Politics

What to know about the $52 billion budget deal struck by Mass. lawmakers

"All indications from many economists is that things are going to slow down over the next fiscal year, and we are preparing for it."

Jim Davis/Globe Staff
The House chamber in the Massachusetts State House. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Massachusetts state lawmakers on Monday are expected to pass a budget bill for fiscal year 2023, a day after leaders struck a deal on a $52 billion proposal that includes millions for the MBTA following a federal report last month on the transit system’s safety failures.

The $51.9 billion package, signed off by a conference committee led by chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues, does not contain any broad-based tax hikes, according to The Boston Globe.

Tax revenues, actually, are above previous estimates, and lawmakers have plenty of wiggle room given a hefty sum in the state’s coffers, thanks to a budget surplus from the 2022 fiscal year, the newspaper reports.

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Negotiators bumped up their estimate of available tax revenue for the current fiscal year by $2.66 billion, in light of the surplus, according to the State House News Service.

The budget, therefore, makes use of that extra cash now as economic forecasts for the coming year look a bit more sour, lawmakers say.

“All indications from many economists is that things are going to slow down over the next fiscal year, and we are preparing for it,” Sen. Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat who serves as the Senate’s budget chief, told the Globe.

The bill is expected to reach the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker following votes in the House and Senate on Monday. Baker then has 10 days to sign off or send it back to legislators.

Here are some key components of the budget:

The MBTA would get another $266 million to address safety woes outlined by the FTA.

On the heels of an alarming report from the Federal Transit Administration regarding outstanding safety issues on the MBTA, the budget deal reached by lawmakers on Sunday would throw $266 million into a reserve account for the agency to help make changes outlined by the FTA’s findings.

According to the Globe, the MBTA has said it would need about $300 million to do what’s necessary to correct the FTA’s concerns, but had only budgeted $100 million as of last week.

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Rodrigues told the newspaper the latest budget proposal is “more than we’ve ever invested in ensuring that patrons of the T are safe.”

But that’s not all: The budget also includes $187 million for the MBTA, separate from the revenue it collects from a certain percentage of Massachusetts’s sales tax, the Globe reports.

Additionally, the budget proposal would add two seats to the MBTA’s board, with one appointed by the mayor of Boston and the other selected by other municipalities that are served by the T, the House budget chairman Michlewitz told the Globe.

The House and Senate have also each passed separate infrastructure bond bills to give the MBTA $400 million to use toward improvements outlined in the federal report.

“Either account will give the [Baker] administration, we feel, the resources to meet the needs of whatever the Transit Administration safety report requires,” Michlewitz, a North End Democrat, told the newspaper.

Abortion clinic grants, free school meals, and behavioral health are a few other initiatives with funding under the proposal.

In the budget proposal, lawmakers also negotiated funding for several other key initiatives, including:

  • $2 million for grants for security and related infrastructure at abortion clinics, according to CommonWealth.
  • $110 million for universal free school meals to all children in the next year regardless of income, the magazine reports. The influx of cash extends a federal program rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the budget provides for $115 million to expand the “breakfast after the bell” program.
  • $494 million in local aid for school districts, the Globe reports.
  • A 12.5 percent pay raise for state judges, clerks, registers, and assistant clerks.

According to CommonWealth, the proposal also seeks to ban child marriage in the Bay State, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18.

Another provision also would establish a two-year pilot program to expand eligibility for public-subsidized health insurance to people who earn less than 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or an individual salary of $68,000 per year, the magazine reports.

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If passed, that would allow approximately 37,00 more people to be eligible for state-subsidized health insurance.

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