How far apart are Mass. lawmakers on emergency shelter funding? That's the $3 billion question
The Massachusetts House and Senate are continuing to struggle to finalize spending for fiscal year 2023 — which ended July 1.
That compromise spending bill that's befuddled lawmakers for months finally emerged on Thursday morning from a closed-door negotiation, and since then, has not gone anywhere.
Chris Lisinski with the State House News Service explains what lawmakers have been doing.
Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: We have had three straight days of Democrats in the House trying to get this bill to advance in an informal session, which is defined by not having that many lawmakers there and not being able to use a full roll call vote and failing each of those three times on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Republicans continue to say that they want this to come up in a formal session where every single lawmaker would go on the record in a roll call vote to express their support, and Republicans are using parliamentary tactics available to them to delay any action until they get what they want.
Because we're in this stretch of informal only sessions, and because Democrats haven't actually gotten enough lawmakers in the building themselves, they haven't had any option but to keep punting it to another session and another session, and now to punt it again until one day and hope that the outcome will be different.
Carrie Healy, NEPM: So, on Monday morning, what's going to happen?
Monday morning the House is going to come back in session, once again planned as another informal session. Speaker Ron Mariano has said, kind of vaguely, he thinks that there will be enough lawmakers this time around on Monday to overcome the specific tactic Republicans are using. Republicans have said they doubt the presence of a quorum, as in, there's not an actual majority, not 81 or more of the 160 representatives in the House. Therefore, no business can take place.
So, the hints from Mariano suggest that he's going to call many more Democrats in at least a few dozen to to push the numbers high enough for this to advance. But that being said, we don't know 100% that that is what's going to happen. Democrats have not really given any clear indication on what their plan is and which lever they're going to pull.
I know that you've said previously in other conversations that should a compromise budget deal get voted down during these informal sessions, that the whole process would then have to be started from scratch in January. But I'm wondering what that really means. I mean, can't lawmakers sort of expedite readings and then plow through procedure in a timely fashion, or are they really going to get set back?
No, they by all means could do that as quickly as they need to. There is a ticking clock attached where if this version of it is not done when they restart on January 3, which is considered the second annual session, it would have to be filed as a new bill. But that's a pretty low bar for lawmakers to clear when they want to. It's really more of a symbolic setback than anything else at that point.
What's at stake here? Money for funding the state's emergency shelters, collective bargaining agreements for nearly 60,000 state workers, and funds for communities hit by severe weather. What is not in this bill? What did negotiators leave out?
The biggest thing that they left out of this bill was Senate-approved language that would effectively clear the way for development of a professional soccer stadium on some industrial land in Everett. Oddly enough, the House supported that idea last session, and the Senate didn't get on board this time around. The Senate pushed for it and the House didn't get on board.
Negotiators decided just to drop the whole thing and come back to it at a future date. This idea of a stadium — we think it would be a new home for the New England Revolution, something that the Kraft Group has wanted. But for right now, Democrats can't seem to get on the same page. It's an open-ended question what's going to happen with that one next time around.
And we should note that some employees are among those affected by those collectively bargained agreements.
So, Chris, all eyes on the state House in just a couple hours. But there's more budget talks elsewhere going on this week. What's ahead for this week?
Yeah. Also on Monday, coincidentally, the big three budget chiefs — the heads of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees and the Healey administration's administration and finance secretary — are going to convene what's called a "consensus revenue hearing" for fiscal year 2025. This basically happens every year. They bring a bunch of economists into a room and hear projections on what kind of a path the state economy might take in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1.
You know, it'll be kind of an odd situation where we'll have three different fiscal years in play, three different plates spinning all at once — still trying to close the books on FY 2023; we are actually in FY 2024; and conversations will be starting Monday about FY 2025.