After days of negotiating behind closed doors, the Massachusetts House on Wednesday unanimously passed a $56.2 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1.
With little debate, lawmakers quickly sorted through more than 1,500 amendments — keeping some, discarding others — decisions that almost entirely happened out of public view. One of the few amendments brought to the floor for debate was House Republicans’ attempt to prevent Democrats’ effort to exempt millionaires tax revenue from triggering a law that requires the state to return money to taxpayers once revenue growth exceeds a certain threshold. The 1986 law was triggered last year for just the second time, after a windfall of tax collections.
The Democratic majority sunk the amendment Monday, with 131 members voting in opposition.
The House ultimately voted 156-0 on the bill, which added roughly $120 million in spending and notable increases to child care, education, environment, and transportation.
House budget chief Aaron Michlewitz said in a statement that the budget “builds off the successes of the last few years.”
“Whether it is greater investments into programs like housing stability, food security, or early education,” the North End Democrat said. “By reinvesting in the people of the Commonwealth, we will continue to assist those recovering from this pandemic while making our economy more competitive and equitable for years to come.”
The action now moves to the Senate, which will take up its own budget bill next month.
Some of what the House passed were included in the original spending plan introduced by chamber leaders. Those items include:
- Free phone calls in state prisons and county jails. The House and Senate both backed this item last session, but it died in the end without the support from then-Governor Charlie Baker. Governor Maura Healey’s budget proposal included a no-cost calls proposal, though it is narrower than what the House proposed.
- Permanent universal free lunch for students at schools across the state.
- Online Massachusetts Lottery games. Revenue brought in from the new online games would be directed toward a grant program to help fund early education and care providers. The idea to expand the lottery was proposed last summer but also failed to make it through the final budget process. The change is opposed by retailers such as convenience stores, who make big money selling physical lottery tickets and scratch games.
- Free community college for adults over 25.
Other items were included in the final budget proposal after lawmakers passed them as amendments. Notable additions include:
- Language that would require the state’s chief medical examiner to personally review and approve all autopsies of children younger than the age of 2, reviving a measure that appeared close to reaching the governor just months ago. For the House, it’s the third time in roughly a year the chamber has embraced a similar provision. Supporters have pitched it as a necessary injection of accountability into an office that has faced repeated criticisms in recent years for its handling of young children’s deaths, but the agency under Baker resisted the change becoming law. It remains unclear if Healey would be more receptive to the measure should it reach her desk.
- $1 million to reimburse public universities for bulk orders of abortion medication that could become hard to get due to a pending US Supreme Court case.
- A 25 percent pay raise for members of the Governor’s Council. The raise would bring them up to $45,025 from their current $36,025 salary.
A sizable chunk of the budget also went to hundreds of local requests, colloquially known as earmarks, made by lawmakers who hope to direct state funding to projects in their district. Some of those include:
- $2 million to expand a unit at the Addiction Treatment Center of New England.
- $1 million for Chelsea’s Roca, Inc., which provides support and advocacy for young mothers experiencing victimization, trauma, and poverty.
- $1 million for updates to the New England Aquarium for upgrades.
- $700,000 for the MBTA to operate a ferry service from Lewis Wharf Mall in East Boston to Long Wharf in Boston’s North End from April to October.
- $500,000 to support housing for homeless people with disabilities through the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Inc.
- $500,000 for the Adams Presidential Center in Quincy.
- $350,000 for upgrades to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
- $350,000 for the Tierney Learning Center in Dorchester.
- $250,000 to help house low-income LGTBQ seniors.
- $250,000 for free Shakespeare programming on the Boston Common.
- $200,000 for job training through Year Up, Inc., a Boston nonprofit that offers low-income 18- to 24-year-olds professional development, internships, college credits, and stipends.
- Requests of various amounts to address PFAS “forever chemicals” contamination of water in cities and towns including Rehoboth and Bellingham.
Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.