Massachusetts lawmakers continue to work to balance the budget

February's tax collections came in below benchmark

BOSTON (WWLP) – The Massachusetts House and Senate gave initial approval for a mid-year spending bill to pay for underfunded programs and agencies, like the Department of Public Health.

The House and Senate met formally for the first time since lawmakers gave themselves pay raises. Governor Charlie Baker requested $259-million in mid-year spending last month, but the House and Senate approved just over $140-million.

State Representative Todd Smola, (R) Palmer, told 22News, “Everybody comes to us, they’re looking for more resources. They want to build upon programs. The resources simply aren’t there, to the point that we would like to be able to fund many of these items at the fullest amount.”

February’s tax collections came in below benchmark, forcing the state’s budget committee to cut more than $100-million from the governor’s proposal.

Most of western Massachusetts was hit the hardest by last week’s snow storm, but they will not see relief from the state just yet.

Senator James Welch, (D) West Springfield, said, “There will be other opportunities to be able to reimburse and fully fund communities for snow and ice removal. We’re waiting for communities to finalize what they actually spent on their snow and ice removal and we’ll make due or back fill at that point in time.”

One of the items on the budget committee’s chopping block was $20-million to cities and towns for snow and ice removal. State lawmakers approved millions of dollars for County Sheriff Departments, State Police and the Department of Children and Families.

The bill will likely get sent to the Governor’s desk within the week.