BOSTON (AP) — Eighteen days into the state’s new fiscal year, House and Senate negotiators announced Wednesday they had reached agreement on a $41.9 billion budget.
Massachusetts is the last U.S. state without a permanent spending plan in place for the new fiscal year. A six-member conference committee had been laboring behind closed doors since before July 1 to resolve the impasse, while state government continued to operate on a stopgap budget.
The compromise calls for nearly $400 million more in total spending than had been envisioned in earlier versions of the budget approved in the House and Senate. The additional spending appears to stem from higher revenue projections after Massachusetts ended its most recent fiscal year with a more than $1 billion surplus.
“Together, we have agreed on a budget that meets people where they are in their lives, supports the most vulnerable amongst us, and ensures our economy grows for the benefit of all residents,” said the two principal negotiators, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Karen Spilka, in a statement.
The two Democrats planned to brief reporters on the compromise later Wednesday. It still needs final votes of approval by the full House and Senate, after which Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would have 10 days to review the spending plan and issue any line-item vetoes.
The agreement does not include language approved in the Senate that called for sharp limits on cooperation between Massachusetts law enforcement agencies and federal immigration officials. That language would largely prohibit local police from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status.
The exclusion of the Senate language would be a disappointment to immigrant advocacy groups who held demonstrations at the Statehouse in recent weeks to push for the protections. Critics, including Baker, warned the measure would move Massachusetts too far in the direction of being a so-called “sanctuary state” for immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
The compromise budget calls for an independent audit of the Massachusetts state police, which has been buffeted by allegations of overtime abuse and other disclosures, including the alteration of an arrest report for the daughter of a judge.
The proposed budget increases the state’s earned income tax credit for low-income families and would end the longstanding practice of denying additional welfare benefits to children born to parents already on public assistance.
The agreement would also make daily fantasy sports permanently legal in Massachusetts, but without proposed regulations and taxes still being considered by lawmakers.
Negotiators said the budget reflected a “continued belief that we have a responsibility to be careful stewards of taxpayer dollars,” and makes what was called a “significant deposit” to the state’s reserve fund.
The Legislature is scheduled to end formal sessions for the year on July 31.
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