With the legislative session ending on Jan. 5, the House and Senate over the last weeks of the year took up vetoes and items returned by the governor to give final shape to the fiscal 2021 state budget plan that was signed in mid-December.

Some of the overrides and returned items included funding for local government accounts and important law changes.

The $45.9 billion budget law, Chapter 227 of the Acts of 2020, maintains funding of the Unrestricted General Government Aid account at $1.13 billion, and includes $5.28 billion for Chapter 70 education aid, a $107 million increase.

Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $167 million in spending items and a number of proposed law changes, and he returned a dozen other policy items to the Legislature with recommended amendments.

The Legislature overrode Baker’s veto of $1.5 million for the Commonwealth Sewer Rate Relief Fund, full and partial vetoes of funding for several other targeted grant programs, and a wide variety of other spending items.

The governor also vetoed $53 million in funding for one-time grants to schools to help support educational quality during the pandemic based on per student allocations, though he proposed in a separate budget bill that the same amount of assistance be provided on an as-needed basis. This veto was overridden on the last day of the session.

The governor signed a provision to extend through calendar 2021 the waiver of the cap on hours worked and salary earned by retired public employees who return to work in the public sector (Section 68) and the provision to establish an interagency task force to review and investigate water and ground contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) across the Commonwealth (Section 98).

The governor returned with a proposed amendment to Section 99, which was drafted to provide for early voting by mail in state and municipal elections through March 31, 2021. This section was re-enacted by the Legislature as H. 5184 and signed by the governor.

The state had been operating under interim budgets since the fiscal year began on July 1, while state leaders awaited more solid data about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and tax collections.

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