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House, Senate expected to vote on Massachusetts budget for fiscal year that began last week


BOSTON — A new state budget could be on Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's desk by the end of Wednesday.

Massachusetts House and Senate budget negotiators reached a deal late Tuesday on a final version of the $38.1 billion state spending plan for the 2016 fiscal year, which began last week. That's a 3.5 percent increase over spending in the just completed fiscal year.

The budget includes a provision barring state spending on the 2024 Summer Olympics without public hearings and approval by the Legislature. Boston is in the running to be named host of the games.

The budget would also increase the state's earned income tax credit, boost spending on programs to combat homelessness and the state's opioid addiction problem and create a new fiscal control board sought by Baker to oversee operations and finances of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

"This budget is terrific news for families across Massachusetts," said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, who helped negotiate the final plan.

Under the budget the maximum credit allowed under the state's current earned income tax credit, aimed at helping the state's working families, will increase from $950 to $1,459. The tax credit will take effect next year.

Besides creating a five-member control board for the MBTA, the budget would increase the T's board of directors from seven to 11 members. Baker would be able to appoint all five members of the control board. The budget would also suspend the Pacheco Law, which limits the T's ability to contract out some services to private vendors, for three years.

Baker said he looked forward to reviewing the entire package. He said the bill includes a promising start to the effort to fix the MBTA, which was widely criticized last winter after a series of snowstorms shut down service.

"These measures, along with the tools outlined in our proposal to fix the MBTA, are absolutely necessary to provide the riders, taxpayers, businesses and workers of Massachusetts the world class transit system that they deserve," he said.

The budget would also:

— Increase by $20 million spending on the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to help homeless families;

— Spend $3 million for 250 new clinical stabilization beds to help people trying to transition from addiction;

— Create two new recovery high schools for young people with substance use disorders;

— Let cities and towns buy overdose-reversing drugs like Narcan through a bulk purchasing program run by the state Department of Public Health.

Both chambers are expected to take up-or-down votes on the final compromise budget on Wednesday. The budget cannot be amended at this step in the process.

The state has been operating since July 1 on a $5.5 billion stopgap budget.

Once the budget is approved, it is sent along to Baker, who has 10 days to review it and issue any vetoes to line items before signing the budget into law.

Lawmakers can vote to override any vetoes.

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