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State Senate passes Baker budget-fix bill with little change

The state Senate sent to Governor Charlie Baker a bill Thursday aimed at helping to close the state’s $768 million budget gap.

The bill, which passed the House on Wednesday, cuts state funding for a variety of government offices and institutions of higher education. It also diverts tax revenue meant for the state’s rainy day fund and creates a temporary corporate-tax amnesty program, with the hope of raking in more money for Massachusetts.

The legislation only deviates in a few, relatively minor ways from the plan put forth by Baker, and marks a victory for the governor, a Republican, in his first major back-and-forth with the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.

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“Today,” after working with the Legislature, Baker said in a statement, “we were able to put the Fiscal Year 2015 budget deficit behind us in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner that protected funding for our local communities without additional burdens to taxpayers.”

The Senate passed the bill by a voice vote, meaning no senator had to go on record supporting the cuts, one day after the House passed it by a roll call vote, 155 to 1.

The bill applies to this fiscal year, which runs through June.

After the bill was sent to Baker, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg said it was important to move the budget-fix legislation quickly because each day that went by meant cuts were spread over a shorter period of time, increasing their relative impact. The Amherst Democrat said no one agrees with everything in the legislation, but called it a “decent package” and pledged continued collaboration with Baker.

“We will have our disagreements,” he said. “We will not be disagreeable.”

At a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event last week, Baker was asked about his strategy for dealing with the Legislature.

“Kumbaya,” he replied.

The main change the Legislature made to Baker’s plan: deleting wording that would give the governor greater authority to chop parts of the state’s Medicaid program. Advocates for people with disabilities, elderly people, and poor people had objected to that language. They said it would have given Baker too much leeway to slice key programs.

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The Baker administration originally said about $282 million of its plan to close the deficit with cuts, additional revenue, and budget tweaks required legislative approval. The rest is being executed with his executive authority.

Baker took office last month, succeeding Deval Patrick, a Democrat, and instantly faced the gaping budget hole. It is a challenge he has attributed, primarily, to the government spending too much.

He is set to present his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, in the coming weeks.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.