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State Senate Passes Budget For Fiscal Year 2012

This article is more than 12 years old.

The Massachusetts Senate passed its version of the state budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday night.

The Senate passed its $30.5 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 late in the evening, capping a session that lasted more than 13 hours.

The Senate also voted to limit collective bargaining rights for municipal employees and ban so-called aversive therapy practices, or skin-shock treatments.

The Senate rejected amendments that would have created three resort style casinos in anticipation of debating legalizing casinos at a later date.

Also Thursday, the Senate passed measures designed to overhaul the state's public defender program and tighten escalator safety rules.

The public defender amendment approved by the Senate calls for public defenders to handle 30 percent of criminal cases involving indigent defendants.

Supporters say shifting more cases to public defenders would save the state money, though opponents say those savings could be offset by the need to hire additional lawyers.

About 90 percent of indigent cases are now assigned to more expensive private attorneys.

The Senate also passed amendments Thursday adding $11 million in funding for special education and toughening inspection requirements on escalators and elevators.

The escalator amendment adopted by senators was filed in memory of Mark DiBona, a 4-year-old Dudley boy who fell to his death from an escalator at the Auburn Mall in March.

The measure would require that all escalators and elevators in the state have valid inspection certificates before they can operate and that a new inspection be performed before certificates are renewed.

The escalator involved in the accident had been inspected in December, but investigators found that inspectors failed to properly close a small gap between the escalator and a wall. Two inspectors were suspended and could be fired.

The measure would impose fines of $1,000 per day on violators.

Also, the Senate approved an additional $1 million for the state's main anti-gang violence program. The program funds both law enforcement and youth prevention strategies.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to restore $3 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth while rejecting proposed cuts in the state sales and income taxes.

The Senate also rejected another amendment Wednesday that would have created a permanent sales tax holiday weekend. Sales tax holidays are popular with shoppers and merchants, but critics say the state can't always afford the loss of tax dollars.

Democratic leaders in the Senate say their spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 protects the state's most vulnerable residents while spending slightly less than budgets proposed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Gov. Deval Patrick.

The Senate plan includes no new taxes and dips into the state's one-time savings accounts for $440 million to help close an estimated $1.9 billion spending gap without additional federal stimulus dollars.

The House has already passed its budget plan.

Senators also defeated separate proposals Wednesday to cut both the state sales and income tax rates.

The sales tax amendment would have cut the rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent. A second amendment that would have cut the income tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5 percent also failed.

The budget debate is reaching a critical stage.

A six-member House and Senate conference committee will be named to work out a compromise budget between the House and Senate plans. That single budget proposal will be sent back to both chambers for final approval before being sent to Patrick's desk.

The governor has 10 days to sign the budget and issue any vetoes.

This program aired on May 27, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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