BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker plans to sign the $16.5 billion interim budget intended to keep state government running from August through October while lawmakers await word on any additional federal aid.
“I think that’s the only choice I’ve got at this point,” Baker said during a Friday afternoon press conference when asked if he’d sign the spending bill. Baker had originally proposed a $5.5 billion, one-month budget, but lawmakers tripled it cover a longer period of time.
“It is our hope that by the end of October we will have enough information, enough certainty on what the feds are going to do to provide us relief, on what the economy looks like – the rebound of the economy – and what’s going to happen with the virus and the trajectory of this virus,” Senate budget chief Michael Rodrigues said Wednesday night.
The 2021 fiscal year began on July 1, two weeks before the extended deadline for Massachusetts residents to file their state and federal taxes. Lawmakers have not unveiled a full-year spending plan that reflects the new dynamics of the COVID-19 crisis, and on Thursday the Baker administration announced a plan to maintain fiscal 2021 local aid and school aid at last year’s levels, plus an additional $107 million in school aid for inflation and enrollment factors.
“I think the bottom line is the Legislature really wants to see what is going to happen in Washington before they sort of put the final ink on what they would like to see as their FY ’21 budget and I am sympathetic to that and I think that’s probably at this point of time the best we can do if we want to do something that’s reasonably accurate,” Baker said.
The governor recently vetoed language from a COVID-19 budget bill that would have set a spending floor for the administration to follow, arguing that it “impinges on executive discretion to exercise judgment not to spend money unnecessarily, where a lesser amount does not compromise the underlying legislative purposes and goals.”
A similar provision was inserted into the three-month interim budget that would prohibit the administration from spending less on programs and departments than the lower of fiscal year 2020 or what Baker’s proposed in his initial budget in January.
Referencing the interim budget on his desk, he added, “I have not signed it, but it’s going to be signed.” [Matt Murphy contributed reporting]