By Bob Katzen
STATE BUDGET – The House fired the second shot in the long battle over the state budget for fiscal year 2020 that begins on July 1. Gov. Baker fired the opening volley a few weeks ago when he filed his version. The House Ways and Means Committee last week unveiled its own $42.7 billion version. Debate on that package is scheduled to begin during the week of April 22.
The House package increases the current year’s budget by 3 percent and includes no increases to broad-based taxes. MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for low-income and disabled persons, receives an additional $343 million—the single largest increase in the budget. The budget funds MassHealth at $16.57 billion which accounts for some 38 percent of the entire budget.
The budget relies on $133 million in new revenue from marijuana sales, $294 million from gaming taxes and $42 million from online sales tax from retailers. It does not include new taxes that the governor proposed in his version of the budget. Absent from the House package is an estimated $35 million from sports betting, $6 million from a new tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products, and $14 million from a tax on opioid manufacturers.
After the House finally approves the package, the Senate will follow suit with its own draft, and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.