An $80 million spending bill was recently approved by the Massachusetts State Senate to end the 2014 fiscal year. The bill will allow select state agencies to spend money from the 2014 fiscal year in the 2015 fiscal year. Five million dollars was also included to reimburse cities for expenditures from extreme weather conditions.
While several riders ended up attached to the bill, a rider to authorize the sale of the state transportation building in Boston was stripped. This rider originated in the House and would have allowed the Massachusetts Department of Transportation building on Tremont Street to be sold to the highest bidder. The Senate was wary about moving forward with the sale. After the Senate passed the spending bill, Democrat Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said, “We will have an ongoing discussion about that. I am not going to prejudge where anything ends up.”
A myriad of other items were also included in the bill. There was a section on a commission to address sex offenders, a section on prescriptions written by nurse practitioners or physicians assistants, a section regarding Taunton State Hospital, the crafting of a new unemployment table, a section on the Cambridge Public Health Commission, and sections on home energy assistance to low-income families.
There was also a specific section that earmarked two million dollars to cover the restoration costs of the Mayflower II. A section could also be found that allowed the building of a three million dollar public safety building in Senator Brewer’s hometown.
The bill seems to effectively dispense with the budget surplus, estimated to be at twenty-five million dollars, amassed by the Patrick Administration as a result of tax collections that greatly exceeded revenue estimates made for the 2014 fiscal year.
The Senate and the House orchestrated no debate or public explanation of the bill. Senator Brewer stated he is optimistic to have the final bill on Gov. Patrick’s desk quickly.