Massachusetts lawmakers late Wednesday sent a $38.1 billion budget to Gov. Charlie Baker that includes measures designed to streamline Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority operations and calls for legislative approval of public money spent on Boston's 2024 Olympic bid.
Approval of the spending plan came one week after the beginning of fiscal 2016. Since July 1, the commonwealth had operated on a $5.5 billion contingency budget.
Baker, a first-year Republican governor working with a predominately Democratic legislature, has 10 days to review the budget, sign it or issue line-item vetoes. The plan increases spending by 3.5% over fiscal 2015 and closes a $1.8 billion budget gap without raising taxes or fees.
"We should all remember that we started with a $1.8 billion structural deficit when we began this activity back in March," Baker told reporters. "The legislature, with my gratitude, instead pursued a series of reforms and belt-tightening that we thought was a better way to go."
By state law, a concurrence panel of three members each from the House and Senate had to send the budget to the full legislature.
Budget negotiators adopted part of Baker's MBTA overhaul initiative by creating a five-member financial control board, appointed by him, to oversee the MBTA for three years.
The budget would also suspend the anti-privatization Pacheco Law for three years. Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, the primary sponsor of the 1993 legislation, implored his colleagues in vain to retain his namesake bill, which requires MBTA officials to prove that outsourcing a project would be less expensive than allowing unionized employees provide it.
A winter that dumped 109 inches of snow and paralyzed mass transit in Greater Boston prompted calls for change.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said the legislature didn't go far enough to overhaul the "T," as locals call the transit system.
"If lawmakers adopt a bill with only incremental changes, rather than providing the governor with the full complement of tools to fix the T, they will doom the MBTA's future and undermine the state's economy," it said.
Another budget provision would require public hearings and state legislative approval for any public money spent on the bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, for which Boston is the sole U.S.finalist.
A group opposing the bid had wanted an ourtright ban on any public money use.