No budget squeeze with extra billions

FY22 budget gets $4.2b last-minute boost

WITH AN EXTRA $4.2 billion at their disposal from surging tax revenues, House and Senate budget negotiators reached a deal fairly easily Thursday night on a compromise state budget for fiscal 2022.

Instead of squabbling over scarce state resources, the biggest challenge for the negotiators was deciding what to do with all the additional money. Both branches crafted their respective budgets using a tax revenue forecast of $30.12 billion, but House and Senate negotiators settled on a new estimate of $34.35 billion as tax receipts soared.

In the end, the lawmakers used the extra $4.2 billion to cancel planned withdrawals from the state’s rainy day fund, to adopt the higher appropriation level for any budget item in dispute between the House and Senate (adding about $300 million in spending), and to sock away $350 million for future funding of the Student Opportunity Act and $250 million to reduce state pension liabilities.

The budget was released Thursday evening and is scheduled to be voted on by both branches on Friday. A compromise budget cannot be amended and lawmakers are given a choice of voting it up or down.

The House and Senate reached a compromise on the film tax credit, abolishing the sunset date of January 2023 and making the tax break permanent while scratching most of the other restrictions the Senate sought to impose. The one exception was a Senate proposal that would require 75 percent of a filming budget or 75 percent of principal photography to take place in Massachusetts – up from 50 percent in the current law. (See sidebar on the film tax credit here.)

While the film tax credit survived Senate efforts to pare back its cost, the two branches did agree that three other fairly obscure tax breaks cited as ineffective by the Tax Expenditure Commission would be eliminated.

A Senate bid to place higher fees on Uber and Lyft rides and use the funds to support transportation spending was not included in the final budget. A similar measure was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker last year.

The budget gives sheriffs of the state’s major counties a roughly $20,000 salary hike, boosting their pay from $151,709 to $171,900. The sheriff in Dukes County will see a pay increase from $113,771 to $135,610 and the salary of the sheriff in Nantucket will rise from $95,816 to $108,870.