Lawmakers May Not Return To Vote On Additional Funds
BOSTON — State lawmakers have no immediate plans to schedule a vote on how to appropriate an additional $655 million dollars in federal aid for Massachusetts.
The money for states in a stimulus bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday includes an estimated $450 million in Medicaid funding and $200 million for the education budget.
If lawmakers return for formal sessions to amend the state budget and incorporate the extra money, other issues, including casino gambling, could also be considered.
But Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos says there’s no pressing reason to call lawmakers back.
“We really don’t have to,” Panagiotakos said. “We can do a supplemental budget as long as nobody objects if we wanted to utilize the money for spending. Or we could wait until January.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he will confer with Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray about immediate plans for the money.
Lawmakers may be able to authorize payments now and the state could get reimbursed once the additional federal funds are incorporated into the state budget in January, Murray said.
But Patrick says spending the money now without calling legislators back into session could create uncertainty.
“It creates a problem because the agencies can spend but they don’t know whether the appropriation is going to make up for the back half of the year,” Patrick said.
The governor says he wants lawmakers to act now to restore some human services programs and to add money to the state “rainy day” fund.