The House and Senate have approved separate spending plans for fiscal 2021, which began on July 1, but they were not able to reconcile differences between the bills before the Thanksgiving holiday break.

A House-Senate budget conference committee has been named to work out a final bill. Interim spending authorizations already in place are sufficient to carry the state into early December, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.

A final revenue and spending plan for the year has been delayed for months due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state economy and uncertainty over state tax collections and possible federal additional assistance to states and local governments.

Both the House and Senate budget bills (H. 5151 and S. 2955) fulfill the commitment made by legislative leaders and the administration in July regarding minimum funding levels for the main municipal and school aid accounts. Unrestricted General Government Aid would be level-funded at $1.13 billion, and Chapter 70 education aid would be funded at $5.28 billion, an increase of $108 million over the fiscal 2020 level.

The budget conference committee will have to work out agreements on different funding levels for several important school aid accounts, including charter school mitigation payments, where the House is higher and closer to the preliminary full funding amount provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Senate approved a higher amount for the special education circuit breaker account, matching the current DESE full funding estimate. With the fiscal 2020 closeout budget (Chapter 201 of the Acts of 2020) carrying forward unspent circuit breaker funds into fiscal 2021, it appears the House amount could be near the full funding estimate.

The Division of Local Services has posted and regularly updates preliminary city and town and regional school district Cherry Sheet aid estimates based on the July commitment on the main accounts and on the House and Senate budget bills. These amounts have been available to help cities and towns finalize tax rates for the year.

The House and Senate will also have to resolve policy differences that affect local government, including extending into 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.

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