The Massachusetts House has passed a $56.2 billion spending proposal. On Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a $56.2 billion state budget plan that includes provisions for the online sale of lottery games, additional funding for universal school meals and the troubled Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and a larger “rainy day” fund.
After three days of debate, the plan was passed, allocating around $1 billion between education and transportation projects to offset the state’s new “millionaire’s tax,” which voters in Massachusetts approved last year.
The plan’s $500 million investment in education funds the universal school food program with $161 million, installs and maintains “clean energy” infrastructure projects in schools with $100 million, and provides funding of $50 million to students in Massachusetts who are seeking employment in high-demand occupations.
Half the transportation budget of $500 million would be used to repair and replace aging MBTA infrastructure, while another $100 million would be used to fix highway bridges. Massachusetts will become the fifth state to implement a universal school lunch program, according to Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano.
Democrat Governor Maura Healey had requested money for free and reduced-price school lunches in two supplemental budget proposals. During the pandemic, federal funds helped keep the program going. The money for that project has run out.
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The state’s stability, or “rainy day,” fund would also get funding under the House budget proposal. Approximately $7.1 billion are available in the account now. According to Massachusetts state House budget plan analysts, the proposed budget would increase spending to slightly over $9 billion.
Democratic House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz argues that a healthy rainy-day fund will help maintain the state’s bond rating, allowing for cheaper borrowing of funds.
A two-year pilot program to expand eligibility to ConnectorCare, the state’s subsidized health insurance program, is also proposed, along with rate increases for childcare providers totaling $100 million, rental assistance for families totaling $180 million, additional eviction protections for renters, and an increase in the minimum wage.
To counteract the introduction of online sports betting this year, the plan proposes the launch of online lottery tickets and games, with a percentage of the proceeds going toward pre-K funding. The sale of lottery tickets online has been met with concern from certain convenience shop operators.
The budget blueprint, according to Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano:
“will help to make Massachusetts more affordable for residents, while allocating support for the Commonwealth’s most consequential institutions.”
Critics were quick to point out that much of the debate took place behind closed doors, away from the eyes of the public and the press, and that once the alterations were decided, the bill was approved with minimal public discussion.
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“Just because House lawmakers go behind closed doors to debate important taxpayer-funded spending decisions doesn’t make it right,” said Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
The House’s plan followed last month’s unveiling of Healey’s $55.5 billion state budget proposal. The Senate of Massachusetts will now have to create and debate its budget proposal. Before the new fiscal year begins on July 1, a final budget must be in place.
The tweet is also linked below as well: