State House News Service
Michael P. Norton
Top House and Senate Democrats early Sunday evening filed a compromise $52.7 billion annual budget that is expected to win approvals in both branches on Monday.
The six-member conference committee’s accord (H 5050) arrived in the House clerk’s office at 6:50 p.m., 17 days into the new fiscal year, and with state government operating on an interim budget for July to prevent any disruption in government services.
The deal was signed off on by all of the negotiators – four Democrats, led by Reps. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston and Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, and two Republicans. Ahead of Monday’s vote, lawmakers and special interest groups will pore over the bill to gauge how it meets their district needs and whether spending and policy priorities survived the panel’s private talks.
With a significant fiscal 2022 budget surplus, budget negotiators marked up their estimate of available tax revenue for fiscal 2023 by $2.66 billion and then spread the additional revenue through their bill, which is based on the House budget approved in April and the Senate budget that passed in May.
The House budget proposed a $31.5 million or 2.7 percent increase in the unrestricted general government aid to cities and towns, while the Senate doubled that increase to $63.1 million, for a total $1.23 billion. Budget negotiators agreed to the Senate’s approach.
The biggest pot of local aid – Chapter 70 school aid – would rise to nearly $6 billion under the budget agreement, with regional school aid accounting for $819 million of that total.
Negotiators also settled on the much larger $115 million House plan for school meals, and embraced the Senate’s more generous plan to infuse the early education and care system with $250 million in sector stabilization grants.
The budget deal arrives as Gov. Charlie Baker plans to spend the early part of this week in Colorado at meetings to talk politics with Republican governors as they look to hold on to seats and gain new ones in the 2022 elections.
Once he receives the bill, Baker, who plans to return to Massachusetts on Wednesday night, will get up to ten days to review it before signing it and returning any amendments and vetoes. With formal sessions set to end for the year on July 31, the late budget means House and Senate Democrats are leaving themselves with a short window to field any budget measures returned by the governor.
The bottom line spending total that lawmakers assigned to the bill is up substantially from the nearly $50 billion proposals that cleared each branch, and also does not reflect off-budget funds transfers for state employee pensions and to the MBTA, for example. The bill lists the “grand total” of funds available for the budget at $54.87 billion.
The conference committee’s budget is based on a fiscal 2023 tax revenue estimate of $39.575 billion, and the bill factors in about $14 billion in federal reimbursements.
A summary of the conference agreement was not available Sunday night and the conferees were not available to comment.