Baker may gauge budget hole’s depth with December revenue

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BOSTON – With Gov. Charlie Baker considering where and how deep to cut spending from the current fiscal 2016 budget, December tax collections could help crystallize some the decisions the governor is expected to finalize “shortly.”

The Department of Revenue is expected to release a revenue report for the month of December on Wednesday, figures that Baker said Monday he and Legislative leaders were waiting on before moving forward with mid-year budget corrections. This is the second year in a row Baker has had to tinker with the state budget while also preparing his own budget proposal for next year, but so far has resisted placing any blame on lawmakers who overrode tens of millions of dollars in spending vetoes.

When November revenues came in $55 million short of targets, officials explained that $20 million to $30 million of withholding collections were deferred to December due to the timing of a new tax collection system roll-out

The Legislature also formally returns to action on Wednesday after its winter recess, and will officially inform the governor that they are back and open for business, even if the Senate doesn’t have a formal session scheduled until Jan. 21.

The House, however, will be back in action and is expected to vote on a bill (S 2021) to repeal a law mandating the automatic driver’s license suspension for individuals convicted of certain drug crimes. The Senate has already passed the bill, which has been pushed by Attorney General Maura Healey and others, and Baker has said he supports the concept.

Other action on Beacon Hill includes the Governor’s Council interviewing attorney Melanie Gargas for a position as associate justice to the Probate and Family Court, and a Transportation Committee hearing on Rep. William Straus proposal (H 3877) to finance transportation projects like the Green Line Extension with local real estate value growth.

Written by Matt Murphy