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I really need a 1,500-word investigation into how rocks are getting into even more of Trader Joe’s food. But first things first:
Better late than never: Massachusetts lawmakers are set to vote on the state’s annual budget today — a full month after their original deadline. House and Senate leaders announced Friday afternoon they had reached a deal on the $56 billion spending bill. They could send it to Gov. Maura Healey’s desk as soon as today.
What’s in it: The massive spending bill includes some big policy changes. Here are the ones that made the final cut.
- Free community college: The budget includes $38 million to offer free community college for students 25 or over, plus another $12 million to cover all costs for those in community college nursing programs, beginning this fall.
- In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants: The deal also covers the Senate’s proposal to make students without legal immigration status eligible for in-state tuition and state financial aid at Massachusetts’ public colleges. The condition is that they attended an in-state high school for at least three years or got their GED here.
- Free school lunch: Meanwhile, the House got its way on extending the state’s pandemic-era universal free school meal program for another academic year.
- Prison phone calls: The budget deals would also eliminate the costs of making phone calls for inmates in state and county prisons. (Former Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a similar proposal last year, but Healey has been supportive.)
What’s not in the budget: We’re still waiting for a compromise on the differing tax relief packages passed by the House and Senate. The House’s push to let the state lottery sell products online also didn’t make it in, despite Healey’s support.
Par for the course: This is the 13th straight year Massachusetts’ budget has missed its July 1 deadline. And in four of the past five years, it’s been at least four weeks late, as WBUR’s Steve Brown has documented. (Lawmakers can simply pass month-by-month spending bills to keep the government funded when the full budget is overdue. This year, they did so not once but twice.)
Should we care? There are usually not too many consequences of the budget’s chronic tardiness. But this year, the uncertainty did throw a wrench into on-the-ground planning needed for free community college and universal school meals. Still, Legislature leaders say it’s not something voters care about. “The public’s not asking me,” Sen. Michael Rodrigues, one of the lead negotiators on the budget deal, told reporters last week. “I’ve had no constituent call me.”
What’s next: Healey will have 10 days to sign (and potentially veto line items) once the budget is sent to her desk.
- Go deeper: Radio Boston explored the reasons behind the recent slowness on Beacon Hill last week with local State House reporters Lisa Kashinsky and Matt Stout. Listen here.
Back to the drawing board: The state is requiring Eversource to redo its environmental impact report for a proposed gas pipeline in Springfield. Officials want a deeper analysis about how the project would affect the state’s climate goals and impact local communities.
- What’s next: WBUR’s Miriam Wasser reports the decision is expected to delay the $65 million project by a few months.
Arlington residents just got a prominent new neighbor: The governor! Healey is moving from Cambridge to Arlington to live with her partner, Joanna Lydgate. According to State House News Service, the recently transient governor — who has moved three times since 2021, from Charlestown to the South End to Porter Square — should be settled into her new digs by tomorrow. Let us know Guv. if you need any extra boxes!
P.S.— Radio Boston is capping off July with a monthly interview with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. She’ll be on live at 11 a.m., so make sure to send in your questions ASAP this morning.
Correction: A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to the size of state budget bill. It is $56 billion, not $56 million.