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Massachusetts Lawmakers Agree on a Final State Budget

BOSTON (AP) — Nearly a month after it was due, Massachusetts lawmakers said Friday they’ve agreed on a final state budget.

Lawmakers are expected to vote Monday on the spending plan that was supposed to start July 1.

The heads of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees said they have reached an agreement “in principle reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions” of the budget.

“Our respective teams are actively engaged in ironing out the details and working diligently to finalize the agreement,” Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston, both Democrats, said in a statement.

The two — who did not reveal details of the final spending plan — are part of a six-member conference committee charged with hammering out a compromise version of the separate proposals.

That compromise version is then sent to each chamber for a vote and cannot be amended.

“We are confident that the Conference Committee Report will be filed in the coming days, ensuring that both the House and Senate will take up the report on Monday in formal session,” Rodrigues and Michlewitz said.

In May the Senate approved a $55.9 billion state budget proposal.

One focus of the Senate plan was higher education.

The Senate budget would let all Massachusetts students, regardless of immigration status, qualify for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities — as long as they attended a high school in the state for at least three years, and graduated or obtained a GED.

It would also create a free community college program for nursing students.

The Senate plan excludes a proposal to allow online sales of lottery tickets, unlike the House budget.

The $56.2 billion House budget proposal approved in April would also set aside extra spending for the problem-plagued Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and bulk up the state’s “rainy day” fund.

Both House and Senate spending plans would split an estimated $1 billion in anticipated revenue from the new “millionaire’s tax” — which Massachusetts voters approved last year — between education and transportation initiatives, although they differed on the details.

The vote on the House budget plan followed the release in March of Gov. Maura Healey’s $55.5 billion state budget proposal.

Once the final, compromise budget proposal is approved it will be sent to Healey, who has 10 days to review and sign the budget — and issue any vetoes.

Source : WPRI