Mass. Lawmakers Pass State Budget
On the first day of the new fiscal year, House and Senate lawmakers on Friday approved a $30.6 billion 2012 state budget.
The House voted 150-2 in favor of the budget. Later Friday, the Senate passed the bill 33-4.
The votes came hours after negotiators hammered out a compromise between separate House- and Senate-approved spending plans.
The bill includes no new taxes, but cuts funding to many state agencies. The spending plan also includes a move to limit public unions' bargaining powers on certain health care issues.
Geoff Beckwith, with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says the move should save cities and towns up to $100 million.
"There are many communities that are counting on this reform in order to make sure that their budget is balanced without further layoffs beyond what they've already adopted," Beckwith said.
Union officials call the health care provision an infringement on their bargaining rights.
The budget also includes an unexpected increase in local aid for cities and towns and calls for the hiring of 300 full-time public defenders to reduce the number of private lawyers who do criminal defense work at taxpayer expense.
But Lisa Hewitt, of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, which oversees legal representation for the poor, says there's a "good chance" the budget does not provide enough money to make changes to the system.
"We're very concerned we're not going to be able to meet the deadlines and goals that are presented by the budget," Hewitt said. "I mean we are going to strive to meet the goals because that is the law of Massachusetts, but that being said, it is a huge undertaking."
Hewitt says there are also concerns the quality of the legal defense work will go down, given the many new lawyers who will be hired.
Gov. Deval Patrick now has 10 days to sign the budget and make any line-item vetoes.
He previously signed a 10-day stopgap budget to fund critical state services.
With contributions from the Associated Press
This program aired on July 1, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.