BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House approved a budget bill on Wednesday that includes $30 million to pay costs stemming from a drug testing scandal, freezes unemployment insurance rates for businesses and transfers funds from the state’s ‘‘rainy day’’ fund to offset a projected shortfall in tax revenues.
The bill, which now moves to the Senate, easily passed the House by a 141-13 vote.
Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at a now-closed state drug lab in Boston, was indicted on 27 counts of wrongdoing that includes fabricating drug test results and tampering with evidence. She has pleaded not guilty.
Thousands of drug convictions in Massachusetts are being reviewed as a result of the allegations against Dookhan and some 200 defendants have already been released from custody while their legal challenges go through the court.
The House approved Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to divert $30 million in one-time tax settlements that otherwise would have been deposited into the stabilization fund, better known as the rainy day fund, to cover initial expenses associated with the drug lab crisis. The money would be distributed upon documented requests from the court system, prosecutors, public defenders and other state agencies.
The Patrick administration has said the total price tag for the scandal is likely to grow beyond the initial $30 million appropriation.
The budget bill includes $115 million in new spending but also takes steps to address a projected $540 million tax revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that runs through July 1. State officials in December revised downward their revenue projection after tax collections fell short of benchmarks during the first several months of the fiscal year.
The House on Wednesday signed off on Patrick’s request to transfer $200 million from the rainy day fund into the operating budget to help make up the difference.
‘‘None of us take that lightly because we all recognize how important the stabilization fund is,’’ said Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Even after the withdrawal, the state would still have $1.2 billion in reserve, one of the highest totals in the nation, Dempsey said.
Patrick also ordered a 1 percent cut in state agency spending through the remainder of the fiscal year, but the House declined to include in its bill his request for a $9 million reduction in unrestricted aid to cities and towns.
The freeze on unemployment insurance rates is expected to save Massachusetts businesses $500 million and would mark the fourth consecutive year that lawmakers have voted to keep the rate from increasing. Dempsey said the House would likely take up measures to reform the unemployment system later in the session.
The House rejected several proposed amendments to the budget bill, including a Republican-backed measure that would require documentation of residency for people seeking any state benefits. The amendment was prompted by a recent internal report that found thousands of state welfare recipients were unaccounted for after voter registration information mailed to their listed addresses were returned as undeliverable.
‘‘At the very least, we ought to demand more than someone who can just walk in and say, ‘This is where I live,'’’ said Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover.
The amendment was defeated, 115-38, on mostly party lines.