Massachusetts State Senate Agrees on Budget

The Massachusetts Senate approved a $34 billion annual state budget late Thursday that makes investments in early education, elder care, local aid and other areas. 

The budget, approved 36 to 3, mirrors the house’s approved in April. Differences will be worked out by a 6-member conference committee in June, with fiscal 20-14 starting July 1st.

The senate used floor amendments to add over $68 million to a plan authored by the ways and means committee, according to committee chairman Senator Stephen Brewer from Barre.

“We certainly think we created a budget that was prudent and recognizing a gradually recovering economy, making sure that we don’t spend frivolously, and that programs that we invest in are going to have a meaningful difference in short and long term for the well being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The budget spends $350 million from the state’s rainy day fund and includes a $15 million increase for early education to reduce the pre-school wait list by 2,000 students, a proposal not in the House budget.

House and Senate leaders head into budget talks knowing their plans fall roughly 800-million short of Governor Deval Patrick’s budget. He is seeking larger tax hikes and allocations for transportation and education that he says would help grow the economy and address longstanding needs.

Senators also voted nearly $40 million from a distressed hospital fund to increase reimbursement rates to community and safety net hospitals that provide a disproportionate amount of care to Medicaid patients. Senator Michael Knapik, a Westfield Republican, was the only member of the minority party to vote for the budget.

The Senate unanimously approved two $11.5 million dollar salary reserves to human service and child care providers. Lawmakers said the goal was to boost pay for some of the lowest paid human service workers.