The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday approved a proposed $55.9 billion state budget for the new fiscal year, beginning negotiations with the House on a final spending plan to ship to Democratic Gov. Maura Healey by July.
One of the objectives of the budget is higher education.
The Senate budget would allow all Massachusetts students, regardless of immigration status, to benefit from in-state tuition at public colleges and universities — as long as they attended a high school in the state for at least three years and have graduated or earned a GED. .
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“Massachusetts will be competitive as long as people from all over the world can come here to fulfill their dreams,” said Democratic Senate Speaker Karen Spilka.
The budget would also create a free community college program for nursing students.
One item that was not included in the Senate’s final plan is a proposal to allow online lottery ticket sales. The budget plan approved by the Massachusetts House would allow online lottery games.
Healey also signaled his support for the move, citing competition for gambling dollars from online sports betting companies, like Boston-based DraftKings.
The matter will now be decided by a conference committee of six members of the House and Senate tasked with drafting a final budget proposal.
Like the Massachusetts House, the Senate’s budget plan would split the $1 billion in additional revenue expected from the state’s new “millionaires’ tax” between education and transportation initiatives.
Of the $500 million for transportation, the Senate plan would include $190 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — and another $100 million for roads and bridges.
Unlike the House budget, the Senate decided not to include money for universal free school meals in its budget plan. Senate leaders say they hope to address the issue in a separate supplementary estimate.
The House and Senate budget proposals would funnel money into the state’s “rainy day” fund. The account currently has about $7.1 billion. The two budget plans would bring the total to just over $9 billion.
The House approved his $56.2 billion budget plan in April. Healey unveiled his budget plan earlier in the year.
The budget debate comes as April tax receipts fell more than $2.1 billion below last April’s collections and more than $1.4 billion below forecasts for the month .
Healey played down the grim numbers, saying the state remains in a strong fiscal position.
Last month, the House also approved a separate $654 million tax relief package.
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The bill aims to help seniors, renters, businesses and the wealthiest homeowners while rewriting the law that returned about $3 billion to taxpayers last year.
The House measure would also raise the state estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million. Healey, which released its own $742 million tax relief package in February, would eliminate tax for estates valued up to $3 million.
Spilka said the Senate plans to resume details of its own $575 million tax relief proposal after the budget.
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A final compromise budget, approved by both houses, must be in place by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.