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Senate budget passes with few changes

The Senate finished its consideration of the FY08 budget on May 24.

Very few changes were made from the Senate Ways and Means proposal filed a week earlier. Some amendments were adopted but little funding was added to the bottom line in any areas.

A conference committee will soon be appointed to work out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the FY08 budget. After the Senate and House vote on the conference committee report, the Legislature’s FY08 budget will be sent to the governor, who has ten days to sign or veto provisions in the budget.

PreK -12

School Funding--Adequacy Study

Sponsored by Sen. Ed Augustus (D-Worcester) and Sen. Robert Antonioni (D-Leominster).

Amended the language to conduct an adequacy study by requiring a committee made up of the Secretary of Administration and Finance, the chairs of the Education Committee, the governor's education advisor and the Commissioner of Education to contract for and oversee the study by an independent consultant, rather than relying only on the Department of Education to complete the study ($150,000). This language now closely tracks MTA's legislation (S. 291). The House budget does not contain any similar language.

Education Reserve Account – Pot Hole Account

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Brewer (D-Barre) and others.

An additional $2 million was added to the "pot-hole" account, bringing the funding to $5.5 million. This is the same amount approved by the House.

Office of Educational Quality and Accountability

Amendments to restore the EQA office, which was defunded by the governor in his budget and by Senate Ways and Means, were rejected. The House budget does include funding for this office.

METCO

Sponsored by Sens. Dianne Wilkerson (D-Boston), Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Scott Brown (R-Wrentham).

The Senate increased funding for METCO by $1 million, bringing funding to the House-passed level.

Regional School Transportation

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Brewer.

The Senate increased funding for regional school transportation by $2 million, bringing funding to $59.3 million, a $2 million increase over the House-passed level.

Higher Education

Most of the amendments dealing with Higher Education were rejected during the Senate Budget debate. As a result, the funding picture in the Senate Budget for higher education remains the same as it was before the debate.

Pensions

An amendment to set up a commission to examine compensation for higher education faculty and staff, including what should be counted for pension purposes, was withdrawn.

Another amendment that defined what could be counted for pension purposes for all state employees was rejected.