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Mass. House, Senate negotiators reach compromise on $56.2 billion budget

The Massachusetts State House.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Lawmakers negotiating the state’s overdue budget came to a compromise after 8 p.m. Sunday, setting up a Monday vote on the spending plan for the fiscal year that started July 1.

The compromise $56.2 billion budget includes top priorities of both House and Senate leaders and “represents a major step forward for our Commonwealth,” Senate president Karen E. Spilka said in a statement

Senate leaders secured funding to cover tuition for students attending community college nursing programs, and a program to make undocumented high schoolers eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges or universities in Massachusetts.

The House also secured some of its priorities, such as funding to make permanent free school meals and a proposal to make phone calls free for the state’s incarcerated people.

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The final budget left out some notable items, too, including a House proposal to make state lottery games available online.

The compromise budget also:

  • Sets aside $50 million for free community college across all campuses by fall 2024, including $38 million for free community college programs for students aged 25 or older and for students pursuing degrees in nursing starting in the fall of 2023.
  • Creates a two-year ConnectorCare pilot program to expand eligibility, resulting in as many as 70,000 residents becoming newly eligible for more affordable health insurance coverage.
  • Codifies a pandemic-era renter protection law, which would slow down the court process in eviction proceedings in cases in which the tenant has applied for rental assistance.
  • Dedicates $475 million to Commonwealth Cares for Children funding, scaling back from the $490 million the House proposed. House leaders suggested paying for roughly half the grants using millionaires tax revenue and revenue generated by allowing the lottery to sell its products online, a proposal that did not make it out of negotiations.
  • Proposes spending $6.59 billion in K-12 public education funding, an increase of $604 million from last year. It would double the minimum aid level from $30 to $60 per student.
  • Sets aside $581 million for a future tax code overhaul, though a concrete plan of how to spend that money has yet to emerge from negotiations.
  • Proposes adding two board seats to the MBTA Board of Directors — one dedicated seat for Boston and another to represent other major cities and towns.
  • Sketches out a plan of how the state will spend at least $1 billion in projected revenue from the so-called millionaires tax voters passed last fall. It would spend roughly $522 million on education and $477 million on transportation, including $205 million for the MBTA.

State officials have now failed for 13 years straight to have an annual spending plan in place for the start of the fiscal year. Massachusetts is also the only state that was late in completing its plan every year since 2017, a previous Globe review found.

The Legislature’s budget is the tardiest in more than two decades, excluding the chaotic first year of the COVID pandemic. Massachusetts is also one of just four states, along with Oregon, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, that have yet to enact a fiscal year 2024 budget, according to data released Thursday by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In an interview Sunday night, House budget chief Aaron Michlewitz said although “we all wanted to get this done by July 1 . . . we certainly got it done in a timely enough fashion.”

When the Legislature does pass a budget deal, Governor Maura Healey will have 10 days to review it.

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“It’s important that we get this done and that we get this to the governor as quickly as possible,” Michlewitz said.


Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.