The Legislature appointed negotiators Monday to work out the differences between the House and Senate budget plans and to come up with a final fiscal 2021 budget, which is now nearly five months late.
Legislative leaders cast the usual actors in the conferee roles. In the House, Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, Vice Chairwoman Denise Garlick, and ranking Republican Rep. Todd Smola; and in the Senate, Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues, Vice Chairwoman Cindy Friedman, and ranking Republican Patrick O’Connor.
The question now is how quickly those lawmakers can get the spending bill moved toward Gov. Baker’s desk.
Five other conference talks remain pending behind closed doors, and Rodrigues and O’Connor now each sit on three of those panels, which meet in secret.
Rodrigues and O’Connor were appointed in July, along with Michlewitz and three other lawmakers, to finalize a jobs and economic stimulus bill. Rodrigues also serves on a transportation spending conference, and O’Connor is on the negotiating team for climate change legislation.
Friedman leads the Senate’s conferees on a telehealth expansion bill, appointed at the end of July, which as of October still had not held its first meeting.
The budget bills (H 5151/S2955) were moved into a conference committee three days before Thanksgiving, which is when Baker had said back in October he wanted to see a final version of the budget. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said he’d like to see the process completed by the end of November, or shortly thereafter.
The Senate passed its version of the budget last Wednesday, and the two branches are closer on most spending and policy priorities than in a typical year, but differences remain and the fiscal year is nearly five months old already.