Senate Republicans Came Prepared!

Just in time for the holiday weekend, the Senate finished their budget deliberations, adding $82.2 million in spending which pushed their total budget number to $55.9 billion.

For comparisons sake, the House finished their budget totaling $56.2 billion. The lack of agreement in the bottom line is the tip of the iceberg as far as what the future conference committee will need to hash out by the July 1st deadline. Last year’s budget was filed on July 18th, almost three weeks late, and made Massachusetts the last state in the nation to put a budget in place for fiscal 2023!

Unlike the House’s budget, the Senate's approved budget doesn’t include funding for permanent free school meals or online Lottery games. However, it does include some things not found in the House’s version, such as free in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and funding to study “congestion pricing,” meaning fees on our roadways depending on the hour you drive, among other things.

Unlike in the House, some of these Senate provisions were countered with Republican sponsored amendments, such as one from Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) that would strike the section providing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Although the effort failed on a party line vote, an open debate was forced on the issue, and Senate Republicans demanded a roll call vote. A copy of the roll call vote may be found by clicking here.

Other Republican led efforts were one by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) that looked to put aside in reserve $600 million in anticipation for a tax relief package. The House passed their own tax relief package earlier this year and the Senate has yet to make public their version despite promises that it’s on its way. While they claimed they put aside $575 million in this budget for that purpose, Senator Tarr found that there was actually nothing in the legislation that guaranteed any money at all would be set aside for this purpose. He proposed an amendment to do this, but it failed with the three Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor. A copy of the roll call vote may be found by clicking here.

Another Republican amendment attempted to ensure that revenue generated from the new income tax surtax would be counted toward the Chapter 62F tax relief calculations, which was triggered for the first time in over 30 years this past fall and delivered income tax rebates to all taxpayers based on how much they paid in. As in the House’s budget, the Senate included an exemption of these new tax dollars from counting toward the voter approved tax rebate law. That amendment failed with two Democrats joining the three Republicans in their efforts to uphold the will of the voters. A copy of the roll call vote may be found by clicking here. It’s worth noting, the Senate budget did not include the House changes to 62F that changes the rebate plan into a wealth redistribution scheme with harder to achieve metrics for the rebate to kick in.

Senate Republicans are outnumbered 3 to 37, but they came prepared and advocated for their amendments during the Senate Budget debate. The three of them gave speeches and Senate Minority Leader Tarr included memorable charts and props to drive home his points. Among the amendments and speeches on tax relief and competitiveness were also concerns of increased spending and the looming issue of costs related to illegal immigrants and refugees.

The next step for the budget will be the conference committee where we will see which policies survive. Until then, we hope you have peaceful and reflective Memorial Day. May we never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

As always, we’ll keep you updated on what happens to the state budget, and any potential changes to 62F.

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