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Massachusetts legislative negotiators must iron out key differences in spending bill


BOSTON — House and Senate negotiators on Beacon Hill could begin meeting soon to reconcile differences in a recently approved spending bill.

The supplemental budget was technically designed to close the books on the fiscal year that ended July 1, but contains several new initiatives. Both the House and Senate included more than $27 million to help fight the state's opioid addiction crisis.

Both chambers voted to return different amounts to the state's so-called rainy day fund, but they'll have to settle on a final amount after the House committed $75 million and the Senate voted $120 million. The reserve fund currently has a balance of about $1.1 billion, but had been as high as $2.3 billion before the recession.

"This fund has been our biggest insurance policy against downturns in the past. With the recession behind us, it's time to replenish the fund to guarantee it's there to protect us when we need it most," said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst.

The Senate's $341 million budget includes a proposal by Gov. Charlie Baker's administration to move women who are at Framingham State Prison on a civil commitment for alcohol or drug abuse to a new facility at Taunton State Hospital.

It would also fund a pilot program for equipping local police officers with body cameras.

Among other items subject to negotiation between the two branches is a House appropriation of nearly $11 million to fund retroactive union contract increases at the University of Massachusetts.

The two chambers also disagreed in the bill about when the 2016 Massachusetts state primary should be scheduled. The Senate set Tuesday, Sept. 6, while the House opted for Thursday, Sept. 8.

Three members of the House and three members of the Senate are expected to be chosen next week to negotiate a final version of the bill, which then must be approved by the House and Senate and signed by Baker.

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