BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – A $38 billion budget proposal put forward Tuesday by Senate Democratic leaders would give Gov. Charlie Baker more direct control over the MBTA and make small targeted investments in areas like early childhood care and workforce training, and does not propose any tax increases or expanded tax breaks.

The fiscal 2016 budget bill, which features a bottom line lower than the bill approved by the House last month, would grow spending by 3.1 percent over last year without drawing from the state’s “rainy day” fund. The bill uses $572 million in one-time funds, officials said.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, in her first attempt as the Senate’s chief budget writer, said the budget reflects the “first step” in what will be a multi-year process to improve education, spur the state’s innovation economy and give struggling residents a hand up.

“The goal is to create new opportunities, strengthen support networks and lift all families in the Commonwealth,” Spilka said.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to recommend the bill on Tuesday, setting up a debate in the chamber scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Senators have until Thursday at 5 p.m. to file amendments.

Sen. Viriato DeMacedo, the ranking minority member of the committee, said Spilka’s plan represents a “general consensus that this was a decent budget.”

“We need to get our fiscal house in order. She’s done that. We need to do it within the confines of our revenue,” DeMacedo told the News Service after all three GOP members of the committee voted to move the budget to the full Senate.

The six-member minority party will continue to advocate against tax increases, DeMacedo said, adding that tax amendments could cause problems between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

“I want to make sure that we work together with the administration to put together a sound, fiscally responsible budget that we can all be proud of addressing the concerns the Senate has, addressing the concerns the House has and the administration,” DeMacedo said.

A day after a legislative panel heard testimony on Baker’s bill to put the MBTA under the supervision of a control board for at least the next three years, Spilka said the budget adopts Baker’s proposal to expand the MBTA board by four members to 11, and would make the secretary of transportation the chair of the panel with direct authority to hire the T’s general manager.

The outside section dealing with MBTA oversight does not recommend a control board, nor does it call for a suspension of the state’s privatized services law, known as the “Pacheco Law,” as recommended by Baker and approved by the House. The House budget did not address MBTA oversight.

Spilka said the Ways and Means budget achieves the goal of giving the governor more direct control to improve the management at the T, but would not rule out further steps as the governor’s MBTA bill moves through committee. The Senate’s budget also preserves the state funding schedule for the MBTA outlined in the 2013 transportation financing law, which Baker recommended repealing.

“The major area the Senate has addressed, we believe, is giving the governor direct control,” Spilka said, later adding about the governor’s fuller proposal, “I don’t think the bill is moot.”

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack called the Senate budget bill a “step in the process.” “We’re assuming this is just a continuation of the conversation and not the last word,” she told the News Service.

House and Senate leaders have publicly disagreed over whether the Senate will be allowed to consider tax policy changes when it opens debate on the budget next Tuesday, but the Senate Ways and Means budget does not recommend any tax changes, leaving the popular earned income tax credit and the controversial film tax credit untouched.

Spilka said the budget bill does not include the House-approved expansion of a land conservation tax credit program, which Senate leaders have cited in the House budget as their opening to consider new tax policy.

In order to balance the budget, Spilka said Democratic leaders in the Senate agreed to much of Baker’s plan to wring savings out of the MassHealth program, including the strategy of deferring hundreds of millions of dollars of payment into fiscal 2017. The Ways and Means Committee, as the House did, is recommending to maintain chiropractic services under MassHealth, which Baker proposed to eliminate.

The budget sets aside $12 million to reduce the waiting list for early childhood care by an estimated 2,000 children, and increases Chapter 70 aid for local public schools by $3 million over the House to $4.51 billion to boost spending as the House did by $25 per pupil and put a little extra into helping districts meet formula driven spending targets.

Addressing higher education, Spilka’s budget increases funding by $12.5 million for state universities and community colleges and $19.3 million for the University of Massachusetts. While Spilka said she’s uncertain the funding levels will be sufficient to freeze tuition and fees for another year, the bill does recommend starting in 2017 that UMass campuses be allowed to keep the tuition it collects from in-state students rather than returning it to the state.

In addition to putting $2 million into the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to provide training for unemployed workers, Spilka said Senate leaders are proposing a new pilot program targeting the long-term unemployed who have been without a job for at least a year, creating skills and resume gaps that make it even harder to find work.

“This is a population that’s been forgotten,” Spilka said.

The Training Resources and Internship Network (TRAIN) program would set aside $1.2 million to provide stipends and tuition assistance to long-term unemployed residents who would take courses at one of two participating community colleges and receive help from the state to find internships to fill their resume gaps.

The community colleges that will participate in the TRAIN program have not yet been identified.

Senate leaders are also proposing to go $7 million higher than the House with funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance, and hope to create another $1 million pilot program, the Family Well-Being Plan, to help the disabled who are exempt from welfare work requirements find stable employment.

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which was left unfunded in the both the governor’s and the House’s budget, would receive $15 million in end-of-year surplus cash, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative would get $3 million in the Senate proposal. Another $5 million would be set aside for local tourism councils, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council would receive $12 million.

Funding for homeless shelters would be level with Gov. Baker’s budget at $154.8 million, less than the House approved, but not counting a $7 million reserve to pay for wraparound services to help individuals and families in danger of being homeless and transitioning to stable housing.

The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program would also receive equal funding to the House budget, and the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program would get an additional $2.5 million.

Spilka said the Ways and Means Committee is also recommending $5 million to create 150 new post-detoxification beds for substance abuse addicts and $3.1 million to create two new “recovery high schools” to be located by the Department of Public Health.

With a lot of attention being paid by the new administration to reducing substance abuse, the Department of Public Health, under the bill, would be directed to set up a bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an overdose reversal medication. The department, with $100,000 to administer the program, would sell Narcan supplies back to municipalities in an attempt to improve access to the drug and keep costs low.

“Clearly we’ve found Narcan saves lives and it should be equally accessible across the Commonwealth,” Spilka said.

The first version of the Senate’s budget also omits a House-approved change to the law mandating the use of headlights by drivers when a car’s windshield wipers are on. The House voted to ensure that violations of the headlight law do not count as moving violations for insurance surcharge purposes.

In a statement, the Massachusetts Bar Association said the Senate panel’s $633 million Trial Court allocation was $5 million larger than the court’s “maintenance request,” would eliminate the need to lay off 550 court workers, and would allow continued work on drug and veterans courts.

Other budget highlights:

— The bill creates a multi-agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force “to combat contraband tobacco distribution and foster compliance with the law.” The budget provides $2 million for the task force, with the expectation that it will generate $20 million in revenue.

— The bill calls for the Department of Revenue to spend $4 million hiring an additional 40 auditors in connection with plans to generate $20 million in additional revenue.

Senate W&M Budget Bill Text:

Copyright 2015 State House News Service