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During what lawmakers consider to be one of the busiest stretches atop Beacon Hill, work on the budget is underway as lawmakers hustle to build support for their proposals ahead of a Feb. 2 deadline.

With the kickoff of the annual budget process and the deadline to act on bills fast approaching, the Massachusetts Legislature has entered what lawmakers consider to be one of its busiest stretches.

Gov. Charlie Baker filed his budget recommendation on Wednesday for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and House leaders will release their own budget proposal this spring. Representatives can offer amendments during debate over the House plan, and senators can do the same when their branch takes up its own document.

At the end of the process, a small group of lawmakers will meet to work out the differences between the House and Senate documents before the bodies vote to send a final version to Baker.

Also on the horizon is the Feb. 2 deadline for most legislative committees to act on bills. Committees can either report bills favorably, extend their deadline or send them to study, essentially ruling those bills out for the session.

While lawmakers are calling colleagues in a final push to pursue favorable reports on bills, they also are beginning to identify priorities for the budget process. K-12 school aid, for instance, is a common goal among Berkshire County lawmakers.

Here are what your representatives say they’re working on.

State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield

In the budget process, Hinds has his eye on increasing funding for rural schools and reimbursements for state-owned land.

The state, which does not pay property taxes, has failed to provide adequate reimbursements to cities and towns for the land it owns, and the line item for rural schools has not brought as much funding as lawmakers wanted, Hinds said. Hinds co-chairs a rural schools commission, which he said will release recommendations related to funding for transportation, special education and other areas in those districts during this budget process.

“I think now that we have the evidence, we’re seeing I think a consensus that we need a different approach for those schools,” he said.

Locally, he plans to seek funding for the Berkshire Innovation Center and bike trails, including the proposed “adventure trail” between Williamstown and North Adams. While the Berkshire Flyer passenger rail service between Pittsfield and New York City already has funding for one year of operation, Hinds will seek funding to extend the pilot to two years.

Hinds said he is focusing on advancing two climate-related bills. One would increase tax incentives for people to preserve trees for carbon sequestration on private-owned land. The other would promote usage of electric vehicles by expanding rebates and requiring that any vehicle purchased after 2030 to be an electric vehicle.

While Baker has said that he wants Massachusetts to move entirely to electric vehicles by 2035, there is no law on the books that mandates that.

State Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams

Barrett will focus on education funding. While he praised a 2019 law that was intended to bolster funding for lower-income districts, he said the formula still leaves districts that he represents with insufficient funds.

“I’ve also got to make sure that school districts like Hoosac Valley, North Adams, Northern Berkshire get a fair allotment of financial assistance,” he said. “When this ARPA money goes away in these next years, it falls on the backs of the property tax and communities to continue adequately funding the schools.”

Beyond education, Barrett is looking at making investments in broadband and on-the-job training that he said can give the local economy a boost.

Of the bills that Barrett filed, “the big one” is to split the Executive Office of Health and Human Services into two smaller bodies, he said. The largest agency in state government, EOHHS oversees 12 agencies, two soldiers’ homes and the MassHealth program.

“It’s no reflection on whoever the secretary is, but it’s just much, much too large when it’s 56 percent of the state budget,” Barrett said. “We saw where the lapses were in the nursing homes and veterans’ homes.”

State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru

Mark said he already has received requests from cities and towns to pursue an increase in state aid to municipal governments. The Baker administration number of $1.2 billion is a 2.7 percent increase from the previous budget.

Other priorities include higher education funding, K-12 education funding for small towns and COVID-19 relief funding for local departments of health, Mark said.

Most of Mark’s work on legislation comes in his role as vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

“Offshore wind has been the big thing on the House side, trying to make sure that the way offshore wind happens creates the most jobs, provides the most benefit to the people and doesn’t increase electric costs,” he said.

Another top goal in the committee is to advance green financing bills, Mark said, whether it is his own proposal for a “green bank” or another option. A majority of the 140 state representatives, including Mark, have indicated support for a bill known as the Green Future Act, which would generate revenue for green investments by expanding carbon pricing and establishing a borrowing program.

Mark added that he hopes that increasing higher education funding through the budget could serve as a “down payment” for the Cherish Act, a bill that he and colleagues filed to set a minimum funding level for higher education and freeze tuition and fees for five years.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield

Farley-Bouvier listed early education and housing as two priorities for funding in the budget.

“In the Berkshires and in Pittsfield we want to be able to provide good-quality workforce housing, specifically to attract young people to work at General Dynamics and many opportunities there are to work here, and we need to be able to have affordable housing,” she said. “A particular focus of mine is permanent supportive housing, and then of course sheltering, so we need to have that full range.”

In early education, Farley-Bouvier said increased state reimbursements can help to ensure workers are “paid as the professionals they are.”

Her bill to make driver’s licenses available to residents regardless of immigration status has been extended beyond the Feb. 2 deadline, Farley-Bouvier said.

The three bills she now is focusing on advancing by the deadline are proposals to require tipped employees to be paid the state minimum wage, to establish an independent foster care review office and to change public meeting law so that remote participation counts toward a quorum for meetings of statewide bodies.

“We know that tipped workers live in poverty, and the percentage of tipped workers living in poverty is much greater than the rest of the population,” Farley-Bouvier said, adding that dependence on tips has led workers in the hospitality industry to endure sexual harassment from customers.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox

Pignatelli sees workforce development as a top concern in the budget, and he also may revisit some of the same local funding amendments he has filed previously.

Lawmakers approved the $50,000 that Pignatelli sought for Great Barrington-based Community Access to the Arts in the fiscal year 2021 budget, and he said he believes it is “important that we continue to try and help the disabled community, especially during COVID.”

Pignatelli included a $100,000 amendment for a first-time homebuyers program for southern Berkshire County in a recent spending bill, and he said he would consider similar strategies to address rising housing costs through a budget amendment.

While he said that he expects more complex bills to get extensions past the Feb. 2 deadline, Pignatelli said he is working to advance his proposals to establish a homeless bill of rights and to create a midlevel dental therapy practitioner.

“We’re going to run the clock out, there’s no question about that,” he said.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.