House sends $36.3b budget to Senate

Direct wine sales would be legal

After adding more funding for the state Department of Children and Families, an antigang grant program, and global warming preparedness, the Massachusetts House passed a $36.3 billion annual budget 148 to 2, sending it to the state Senate for its markup.

Over three days of debate, the House dispatched 1,175 amendments and added roughly $144 million to the bill that hit the House floor Monday with a $36.2 billion bottom line, according to numbers provided by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate usually debates its annual budget proposal in May, with a conference committee then named to produce a consensus spending plan in time for the July 1 start of fiscal 2015.


Governor Deval Patrick will have an opportunity to veto items in the budget and send others back with amendments before signing it.

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Patrick, in 2007, signed his first budget, a $26.8 billion bill, and this summer’s budget will be his last.

The House budget lopped off taxes on candy and soda, as well as an expansion of the state’s bottle deposit law that Patrick had included in his budget proposal.

The version that cleared the House around midnight Wednesday night also included a two-month tax amnesty program, legalized direct sales of wine, and gave vineyards the right to offer customers samples of their wine.

Two Republicans — Representatives Marc Lombardo of Billerica and James Lyons of Andover — were the only members to vote against the annual spending bill.


Despite marathon sessions, public debate on the bill was infrequent, but at times charged with emotion.

For the most part, lawmakers spent the week sitting idly in the House chamber, privately lobbying for amendments and waiting for top House Democrats to produce meaty amendments for approval.

Amendments added to the bill created various beneficiaries.

Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad of Somerset won a one-time payment for her community to make up for the planned closing of the Brayton Point power plant and the accompanying loss of property taxes.

Representative Shawn Dooley of Norfolk won additional prison mitigation for his district, which has a disproportionate share of correctional facilities.


Representative Anne Gobi of Spencer secured additional funding for the state’s beehive inspection program.

The version that cleared the House around midnight Wednesday night also gave vineyards the right to offer customers samples of their wine. The governor could veto budget items.

A scattering of new policy proposals were also included in the bill, which would need to make it into the final version passed into law before taking effect.

Representative Shaunna O’Connell, of Taunton, won inclusion of a requirement that the state’s Open Checkbook website report settlement payments paid by the state.

A successful amendment from Representative Bill Straus of Mattapoisett changes the penalty for assaulting a public transit employee, currently between 90 days and 1.5 years, removing the minimum sentence and increasing the maximum sentence to 2½ years.