Massachusetts lawmakers face deadline on surplus budget deal

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is urging Massachusetts lawmakers to quickly come up with a spending plan for $1 billion in surplus tax revenue.

State Comptroller Andrew Maylor had threatened to transfer the entire $1 billion into the state's rainy day fund if Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate failed to draft a deal by Wednesday afternoon.

Maylor pulled back from that threat after he said he was assured by top budget writers in both chambers that substantial progress had been made on a final compromise.

But he said he was prepared to move ahead with the threat Thursday morning if he didn't see clear progress towards final enactment.

Baker said he's willing to offer any help to finalize a spending plan which he said is needed to deliver funds for public transportation, school safety initiatives and clean drinking water programs.

Passing such spending bills is usually a routine matter on Beacon Hill. Legislative leaders had hoped to button down the bill before Thanksgiving but failed.

Baker told reporters Wednesday afternoon that $1 billion is enough to pay for critical initiatives — including $50 million he's seeking for the metropolitan Boston public transportation system — with enough left over to help bulk up the rainy day fund, formally known as the stabilization fund.

“Even if you funded a lot of this stuff around clean water, around education, around school safety, around Chapter 90 for roads and bridges — if you funded all of that stuff, you'd still be making a very significant contribution to the stabilization fund," the Republican governor said. “We'd end up with the biggest stabilization fund we've ever had.""

Debate over the supplemental spending plan is already beginning to bump up against planning for the state budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.