Lawmakers Vote On Budget — Minus Immigration Crackdown

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Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers are expected to vote Thursday on a spending plan of more than $27 billion.

The budget negotiators backed off the Senate's plan to crack down on illegal immigrants. Gone is the proposed 24-hour hot line to report suspected illegal immigrant workers, as well as a provision that would make the state attorney general enforce federal immigration law.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos said the budget will write into law some existing policies regarding illegal immigrants.

"Basically we codified existing regulations, practices and policies of the commonwealth," Panagiotakos said. "There are a lot of checks in the system and we wanted to make sure those checks stayed in the system."

The final budget also rejected another portion of the Senate amendment that would have legally barred illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates.

To complete the proposal, leaders tapped into the state's rainy day fund, taking out almost $200 million. The plan cuts local aid to cities and towns by 4 percent and reduces funding for health coverage.

Geoff Beckwith, of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, faulted lawmakers for removing a provision that would have allowed municipalities to purchase cheaper health plans without getting the consent of unions.

"This is a top priority," Beckwith said. "Communities will continue to push for it and taxpayers will continue to push for and demand parity."

House budget chief Rep. Charles Murphy says it wasn't easy to balance the budget.

"We've taken responsible steps, we've made very difficult decisions and what are going to be deemed not very popular decisions to do the right thing," Murphy said. And the right thing is that we've presented a balanced budget."

Murphy says they created the budget compromise based on the assumption the state would lose certain federal Medicaid payments, although lawmakers say they're hoping Congress votes to restore the funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on June 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.