The Massachusetts House of Representatives plans to boost Gov. Charlie Baker's education spending plan by $56 million.
But when all the budgetary back and forth is over, the House plans to deliver its version of the fiscal 2017 budget to the State Senate for its consideration at the same $39.5 billion price tag proposed by Baker.
The House finalized its version of how the state should spend roughly $40 billion of your tax dollars Wednesday afternoon, capping off two and a half days of debate that clarified the spending priorities for the 160-member body and the moderate Democrats who control it.
House members added tens of millions of dollars to their initial budget proposal, ending up with a final bottom line of $39.5 billion. Most changes were minor spending adjustment for programs and department and many smaller sums were up for grabs as earmarks for projects in lawmakers' districts.
The House showed where it most differs from the spending plan preferred by Baker by adding $56 million to education aid for local school districts.
House members also showed its spending muscle and bucked Baker's plan by boosting funds for child welfare services and for various opiate and drug abuse treatments.
DeLeo told his members that with this budget, House members have made "sure it contains fiscal prudence while at the same time making sure that the most needy amongst us are cared for."
"I think the Massachusetts House, as compared to Houses throughout this country, or actually in Washington as well, always distinguishes itself by always having our budget done on time and in balance," DeLeo said in valedictory remarks to his members just before the final vote to approve the plan.
Like recent years, there wasn't much actual debate in public since the bill came to the floor Monday. The negotiations happen in secret meetings with House leaders out of view from the public, in a lounge area just off the House chamber.
Republicans challenged a few items and attempted to limit others but were mostly silenced.
The House adopted an amendment from Rep. Brad Jones, the Minority Leader, moving state-issued driver's licenses towards compliance with federal requirements. Immigration advocates and some Democrats have voiced concern that Baker's own proposed legislation to comply with Real ID could result in some lawful residents not being able to acquire licenses because of the bill's adherence to certain federal definitions. The Jones amendment adopted into the budget bill addresses those concerns, according to his spokesman.
The Senate will take up their own version of the budget next month. The Senate, under President Stan Rosenberg, is quickly gaining a reputation as the more left-leaning of the two branches and that body's spending priorities may differ from the House as well as from Baker's plan. Senate Ways and Means chair Karen Spilka has the same roughly $40 billion to spend, but the Senate's version could end up pleasing progressives more than what we've seen so far.
Even if the Senate bucks the trend set by Baker and the House's moderate FY2017 plans, they'll still have to reconcile with the House before delivering a final legislative budget proposal for Baker's approval.
The governor will have the opportunity to veto items from the Legislature's agreed-upon plan, which of course the Democrat-dominated Legislature could then muster the votes to override and force into law.