Mass. House Outlines $40.3B Budget Proposal

Massachusetts House leaders on Monday unveiled a $40.3 billion state budget plan.

The spending plan for the July 1 fiscal year approved by the House Ways and Means Committee would increase total spending by 3.8 percent over the current year, but is $180 million below Gov. Charlie Baker's earlier $40.5 billion budget proposal.

The House budget is "fiscally responsible, it makes some positive investments, while making sure we care for the most vulnerable among us," said Democratic Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The plan would help preserve the state's historically high bond ratings, he added, by further limiting the use of temporary fixes to balance the budget and directing $100 million to the state's cash reserves, known as the rainy day fund.

Despite a strong Massachusetts economy and low unemployment, the state's fiscal outlook remains cloudy. Tax collections were running $220 million below official projections through the first nine months of the current fiscal year, according to revenue officials.

Other key provisions of the committee's budget plan, which next goes before the full House:

-- The plan calls for no broad-based tax increases, but accepts the governor's plan to require more online retailers to collect sales taxes and applying the state's hotel tax to online lodging services such as Airbnb. It also includes a new tax credit for businesses that hire veterans.

-- Calls for a $106 million boost in state aid to public schools, $15 million higher than in Baker's budget. Unrestricted aid in cities and towns would increase by $39 million, the smallest hike in three years.

-- Spending on community colleges and state universities would total more than $1 billion but would increase by only about 1 percent over current spending.

-- Creates a new $2.5 million program to help identify learning disabilities in children before they enter elementary school.

-- Increases by $15 million funds available for rental housing vouchers to homeless families.



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