The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday approved a $55.9 billion state budget proposal for the new fiscal year, beginning negotiations with the House of Representatives on a final spending plan to be submitted to Democratic Gov. Maura Healey by July.
A focus of the budget is on higher education.
The Senate budget provides that all Massachusetts students, regardless of immigration status, are eligible for state tuition at public colleges and universities—provided they attended a state high school for at least three years and graduated or earned a GED.
MINNESOTA CONCLUDES BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS as Democrats celebrate major policy wins
“Massachusetts will be competitive as long as people from all over the world can come here to pursue their dreams,” said Karen Spilka, President of the Democratic Senate.
The budget would also create a free community college program for nursing students.
One item not included in the final Senate plan is a proposal to allow lottery tickets to be sold online. The budget approved by the Massachusetts House would allow online lottery games.
Healey has also signaled support for the move, citing competition for gambling funds from online sports betting companies such as Boston-based DraftKings.
The matter will now be resolved by a six-member House and Senate Conference Committee tasked with drafting a final budget proposal.
Like the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the Senate budget plans to allocate the expected $1 billion in additional revenue from the state’s new “millionaires’ tax” to education and transportation initiatives.
Of the $500 million earmarked for transportation, the Senate plan earmarks $190 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — and another $100 million for roads and bridges.
Unlike the House of Representatives budget, the Senate chose not to include funds for universal free school meals in its budget. The chairpersons of the Senate hope to be able to take up the topic in a separate supplementary budget.
Both the House and Senate budget proposals would put money into the state’s “Rainy Day” fund. The account currently has about $7.1 billion. Both budgets would total just over $9 billion.
The House of Representatives approved its $56.2 billion state budget in April. Healey unveiled her budget plan earlier this year.
The budget debate comes at a time when April tax receipts fell more than $2.1 billion short of last April’s receipts and more than $1.4 billion short of forecasts for this month.
Healey has downplayed the dire numbers, saying the state remains in a strong fiscal position.
The House of Representatives also approved a separate $654 million tax break package last month.
Governor of Maine. MILLS proposes an additional budget of $887 million
The bill aims to help older adults, renters, businesses and wealthier homeowners while rewriting the law that returned about $3 billion to taxpayers last year.
The House measure would also raise the state’s inheritance tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million. Healey, which released her own $742 million tax break package in February, would eliminate the tax on estates worth up to $3 million.
Spilka said the Senate plans to consider the details of its own $575 million tax break proposal after the budget is released.
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A final compromise budget, which is approved by both chambers, must be in place by the start of the new budget year on July 1st.
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