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Massachusetts House, Senate leaders: Final budget deal near

Associated Press
Published: 7/16/2018 11:25:05 PM

BOSTON — Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate said Monday that they’re hopeful a budget deal is near.

House and Senate negotiators have been holding closed-door talks on the $41 billion spending plan that was supposed to be in place by July 1.

No deal has been reached and Massachusetts remains the only state without a permanent budget in place.

Senate President Harriette Chandler said both sides are working hard.

“We want to get it done as quickly as we possibly can,” Chandler said. “We hope to have good news for you shortly.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he’s also disappointed that a final compromise plan hasn’t been reached, but that he remains hopeful.

Both leaders spoke with reporters Monday after a meeting with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

The Legislature is scheduled to end its formal sessions for the year on July 31.

DeLeo said he hopes to bring some unrelated non-budget bills to the House floor for a vote this week, including a compromise bill meant to regulate and tax short-term rentals such as Airbnb and another bill that would raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21.

The speaker said he also expects the House to vote on a bill that would wipe off the books a series of antiquated laws, including an abortion ban that dates to the 1800s that has remained unenforced, in part, because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

The Senate already has approved the bill.

Abortion-rights supporters fear President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the high court could weaken or overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The budget delays could end up giving Baker a stronger hand because it would give lawmakers less time to override any Baker budget vetoes before the end of the formal session.

Baker said a state budget is rarely written in stone and can be modified during the course of the year based on how well actual revenues match projected revenues.

“The budget is a document that the ink’s dry on the day you sign it and then you make adjustments based on facts as they become available,” Baker said after the meeting with Chandler and DeLeo. “I fully expect that will be the case with this one as well.”

Baker said he also was concerned that the ongoing budget debate could distract from other important bills including one meant to help address the state’s ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.

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