Mass. Lawmakers OK $46B Budget With Abortion Expansion Provision

State lawmakers on Friday took the final votes on a $46.2 billion spending plan for the year

A file photo of the Massachusetts State House.
DeAgostini/Getty Images, File

Better late than never. Five months into the new fiscal year, Massachusetts has a state budget. 

State lawmakers on Friday took the final votes on a $46.2 billion spending plan for the year that began July 1. 

It now heads to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has 10 days to review the spending plan from the Democratic-controlled Legislature before issuing any vetoes and signing it into law.

Among the contentious measures in this year's budget is an amendment aimed at strengthening abortion rights. 

The measure would let women obtain an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases of "fatal fetal anomalies." Current state law allows abortions after 24 weeks only to preserve the life or health of the mother. 

It would also lower the age, to 16, at which an abortion could be obtained without the permission of a parent. Under current law, those under 18 must have at least one parent's consent or seek judicial consent to have an abortion. 

Baker has not said whether he would veto the budget provision, but has said he opposes late-term abortions and supports current Massachusetts abortion laws. 

The budget also includes provisions requiring ignition locks for first-time driving under the influence offenses and expanding access to mail-in voting.

The final plan was released late Thursday by House and Senate leaders and represents a roughly a 5.5% increase over the prior fiscal year.

It closes a $3.6 billion revenue shortfall without imposing major tax increases or fees, but it does pull $1.7 billion from the state's rainy day fund.

House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz said Friday that the drawdown of about half the emergency account was necessary to avoid drastic spending cuts in a year upended by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Lawmakers have said the money will help cover rental assistance, early education and other critical services,

"Some people said this was a time to be more conservative in our budgeting," Senate President Karen Spilka said. "If anything, it was a time for the Commonwealth to be a true Commonwealth and take care of its people."

Typically, the state budget is finalized before the start of the new fiscal year. But budget deliberations were delayed by the onset of the coronavirus in the spring. 

The state has been relying on temporary budgets to keep the state government up and running.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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