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Stopgap Budget Filing Takes Some Heat Off Massachusetts Lawmakers Ahead Of Deadline

A new Massachusetts budget is due by Thursday, but if history is any guide, state lawmakers aren't stressing the deadline.

The Legislature is still working on the budget for the new fiscal year to prevent a state government shutdown. In the meantime, Governor Charlie Baker has filed an interim budget.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about whether there's any rush to get a full-year spending plan approved.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Typically, no. And it doesn't appear that that would be any difference this year. There's usually not much resistance in the legislature to doing these temporary interim budgets while negotiations continue. We've never seen the kind of showdowns over extensions like you see in Washington.

House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz was indicating last week to us that it is probable that negotiations will spill past the Thursday deadline of the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

And, as you mentioned, Governor Baker has filed a more than $5 billion interim budget that would keep government funded and operating through the month of July. He's asked for that to be passed by Tuesday so the state can meet its financial obligations. And we would probably expect to see action on that relatively early this week.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Speaking of Thursday, this Thursday is also the day that the final part of the state's paid family and medical leave law kicks in. This program began collecting payroll taxes back in 2019, and the first part of the benefit began at the beginning of the year. Can you remind us again what this is all about?

Yes, this is the paid family medical leave program that was part of a big package of employment reforms passed several years ago. And this is the final piece of the law going into effect on Thursday.

Once the state started collecting this 7.75% payroll tax to build up the fund, many of the benefits kicked in at the start of the year. This was, taking time off to bond with a new child, taking time off because you had your own medical issues to take care of, or you were caring for a covered military member.

The final piece that takes effect makes eligible workers for up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paid time off to care for an ill or injured family member. So, again, this is the final piece of that big paid family medical leave law that was passed several years ago. And now that it's fully implemented, all of the benefits will be available to Massachusetts residents.

Thursday is also the day when the state opens its registration to coronavirus-vaccinated residents for the VaxMillions lottery. Matt, this lottery is happening as mass vaccination sites are winding down operations, even as some areas — including out here in parts of Hampden County — lag well behind state metrics. Does the governor think this is the key?

Well, it's part of the solution. The governor has talked — as these mass vaccination sites have closed, a couple more over the weekend actually shutting down — that the state is entering a much more targeted phase, trying to reach the communities directly that still have lower vaccination rates.

So the lottery, as we've seen used in other states, is one part of it. And you can start to sign up if you're fully vaxed. They're going to be holding drawings starting Monday, July 26, and every week through August 23, giving away five $1 million prizes, and five additional $300,000 scholarships for vaccinated residents who are between the ages of 12 and 17.

But there are other efforts underway as well. You saw the state announce a Vax Bus that's going to be a mobile vaccination clinic. It's touring around the state, going to 23 different cities, including places in Hampden County where they have lower vaccination rates. It will be stopping in Springfield and cities like that to try and make it easier for people to make that decision to get the shot, because it's right there. It's easy. It's accessible.

So I think we're going to see more of these efforts and initiatives to both make it easy to get vaccinated, and to entice people to want to get vaccinated.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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