Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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July 4, 2013

Legislature sends Patrick $34B budget, midyear spending bill

The House and Senate made quick work Monday of two major spending bills, including a $34 billion budget for fiscal 2014 that arrived on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk hours after the start of the new fiscal year.

The House voted 122-29 along party lines to approve the budget, and the Senate followed suit voting 36-3 in favor of the deal struck between Democratic legislative leaders late Sunday that included welfare system reforms and a promise from House Democrats to take up the Senate’s full welfare bill before October.

With the July 4 holiday week beckoning, both branches also unanimously passed a $133.4 million supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2013 that pays the state’s bill for snow and ice removal from the winter, reimburses cities and towns for last week’s special election and makes $10 million available for youth summer jobs.

Gov. Patrick had 10 days to consider the budget, while he also weighs his response to a $500 million tax bill necessary to fund major portions of the spending bill. Patrick could veto individual sections of the budget, but still sign off on the majority of the spending.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Brian Dempsey said most of the attention will be paid to the areas of the budget where lawmakers have boosted spending, but he said budget leaders have been prudent about rebuilding the state’s reserves after the recession.

Dempsey said the spending plan would leave Massachusetts with more than $1.5 billion in its stabilization account at the end of fiscal 2013, making it one of just four states with more than $1 billion in its rainy day fund. He said the Legislature also approved the first increase in unrestricted local aid for cities and towns in five years, and made investments in early education and elder care to reduce waiting lists for pre-school and home care services.

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