Senate passes $39 billion state spending plan

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate wrapped up three days of fiscal 2017 budget deliberations around 11 p.m. Thursday, voting unanimously to pass an annual spending bill after adding a total of $61.3 million on the floor. The measure calls for spending $50 million more than the plan passed earlier by the state House of Representatives.

“Thanks to all your advocacy this week we made additional investments in our shared priorities for an even stronger budget,” Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka said ahead of the vote. According to her office, the new bottom line on the bill is $39.558 billion.

The House passed its version of the budget unanimously on April 27 with a $39.508 billion bottom line, according to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The bill that cleared the Senate 38 to 0 includes myriad policy positions, banning plastic bags from major retailers, empowering dental practitioners and easing veterans’ access to medical marijuana.

“It does have a fair amount of fiscal discipline,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, a Republican from Gloucester, told the News Service after the vote. Asked what the number of policy riders would mean when the Senate reconciles its budget with the House version, Tarr said, “Senators have always looked to the budget to look to advance things that might not have made it through the committee process. I know the House takes a different view and tries to minimize outside sections. I don’t disrespect them for that. I don’t criticize them for that.”

Written by Andy Metzger