State budget deal struck; branches plan to vote Monday

By SAM DORAN

State House News Service

Published: 07-30-2023 2:17 PM

BOSTON — Top House and Senate Democrats negotiating the fiscal year 2024 state budget, which is now four weeks overdue, announced Friday afternoon they had “reached an agreement in principle” paving the way for final votes at the formal sessions already scheduled for Monday.

Lead conferees Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues announced the deal in a joint statement at 2:31 p.m., about 20 minutes after an aide picked up paperwork from the House clerk’s office that would be needed to file a consensus bill.

“Our respective teams are actively engaged in ironing out the details and working diligently to finalize the agreement. We are confident that the conference committee report will be filed in the coming days, ensuring that both the House and Senate will take up the report on Monday in formal session,” Michlewitz and Rodrigues wrote.

The final version of the budgets the House and Senate debated this spring is expected to come in at around $56 billion and the agreement being finalized over the weekend will determine the fate of policy issues like free breakfast and lunch for every student in Massachusetts public schools, free community college for students 25 and older, online Lottery sales, higher education tuition rates for high school graduates without legal immigration status and more.

The new fiscal year began July 1 with state government operating under an emergency stopgap spending bill. The House passed its version of the fiscal year 2024 budget in April, followed by the Senate in May. The conference committee tasked with hammering out a final plan began meeting June 7.

With private negotiations between the House and Senate still dragging on, Gov. Maura Healey last week filed a second emergency budget to fund roughly another month of government payrolls and operations. The branches approved that measure Thursday and sent it back to the governor’s desk.

A Healey spokesperson said Friday afternoon that the governor planned to sign off on it to ensure government operations are funded for the full 10 days she will have to review the general budget after it comes out of the Legislature.

If the Legislature sticks to its internal rules, the conferees needed to file their compromise bill by 8 p.m. Sunday in order to take it up after 1 p.m. Monday. The House and Senate over the years have suspended that fair-notice rule in order to expedite votes on late-arriving legislative deals. The House is scheduled to convene at 11 a.m. Monday and the Senate at noon.

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