that the legislation will be filed Friday morning with a vote coming later in the day.

No further details on the spending accord were available, and officials from both the House and Senate said they would not discuss the finalized budget until it was filed and made publicly available Friday. The House and Senate both have formal sessions scheduled for Friday with roll calls beginning at 2 p.m. If both branches pass a budget, Gov. Charlie Baker will have 10 days to review it before he must sign it or announce vetoes.

The Legislature has been working since early June to reconcile competing budget bills that proposed to spend in excess of $40 billion in fiscal 2018, though the eventual bottom line remains a major question mark after leaders indicated they were likely to revise revenue projections downward for next year.

Tax collections in fiscal 2017 missed benchmarks through May by over $400 million calling into question projections used by both branches to build their fiscal 2018 budget plans. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr on Thursday estimated the gap to be at $300 million to $500 million.

“On behalf of our fellow conferee’s [sic] we would like to announce that the Conference Committee working on the FY2018 Budget, has reached an agreement to resolve all differences between the House and Senate versions. The Conference Report will be filed tomorrow morning and the branches will act on the Conference Report in session tomorrow,” read a joint statement from Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka and House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey.

The agreement on a fiscal 2018 budget came 24 hours after House Speaker Robert DeLeo suspended simultaneous talks over marijuana legalization legislation to focus on budget talks.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states without an annual budget in place for the new fiscal year, but avoided the types of government shutdowns experienced in other states by putting an interim budget in place late last month funding services through July.

Because the budget won’t be filed until Friday morning to file the budget accord, legislative leaders will have to ask members to suspend procedural rules intended to give members time to review any bill before voting the next day and to allow the public the opportunity to know what its government is doing.