Massachusetts House Leaders Unveil $50B State Budget Plan

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House released a nearly $50 billion state budget proposal Wednesday that would increase spending on areas like schools and local aid while sidestepping a series of tax breaks pushed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

The budget would expand state support for early education and child care programs, provide free school lunches for another year and strengthen workforce training and youth engagement programs. The plan is for the 2023 fiscal year that begins July 1.

It would also require that jails and prisons make phone calls free for prisoners and their families.

The proposal does not include any broad-based tax increases or fee hikes.

The $49.6 billion budget plan would boost spending by more than $2 billion — or 4.2% — over the current year’s budget. That’s 2.9% — or nearly $1.4 billion — more than Baker’s budget proposal unveiled in January.

Not included in the House plan is a package of more than $690 million in proposed tax cuts suggested by Baker.

One would eliminate income taxes for the state’s lowest-paid 230,000 taxpayers by raising the state’s adjusted gross income thresholds for “no tax status” to $12,400 for single filers, $24,800 for joint filers, and $18,650 for heads of households.

Another would give renters a bigger tax break on their monthly payments.

The state rent deduction is currently 50% of rent but capped at $3,000 a year. Baker’s plan would increase that cap to $5,000, letting more than 880,000 Massachusetts renters keep approximately $77 million more annually.

Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano didn’t rule out revisiting Baker's proposed tax breaks before the end of the Legislature's formal session on July 31, but said House lawmakers didn’t feel they were necessary now.

Baker said the state can afford the tax cuts given its strong fiscal position.

The House is expected to debate and vote on their budget proposal later in the month.

Last up in the annual budget-writing process is the Senate, also controlled by Democrats.

Once the House and Senate approve their separate versions of the spending plan, a special committee of House and Senate members will come up with a compromise version that will head back to both chambers for a final vote.

That final version then heads to Baker's desk for his signature. Baker can issue vetoes, but Democrats have large enough majorities in both chambers to override any vetoes if they want.

The goal is to have the new budget wrapped up before by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.