The House late Wednesday passed its fiscal 2014 budget, a $34 billion document balanced with new taxes and withdrawals from state reserves, on a party-line 127-29 vote.
The House vote was the most recent iteration in a game of fiscal chess between Governor Deval Patrick and legislative leaders. After Patrick stumped for a $1.9 billion tax increase to bankroll transportation and education spending, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray responded with a $500 million tax hike, much narrower in scope than Patrick’s.
Patrick quickly issued a veto threat, and, with ill feelings running high on Beacon Hill, the Senate passed a compromise measure. That bill, though, still rejects Patrick’s proposal to spend more on early education.
After State House intrigue and high-stakes fiscal dilemmas were shelved last week by the terrorist attacks, this week’s House budget debate became the next theater. Spending in the operating budget relies on tax increases in the transportation bill. House members this week were combing line items for evidence that any colleagues who voted against DeLeo’s original transportation bill had faced retribution in the form of reduced appropriations for their districts or priorities.
Now the action moves to the Senate, likely to hold its budget debate next month. After the Senate passes its spending plan, the two chambers will likely work to reconcile their own versions of the two bills: the transportation and tax package, and the budget.