SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The state Senate Thursday night approved its version of the fiscal 2020 state budget.
The budget included funding for rail service, schools, and amendments that put the drug industry on the hook for the opioid epidemic.
After sifting through thousands of amendments, the state Senate unanimously passed a $43 billion budget Thursday night.
Expanded rail service from Boston to western Massachusetts has been a pet project of Senator Eric Lesser.
A pilot program increasing rail service from New Haven to Greenfield is set to start this summer but to be made permanent, MassDOT wants to see 24,000 riders. Part of the Senate budget proposal will provide money to attract those riders.
“We were able to work with Jo Commerford from Northampton, we were able to get a quarter of a million dollars to market that service, get more people using it,” said Lesser.
One goal of increased rail service is to connect job seekers with employers along the knowledge corridor from Connecticut to Massachusetts, and from Springfield to Boston.
Keysha Gomez of Springfield told 22News, “Me coming from here taking buses every day, to going to Boston and taking trains everywhere that take you from point A to B in the blink of an eye. Springfield with trains is going to be so amazing.”
The Senate budget proposal includes excise taxes on e-cigarettes, and on the opioid manufacturers. Some of that money could cut the cost of Narcan for first responders.
“It’s really time for the drug companies to step up and help pay for some of the damage they’ve done in our communities,” said Lesser.
The Senate and the house still have to reconcile their two versions in a conference committee. Distribution of school funding is one of the largest differences between the two budgets.
Fiscal 2020 begins July 1.