The House and Senate overwhelming passed a $32.5 billion budget last week and Gov. Deval Patrick has until July 8 to review and sign it, or to issue vetoes.
The thrust of the bill is to shore up aid to public programs while at the same time not increasing the burden to taxpayers. Overall, the 2013 budget is about 3 percent higher than this year's, but considerably tighter than previous recent years. Here are some of the bill's highlights:
1. It includes no new taxes or fees. Instead, $516 million will be taken from existing funds, including $350 million from the state's rainy day fund, leaving it over a billion dollars in the black. Still, that's down from the $2.2 billion it had in 2008.
2. It tightens welfare. The bill would limit the use of welfare cards by restricting what recipients can and cannot buy, and where they can use the cards. According to Senate President Therese Murray's website, the bill "expands the list of restricted items that cash assistance benefits cannot be used for including alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, pornography, firearms, ammunition, tattoos, body piercings, manicures, jewelry, gambling, cruise ships, fees, fines, bail or bail bonds."
3. It includes a chunk of cash in local aid. That would be $899 million in unrestricted general aid to cities and towns, for a total of $5.7 billion in local aid, an increase of $289 million from last year.
4. It includes $28.5 million in new funding for housing programs.
5. It adds $34.7 million in Chapter 70 education aid, which guarantees $40 per student minimum aid for all school districts.