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Mass. Senate-Approved Bill Includes Funding For Coronavirus Testing

The Senate followed the House's lead on Thursday and approved a roughly $123-million mid-year spending bill that includes funding for an initial coronavirus testing regime, leaving it a few procedural votes from Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

The budget (H 4502), based on a request Baker filed this month, "can be largely described as a bill-paying exercise limited in scope to issues that need our immediate attention," Senate Ways and Means Chairman Sen. Michael Rodrigues said Thursday. He said the spending package is "fiscally responsible and appropriate" given the pace of the state's tax collections.

Rodrigues said the supplemental budget bill includes $16.3 million for collective bargaining costs, $15 million toward low-income heating assistance — an allocation advocates have been pressing for amid declining federal support — $15 million for Committee for Public Counsel Services compensation, and $10 million for the 21st Century Education Fund created by the new education financing law.

It also includes $2 million for vaping-related services and $1.9 million for the state laboratory, including funding for a EEE public awareness campaign and "an initial coronavirus testing program," Rodrigues said. The House version of the bill earmarked $95,000 of state laboratory funding for the "surveillance, treatment, containment and prevention" of the coronavirus.

The Senate passed the spending bill 37-0. The House passed its version of the bill Wednesday on a 150-0 vote. If there are any differences between the House and Senate versions, the branches would need to work through those before taking the final votes necessary to send the final product to Baker for his signature.

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