By Bob Katzen
The House 143-14, approved and sent to the Senate an estimated $46 billion fiscal 2021 state budget that uses $1.5 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help cover expenses. The House added an estimated $27 million to the price tag of the original version of the budget drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee. Debate was on Tuesday and Thursday instead of the usual 4- or 5-day period it has taken in the past.
The package also includes a controversial amendment that would allow abortions after 24 weeks in the case of lethal fetal anomalies and lower the age from 18 to 16 that a minor can choose to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says the budget is approximately $285 million larger than the governor’s revised budget and 5.7 percent greater than the final fiscal 2020 budget.
Supporters said the package was a reasonable and fiscally responsible one that funds necessary programs without raising taxes.
“Amid this unprecedented global pandemic, the House took action to pass a budget that helps to protect those most vulnerable among us as a result of the widespread effects of COVID-19 with significant investments in housing, substance addiction programs, food security and economic development,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am proud that this budget also furthers the House’s ongoing efforts to help survivors of domestic and sexual assault, safeguard women’s reproductive rights, protect the environment and support high-quality early education and care.”
Chief House budget writer and House Ways and Means Committee Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) did not respond to repeated attempts by Beacon Hill Roll Call asking him to comment on passage of the budget.
Rep. Joseph McKenna (R-Webster) told Beacon Hill Roll Call that he voted against the budget because DeLeo allowed the non-budget policy abortion amendment to be considered despite DeLeo’s recent warning to House members that the budget was no place for outside amendments this year. “After the speaker’s pledge that no policy items would be considered in the budget, I was tremendously disappointed that the Legislature instead took up a tremendously controversial expansion of abortion policy during a lame-duck session,” McKenna told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “I could not support a budget that included these measures.”
“Black and Hispanic communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic with lack of adequate healthcare and loss of lives and employment,” said Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston). “This budget does not show that the Legislature is serious about staving off our pain. The lack of Blacks and Hispanics in the leadership team, and us not being in the room where decisions are being made is apparent.”
“Speaker DeLeo and Rep. Michlewitz chose to again ignore the needs of my constituents by not providing funding for my district,” continued Holmes. “They chose instead to continue to fund the earmarks of their districts and those members who are in the ‘good ole boy/girl’ network. I take it very seriously that my constituents send me to the Statehouse to vote on their behalf. Each vote is earned and not given. This budget did not earn their vote.
(A “Yes” vote is for the budget. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes