Democrats in the House of Representatives handed Gov. Charlie Baker a defeat Tuesday, as they used their supermajority to assert their own fiscal priorities and reject his plan to split up spending authority for more than $5 billion in federal funds between the executive and the legislative branches.
The House voted 130-30 to override Baker's proposed amendment to a bill putting nearly all of the state's share of the American Rescue Plan Act funds under Legislative control. The Senate will likely follow suit Thursday
Lawmakers are insisting that the House and Senate — and the lengthy process that goes along with their proceedings — control the state's $5.3 billion share of the ARPA funds.
"Massachusetts has an existing legislative process that includes the public, both legislative branches, and the executive branch, which has effectively allowed us to pass nation-leading bills regarding climate change, reproductive justice, and police reform. We look forward to embarking on a similar process as we appropriate American Rescue Plan funds," Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano wrote in a statement released after the House vote.
Dorchester Rep. Dan Hunt said the House would "give the governor some latitude, around $200 million that could be spent in the parameters of the ARPA funding and a lot of latitude in things that need immediate need."
Baker had his own plans for the funds, but after lawmakers were dissatisfied with how he spent previous rounds of federal relief, the Democratic supermajority stepped in and stripped the governor of his spending power over the latest round of ARAP funds.
The move could further delay the implementation of the governor's housing construction agenda, which he was going to jumpstart with the ARAP funds.
Hunt said on the floor of the House that lawmakers will still consult Baker on spending priorities as part of their planned hearings set for later this summer.
"We're going to look to him as we again have our hearings after the Fourth of July on various subject matters and get around the Commonwealth," Hunt said.
In the Legislative leaders' statement, the state's two top Democrats wrote that the goal of the hearings for the ARPA money will be "crafting spending plans directly informed by feedback from constituents and stakeholders, including those representing the areas identified by the Governor in his proposal."