Baker signs $ 45.9 billion state budget, returns abortion plan
Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed a state budget of $ 45.9 billion that will not raise taxes on a large scale and reflects a more optimistic view of state finances than initially feared pandemic, but the governor fired with amendments a key section of the legislation that would expand access to abortion.
Baker, a pro-choice Republican, said he supported many protections against abortion prioritized by democratic leaders after Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett confirmed, but said he could not support lowering the age of consent to 16.
And while he said he would support making abortions available to women after 24 weeks in cases where a doctor has diagnosed a fatal fetal abnormality, he proposed an amendment to tighten up the language on when a abortion can be performed to protect the mental health of the mother.
“Governor Baker is a strong supporter of women’s access to reproductive health care and is proud to have signed several provisions protecting these rights previously. That is why he supports many important provisions in this budget section that will further protect women’s reproductive rights, “said spokesperson Lizzy Guyton.
The budget, which is over five months behind schedule, relies heavily on one-time revenues to balance 4.5% spending growth, including more than $ 2.76 billion in COVID-19 federal funds and a levy of up to $ 1.7 billion from the state “rainy day”.
But the administration also plans to improve its revenue forecast for the year to $ 459 million as some sources of tax revenue, like sales tax, continue to perform well.
The Executive Office of Administration and Finance said the combination of high revenues and a veto on the budget makes it likely that the state will only need to use about $ 1.35 billion this fiscal year. on its $ 3.5 billion in reserves.
The budget level funds local assistance to towns and villages and includes a $ 108 million Chapter 70 increase for schools, increases support for drug treatment, and increases spending on rent assistance and support programs. Food Safety.
The budget is still based on $ 1.2 billion less tax revenue than the state collected in FY2020 and $ 3.1 billion less than the original FY2021 budget that Baker tabled in January before the start of the pandemic, according to the administration.
Although the governor often vetoed legislative allocations, budget officials said Baker had approved $ 80 million in allocations that he saw as one-time needs led by local lawmakers to deal with the impacts of COVID- 19, but the governor vetoed $ 156 million in other spending, including $ 103 million that he saw as an expansion of benefit programs or service provider rates that would be carried over from year to year. in year.
The remaining $ 53 million Baker vetoed was kindergarten to grade 12 education funding backed by the Legislature to help schools struggling to educate students during the pandemic. Instead, Baker tabled the $ 53 million in a supplementary budget bill that would allow his administration to distribute the money for targeted programs, rather than distributing it through a formula.
The supplementary estimates he tabled on Friday also included $ 49.4 million in small business grants and $ 5 million to help set up a new Commission on Standards and Training for Peace Officers, which was part of the police liability legislation he sent back to the legislature on Thursday with amendments.
Baker’s proposed small business grant money represents about half of the business stimulus package Baker requested in his budget, but was not included by the Legislature.
In total, the governor signed 96 of the 113 foreign policy sections adopted by the legislature, including one authorizing the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to require anyone who has obtained a rigorous license after being caught driving with a rate blood alcohol level of 0.15 or more uses an ignition. locking device.
Baker also approved allowing marijuana dispensaries to sell hemp and hemp products grown and made in Massachusetts, and he said yes to the repeal of the ban on crabbing in coastal waters. January 1 to April 30, which the administration says is not necessary to manage the crab population. .
The governor proposed an amendment to the budget section that would allow postal voting until March 31, 2021 in any state or municipal election. While he approved of what the legislature sent him, he suggested adding to it by allowing municipalities to offer early voting in person if they so choose.
The governor also fired a section of the budget related to MBTA service cuts with amendments.