By Bob Katzen
The House 147-10, Senate 40-0, approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a compromise version of a $46.2 billion fiscal 2021 state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2020. The state has been operating on temporary budgets approved by the Legislature. The package includes using $1.7 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund which is $350 million more than Gov. Baker had recommended. That withdrawal leaves the fund with about $1.8 billion.
The budget is $700 million more than the one proposed by Baker who has 10 days to use his veto power to override items in the budget.
Other provisions include allowing abortions after 24 weeks in the case of lethal fetal anomalies and lowering the age from 18 to 16 at which a minor can choose to have an abortion without parental or judicial consent; extending for two years a current law allowing patients to redeem prescription drug discount coupons at pharmacies to reduce copays; requiring that ignition interlock devices be installed in the vehicles of first-time drunk driving offenders. Current law only requires the devices for second and subsequent offenses. The device is connected to the ignition of a vehicle and prevents the vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol when an individual blows into the device.
Supporters said the package was a reasonable and fiscally responsible one that funds necessary programs.
“Many said that this was a time to be more conservative in our budgeting, but if anything, it was a time for the commonwealth to be a true commonwealth and take care of its people,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am proud of the budget we passed today, which helps us build an equitable recovery by investing in key areas to assist our most vulnerable residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also thrilled that Massachusetts will be taking vital steps to protect reproductive rights and address systemic racism by reinvesting in our communities.”
Opponents voted against the budget for a variety of reasons including opposition to the abortion provision and the fact that they were given only a few hours to review a 396-page budget before voting on it.