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Mass. House Approves $30.5B Budget Proposal

The battle over the state budget moves to the state Senate after the House Thursday overwhelmingly approved its more than $30 billion spending plan.

After four days of debate, the House added just $70 million in additional spending — not much when compared with state budgets in more prosperous times.

The state budget proposal trims $800 million from MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. It also cuts $65 million in local aid in an effort to close an estimated $1.9 billion spending gap. Nevertheless, House Speaker Robert DeLeo described it as a budget with compassion.

"I think we did everything in our power to make sure that we took care of the neediest among our residents," DeLeo said. "I think we did just that."

The plan also withdraws $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund.

There are no tax hikes in the budget. It was approved 157-1.

The most contentious debate was on an amendment to dramatically strengthen the power of cities and towns to change public employee health plans. Municipal unions opposed it, saying it strips away key collective bargaining rights.

Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey defended the amendment, saying that rising health care costs are affecting things like spending on basics for schools.

"We need to really address the issues so the money can go to textbooks and dealing with classroom size and all of the issues that are so important for our future of our children," Dempsey said.

Domestic violence activists also faulted lawmakers for failing to restore funding for services to 2009 levels.

In a few weeks, the Senate will begin work on its version of the budget. A final compromise is required by July 1.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This program aired on April 29, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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