4 big issues to watch as Mass. lawmakers broker a new budget

In the corridors of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
In the corridors of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a debt ceiling deal over the weekend, but negotiations are just about to get underway back here on Beacon Hill.

While you were busy planning your Memorial Day weekend, the state Senate passed its $56 billion budget proposal late last week. However, the proposal includes some notable policy disagreements with the House’s spending plan, beyond the line items and earmarks.

Now, as the two sides work out the differences in closed-door meetings over the next month, here are the four big issues to watch:

1. Free community college: The House adopted Gov. Maura Healey’s proposal to offer tuition-free community college to residents 25 and older who haven’t yet gotten a college degree. But the Senate’s plan goes even bigger, proposing to cover costs for community college nursing students, too.

2. In-state tuition: The Senate budget would also extend in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges to undocumented immigrants (as long as they went to a Massachusetts high school or have a GED, along with some other requirements). Healey has been a vocal supporter of the idea, but the House hasn’t gotten on board.

3. Online lottery: The House wants to let the Massachusetts Lottery take its products online in order to compete with mobile sports betting. So does Healey. But the Senate rejected an attempt to add the proposal to its budget last week.

4. Free school meals: The House budget would extend the state’s pandemic-era universal free school meal program through the next academic year, following suit with Healey’s initial proposal. But it wasn’t in the plan passed last week by the Senate. (Senate leaders reportedly want to tackle the issue in a different bill.)

  • What’s next: Lawmakers technically have until July 1 (the beginning of the next fiscal year) to pass the annual budget — but don’t necessarily expect action by then. It’s become commonplace in recent years for a deal to not get done until weeks, even months, after that deadline.

History denied: After becoming just the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 in a playoff series, the Celtics ultimately fell short, losing 103-84 to the Miami Heat last night. It was a deflating end to a day — and a season — that began with lots of fanfare and optimism about a possible return to the NBA Finals.

To the polls: There’s a special election today in parts of Boston (and a little of Brookline), though it’s missing the thrill. Democrats in both races are running uncontested.

Out of service: Deer Island remains closed to the public today, after an out-of-service wind turbine started spinning uncontrollably yesterday. Crews were able to stop it, but the area is still off limits out of an “abundance of caution.”

  • What happened: Officials say yesterday’s strong winds broke a braking mechanism in the turbine.

Back in service: The ferry to and from Winthrop resumes for the summer today — and there’s a new stop at Logan Airport. Proponents of the new route say it will help hundreds of Winthrop residents commute to jobs at Logan without clogging neighborhood roads.

  • Get familiar: The ferry also makes stops in Quincy, the Seaport and Boston’s downtown waterfront. Check out the schedule here.

P.S.— Love food? Hate food waste? Then come to CitySpace tonight. Margaret and Irene Li, the chef-sisters behind Mei Mei Dumplings, will join us to talk about their “totally achievable” zero-waste approach to home cooking. General admission tickets are $15 — but they include some gazpacho and citrus cake after the conversation.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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