Mass. House approves $39.5 billion budget through private deliberations

House lawmakers debated how to spend your tax dollars largely behind closed doors

BOSTON (WWLP) – After three days of deliberations, the Massachusetts House unanimously approved a $39.5 dollar budget. The budget does not include new taxes or tax increases, satisfying both Democrats and Republicans.

State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren) told 22News, “I think we have a relatively conservative budget overall in comparison to other years, so we’ve worked hard and I think it’s a good budget.”

Most of the negotiations took place away from the public eye, not on the House floor. Instead, lawmakers debated how to spend your tax dollars in a private room off limits to the public and the media.

“If you went through each amendment one by one in the chamber, we’d be there for probably ten days,” said state Representative Ben Swan (D-Springfield).

The ultra-conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance criticized the budget process.

MFA Executive Director Paul Craney said, “I think it’s the way that this building is dictated. If you look at the Speaker and the Senate President, they’re satisfied with what they’re doing right now, and virtually no one stands up and says we should do things differently.”

The western Massachusetts delegation secured millions of dollars for local projects, including $100,000 dollars to study whether to build a new Hampden County Courthouse. Lawmakers were unable to lock down a $10 million dollar request from Baystate Health, which could result in layoffs.

22News asked Westfield state Representative John Velis whether he is concerned that people may lose their jobs. He said, “We’ll wait and see what the Senate does. I mean, obviously, this is of the process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll see what happens in the Senate.”

The budget now heads to the state Senate. The legislature has until July 1 to finalize their spending plan.

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