BOSTON, MA. APRIL 27, 2021: The Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts.

By STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE (Boston Herald)

 

PUBLISHED: July 9, 2021 at 9:04 p.m. | UPDATED: July 9, 2021 at 9:04 p.m.

 

More than a week into the fiscal year, the House and Senate agreed in bipartisan fashion to a $48.1 billion annual state budget and shipped the proposal to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

Both branches voted unanimously to approve the revised spending plan, which calls for permanently enshrining the state’s controversial film tax credit program, continuing to delay implementation of a charitable giving tax deduction, and setting aside $350 million to buttress a multi-year education funding reform law.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who co-chaired the conference committee that resolved differences between the House and Senate budget proposals, said the vote will “mark a capstone to a volatile 16-month odyssey we have seen since the pandemic first struck the commonwealth.”

At this time last year, budget writers were fretting a potential tax revenue implosion and wondering if state reserves would be enough to hold public services together. But taxpayers have delivered robust collections for the state, enabling significant spending increases and allowing historic deposits into the rainy day fund.

Rep. Todd Smola of Warren, one of two Republicans involved in the budget talks, praised the final accord as a “culmination of those good working relationships that we have with one another across the aisle.”

All 160 representatives and 40 senators voted to accept the conference committee budget.

The budget funds one-sixth of that $1.5 billion school funding reform law, approved in 2019, after the pandemic disrupted its original seven-year implementation timeline.

Legislative negotiators found compromise on the multiple policy areas that separated the House and Senate budget bills, including the future of a program offering tax credits to film and television productions in Massachusetts.

In their compromise, the Legislature agreed to make the credit permanent while imposing one of the Senate-backed changes. Production companies would now be required to conduct at least 75% of their principal photography days or spend at least 75% of their budget in Massachusetts, up from 50% currently.

The final budget does not include Senate-authorized language allowing the purchase of Massachusetts Lottery products with debit cards, which that branch and Baker have both unsuccessfully sought in previous spending bills.

Negotiators also dropped another section from the Senate budget that would have increased the per-ride fees imposed on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The bill does not propose any broad-based tax increases.

Lawmakers opted again to postpone the implementation of a tax deduction designed to increase donations to charities and non-profit organizations, a move that officials in the spring said would free up $64 million to spend. The charitable deduction, approved by voters statewide in 2000 but then held up by a series of delays, now will not begin until at least 2023. The budget bill does not explicitly set a new start date, and simply says the program “shall not be allowed for the taxable year beginning Jan. 1, 2022.”

 

Article on the Boston Herald Website here