Massachusetts lawmakers advance a stopgap state budget

Lawmakers moved Monday to give their negotiating team more time to craft a final state budget for the fiscal year that begins in five days.

The House and Senate worked together to place on Gov. Maura Healey's desk a $6.66 billion interim budget that she filed last week, which would effectively authorize another month of funding for government services while the final spending plan remains tied up in private House-Senate deliberations.

The bill emerged Monday morning from the House Ways and Means Committee, and both branches stamped their final approval less than two hours later on the stopgap spending measure (H 3936) without making any changes to what Healey offered.

The bill authorizes spending on "necessary services" through July 31, or whenever a final fiscal year 2024 budget is complete.

Since Healey is on a trip to Ireland, it is not clear if she will sign it when she returns on Friday, or if Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll will sign it before then while executing the duties of acting governor.

The interim budget action signals that the conference committee tasked with hashing out a compromise annual state budget (H 3901 / S 2400) still needs more time to achieve consensus after the House and Senate took divergent approaches to spending new surtax revenues, permanently authorizing a free school meals program, allowing undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, and more.

Overdue annual budgets have become the norm in Massachusetts, as Democrats who control the House and Senate show little concern about finishing the spending plan after the July 1 start of the fiscal year and governors from both parties offer little pushback. The annual budget has been signed into law after July 1 every year since at least 2011.

While Healey is in Ireland, Senate President Karen Spilka is also overseas on her own trip to Israel until Saturday, July 1. Her office said the weeklong visit was organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures.



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