Negotiators reach agreement ‘in principle’ on state budget
House and Senate will vote on spending plan on Monday
TWO WEEKS INTO the fiscal year, legislative budget writers have reached an agreement on the fiscal 2023 state budget.
Ways and Means chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues issued a joint statement Thursday evening saying House-Senate negotiators have “reached an agreement in principle” resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget.
“Staff are currently working to complete the work necessary to finalize the agreement,” Rodrigues and Michlewitz said. “We anticipate a Conference Committee Report being filed in the coming days to ensure that the House and Senate can consider the report on Monday in formal session.”
The lawmakers did not release any information about the content of the budget, and a legislative aide said that information would not be available until the conference committee report is filed and made public.
Pennsylvania wrapped up its budget process on Wednesday, making Massachusetts the last state in the country to pass a state budget. The fiscal year began July 1.
State government has been operating under an interim budget, so basic services were not disrupted. But the lack of a full-year budget left many organizations in limbo, ranging from crime victims’ services to childcare providers, as they waited to see what level of public support they could count on for the next year.
Tax revenues have continued to come in higher than expected in fiscal 2022, and one major question is whether lawmakers will increase their expected revenue numbers for fiscal 2023. That would give them more money to play with to support the priorities of both bodies. It could also potentially translate into more money distributed in local aid to municipal governments, which was a Senate priority.
Both the House and Senate budgets would spend around $50 billion. In terms of the differences that negotiators had to iron out, an analysis by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said there was $1.6 billion in unique spending included in either the House or Senate versions of the budget but not both.
There were also some significant policy differences. The House wanted to continue paying for free school meals for all children regardless of income next year, while the Senate left that out of its budget. The House wanted to require sheriffs to provide inmates with free phone calls. The Senate wanted to spend more money on nursing homes and senior care. The two bodies took different approaches to early education, with the House seeking to help mainly subsidized providers that serve lower-income households and the Senate extending a grant program that helps all providers.While the Senate included some protections for abortion providers in its version of the budget, some of that policy is also being considered through separate standalone bills.
Lawmakers are also seeking to make changes to state tax policy through a separate bill rather than through the state budget.