Massachusetts Senate approves $40.4 billion FY18 budget

The budget now moves on to the Conference Committee for final approval

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BOSTON (WWLP) – After debating more than a thousand amendments over three days, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved a nearly $40.4 billion budget for fiscal 2018 Thursday.

They added more than $50 million in spending to next year’s budget, despite revenues for this year coming in $460 million below expectations.

Western Massachusetts state senators filed several amendments to allocate more funding to education, transportation and health care.

“The lack of primary care physicians is really something that is challenging for many regions.” said State Senator Jim Welch, (D) West Springfield. “It’s not so much a challenge in the Boston area, but it is a challenge out where we are in Springfield.”

Lawmakers approved an amendment to allocate $1 million for a physician training program between Bay State Medical Center and UMass Medical.

Western Massachusetts lawmakers told 22News they hope to bring more economic development to the region, at a time when unemployment is on the rise.

“We know we’re losing population, we’re losing business in western Mass., we’re not keeping up with all the growth we’re seeing in Boston,” said State Senator Eric Lesser, (D) Longmeadow.

They’re pushing to get a high speed rail connecting Springfield to Boston, a link lawmakers said could help employ more western Massachusetts residents. Senators unanimously approved to study the rail’s feasibility, a plan Governor Charlie Baker vetoed from this year’s budget.

The budget now moves onto a six-member Conference Committee where the House and Senate must compromise on a final proposal.