More than two weeks into the 2018 fiscal year, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $39.4 billion budget while vetoing $320 million from the version lawmakers passed.
Baker, a Republican, signed the spending plan Monday night. He took the full 10 days state law allows. Lawmakers had sent him the budget on July 7.
Lawmakers can vote to override part or all of the $320 million vetoed by the governor. Baker is asking the Democratic-controlled legislature to meet within 30 days and to make a final decision within 60 days.
Baker’s latest version of the budget does not raise taxes for individuals and includes $1.06 billion for local aid.
The biggest delay in the budget this year was how to handle shortfalls caused by less than expected tax revenues for fiscal 2017. The latest revenue projection for fiscal 2018 cut tax revenue by $749 million.
One of Baker’s big obstacles was handling an overhaul to MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, which drew criticism from lawmakers and businesses. The new plan prevents non-disabled adults with affordable health insurance from taking advantage of MassHealth.
Baker says this change can save the state more than $76 million this year. The governor, however, did veto $222 million to the MassHealth program as well as $3 million for Baystate Health.
Some lawmakers were unhappy with the governor’s cuts. Senate Means and Ways Committee Chairwoman Karen Spilka said state lawmakers sent the governor a “balanced, fiscally responsible budget” that already featured “hundreds of millions in painful cuts.”
Spilka, D-Ashland, also said “the administration has not shared with us any information that justifies cutting further.”
The budget includes a $98.4 million increase to the stabilization fund, bringing reserves up to $1.4 billion. Chapter 70 funding for public schools statewide is $4.7 billion.
When the legislature meets again, Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez will chair the House Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Robert DeLeo announced. Predecessor Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, left the legislature last week to become senior vice president and chief operating officer at lobbying firm ML Strategies.
Former Gov. Bill Weld is a principal at ML Strategies. Stephen Tocco, the firm’s chairman and chief executive, is a former chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees and the former executive director and CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
Sanchez, D-Jamaica Plain, is in his eighth term and previously chaired the committees on Public Health and Health Care Financing.
The Ways and Means Committee writes the House version of the annual state budget and reviews many other bills before they are sent to the floor for debate.