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House budget: $50K for No. Quabbin tourism

The Massachusetts House has passed a $36.3 billion state budget for the year beginning July 1 that would raise overall state spending by about 5 percent without new taxes and offers additional resources for the state’s embattled child welfare agency.

It also provides about $25 million more in municipal aid and more than $100 million in Chapter 70 education aid to public education than is called for in Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget proposal announced early this year, according to Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington.

The House budget, which received final approval around midnight Wednesday after three days of debate, also would provide an additional $2 million in regional school transportation over the current year — an increase of about 4 percent, said Kulik, who is vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee that drafted the framework for the budget. The governor’s version had called for a cut of about $500,000, he said.

The Senate is expected to debate its own version of the spending plan later this month, and the differences will then be reconciled by a panel made up of members of both chambers.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said in a statement early Thursday that the budget was balanced and invested in key areas such as education and state aid to cities and towns.

The budget includes $100,000, under an amendment by Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, to continue funding the regional Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force, as well as funding for the Department of Children and Families, an anti-gang grant program, and global warming preparedness.

Over three days of debate, the House considered 1,175 amendments and added roughly $144 million to the original Ways and Means proposal bill that hit the House floor Monday with a $36.2 billion bottom line.

The House budget lopped off taxes on candy and soda as well as an expansion of the state’s bottle deposit law that Patrick had included in his proposal. The version that cleared the House also included a two-month tax amnesty program, legalized direct sales of wine and gave vineyards the right to offer customers samples of their wine.

Amendments filed by Rep. Denise Andrews, D-Orange, were backed by the full House, to provide $50,000 to continue a North Quabbin tourism component coordinated between the North Quabbin and Franklin County chambers of commerce as well as $50,000 to continue studying the reuse of the LP Athol factory building and renewal of village centers in Orange and Athol.

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