BOSTON (State House News Service) – Massachusetts lawmakers enjoyed an extended holiday weekend and returned to Beacon Hill Wednesday still lacking deals on a state budget and an overhauled marijuana law.
Despite its status as a full-time Legislature, Massachusetts is one of just a few states still without a state budget. Clerks confirmed Wednesday that the conference committees created last month to reach deals on the major bills still had not filed consensus legislation.
The six lawmakers assembled to hash out a budget compromise did not hold a “formal meeting” over the weekend, Monday or the Fourth of July holiday and it’s not clear when the conferees last met – negotiators in general refuse to discuss their work.
“There were lots of conversations,” said Mary Anne Padien, chief of staff to Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka.
The Senate, which previously scheduled a formal session for Wednesday to take up any potential conference committee reports, is now planning to meet in an informal session, according to a spokesman for President Stan Rosenberg.
Padien said that as of early Wednesday morning, no meeting was scheduled for the budget conference committee.
Baker expressed a touch of impatience with lawmakers last week but said he was cooperating with them and providing information to legislative leaders.
“I think these guys need to have serious conversation with one another when they get to this point to try to figure out how to get to yes,” Baker said.
The conference committee trying to iron out details of the state’s budding legal marijuana industry last met on Friday, lead Senate conferee Sen. Patricia Jehlen’s office said Wednesday morning. House officials said the group would reconvene Wednesday.
That conference committee has missed its deadline to get a final marijuana law rewrite to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, although marijuana users likely won’t notice any difference since the deadline is intended to ensure that retail sales begin by July 2018. A June 30 target date had been set to allow a full year of runway before the expected July 2018 start of retail sales.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Monday declined to commit to assure that a budget deal would be reached this week. DeLeo put his own spin on the late budget, crediting Bay State lawmakers with the “foresight” to pass a $5.15 billion interim budget to carry state government into the start of the fiscal year.
Baker and the Legislature this year based their annual spending bills on an expected $27.072 billion in tax revenue, but collections through almost all of fiscal 2017 have fallen short of benchmarks and lawmakers appear to be wrestling with adjusting spending to meet a new, lower revenue estimate.