Baker Targets Tardy State Budget

July 13, 2018

LOWELL -- Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday -- 12 days after the fiscal year started -- expressed urgency to get the budget passed, stressing he hopes the Legislature can agree on a package by the end of the week.

Massachusetts remains the only state in the country without a budget in place for Fiscal Year 2019, which started on July 1.

“Every day the budget drags by, it gets harder and harder to imagine the Legislature will be able to get all the stuff they had on their plate done by the end of the month,” Baker said in Lowell on Thursday, moments after the ribbon-cutting of UMass Lowell’s Fabric Discovery Center.

“I really hope the work being done this week will translate into getting us something by the end of the week,” he added.

The lack of a finalized budget creates instability for those who depend on state programs, Baker said.

When asked what was the major holdup for the budget, he responded, “I don’t know what the major holdup is, and most people don’t. It’s pretty clear there are some pretty tough issues between the branches.”

He pointed out that revenue was strong in the fourth quarter, adding the state is not facing a revenue issue this cycle.

“It was my hope that would have made it easier to get this thing over the goal line, but clearly there are some big differences between the House and Senate,” Baker said.

The budget remains in front of a conference committee.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka said Thursday afternoon that negotiators are getting “closer by the hour” to striking a deal, and that policy differences be-tween the branches are no longer standing in the way.

Spilka, who is poised to become the next Senate president in two weeks, is the Senate’s lead negotiator over a budget that is expected to include more than $41.5 billion in spending.

“We are working around the clock. We are working really hard. We’ve been meeting now with House Ways and Means and I believe and I am very hopeful that we will be able to resolve the issues on the budget very soon,” Spilka told State House News Service.

“We are getting closer and closer, I think, by the hour, yeah. So I’m optimistic,” Spilka said.

This week started with House Speaker Robert DeLeo floating the idea of separating policy proposals from the line-item spending in the budget in order to strike a budget deal. That fueled speculation that a controversial Senate budget amendment concerning local police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be the issue standing between lawmakers and a budget deal.

Spilka declined to say whether immigration had been a roadblock or if the Senate and House had reached an agreement over the issue, but did say, “There’s not any specific policy that’s holding this up. That’s as much as I can say.”

Despite the budget being late, government in Massachusetts has not yet been at risk of a shutdown due to a $5 billion interim budget enacted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker that includes enough funding to keep operations running through July.

Information from the State House News Service was used in this report.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun