Senate unveils nearly $34B state budget

BOSTON (WWLP) —  

The Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee unveiled a nearly $34 billion dollar budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1st.  The plan increases spending by $1.4 billion dollars or 4.4 percent over the current fiscal year.

“Our continued recovery means that we must transition away from painful cuts of recent years and refocus on investing in programs that are essential to our children, our families, and our communities,” said Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre).

The Senate budget resembles the $34 billion dollar plan approved by the House of Representatives last month. It relies on tax increases on tobacco, gas and utility companies – And borrows $350 million dollars from the state’s rainy day fund. It’s also much smaller than the 7 percent budget increase proposed by Governor Deval Patrick.

“It rejects the governor’s $1.9 billion dollar tax package that I think would have hobbled and crippled this fledgling recovery in our state,” said Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield).

The Senate plan includes about $400 million dollars in new funding for housing, education, mental health and veteran services. It’s getting mixed reviews from budget experts.

“I think on balance, this is an honest budget that reflects the realties that we’re dealing with in Massachusetts today,” said Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer.

“But in a lot of areas it’s still investing much less then we were just 15 years ago,” said Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center President Noah Berger.  “A smart plan to begin to restore some of that revenue in a fair way so that we can make those investments would be really good for our economy in the long run.”

Under the House budget, public state universities said they’d freeze fees because of increased funding.  But the Senate plan provides less funding, so the freeze is not guaranteed.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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