One of the most important items our State lawmakers take on every year is the Commonwealth’s budget. The Massachusetts Fiscal Year runs from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. However, the process for developing and finalizing our State budget spans from January through June. While the budget is subject to inevitable uncertainties, there is a set process in which this bill moves before it is enacted by the Governor. Here’s what happens:
The Governor is required to release his proposed budget by the fourth Wednesday in January. On January 24, Governor Baker put forward a proposed $40.9 billion budget, making recommendations on items touching every corner of the Commonwealth, including carefully watched items such as MassHealth, education, college grants and marijuana revenues (MassLive).
Several months after the Governor makes his budget recommendations, the House of Representatives takes on the process. First, the House Ways & Means Committee releases its draft budget, as it did on April 11. All members of the body can then file amendments (this year there were 1,400 amendments filed) that either add or change existing line items or General Laws. This week, all Representatives will meet in formal session to debate and vote on the budget and proposed amendments before passing their final version.
Comparing both the Governor’s budget and the House of Representative’s budget, the Senate engages in a similar process. The Senate Ways & Means Committee releases a recommended budget, followed by amendment filing and debate, and passage of a final Senate budget. This generally occurs in May.
Once both the House and Senate have passed their budgets, members of each body meet in a conference committee. The conference committee negotiates a compromise bill, which is then presented to both the House and Senate for a final vote, generally before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Once both the House and Senate have approved the final budget, it is presented to Governor Baker for his signature. The Governor has 10 days to act on the bill, and, unlike the President, has the ability to veto individual line-items or send sections back with proposed changes. The House and Senate then decide whether to override or accept the Governor’s vetoes.
We’ll be carefully watching to see what our legislators implement in the coming months as this is a significant forecast of the year to come. Stay tuned!
Last year we wrote a brief on understanding the budget jargon- read it here!