Friday sessions possible as budget negotiators zero in on deal

Boston Statehouse
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BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)– House and Senate leaders are closing in on a compromise annual budget for fiscal year 2022 with an expectation among lawmakers in both branches that the committee negotiating the final bill will file its recommendations later Thursday, officials told the News Service.

One week into the new fiscal year, Massachusetts remains one of just five states now without a full-year budget enacted to direct spending for the next 12 months as tax revenues have soared and the economy continues to rebound from the pandemic. “It appears things are looking right,” Rep. Paul Donato, the assistant vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told the News Service during a break in Thursday’s House session.

While Donato does not sit on the conference committee negotiating the budget, two other officials close to the talks told the News Service that a deal was imminent and would get finalized on Thursday. The House gaveled into an informal session in the morning and immediately recessed. Donato said the House intended to wait in recess in case a report emerged early this afternoon from the six-member panel of lawmakers working toward the final version of the budget. If a conference report is filed, Donato said House leadership would schedule a formal session Friday to advance the spending bill.

The new fiscal year began last Thursday, and as lawmakers returned to Beacon Hill this week after the holiday weekend talks between the House and Senate heated up with expectations high over the past three days that a deal was within reach. Legislative rules require reports of conference committee negotiating teams to be filed by 8 p.m. the night before they are considered on the floor of either branch, though those rules can and often are suspended.

Democrats in control of both branches are seeking compromise over competing $47.7 billion budget proposals that each contain numerous policy sections. It is widely expected that revenue projections for the fiscal year that began July 1 will be upgraded significantly by lawmakers to account for the trend of tax collections in fiscal year 2021 outpacing estimates through May by nearly $4 billion. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation recommended last week that tax revenue estimates be upgraded by a minimum of $3.8 billion, and the big question is how negotiators will choose to allocate those unanticipated revenues.

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Massachusetts is one of five states without an enacted state budget for fiscal 2022 and one of four states with a fiscal year that begins July 1 to not have a budget in place. In Michigan, the fiscal year does start until Oct. 1 and the Legislature there is also finalizing the budget. Annual budgets in North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin are also in various stages of completion, according to NASBO. 

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