BOSTON — Four months after the budget year began, House leaders will release a full spending plan for fiscal 2021 on Thursday, and they plan to open debate on the budget next week, kicking off a process that has been delayed for over seven months by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said Democratic leaders plan to open debate on the budget bill Tuesday, and anticipate that the process could take several days, as is normal with annual budget debates.
The debate, the Boston Democrat said, will look like the House deliberations and debates of July, when some House members participated remotely while others were in the chamber.
"Obviously, there will be different types of challenges to do it this way, but we think it's necessary to get moving on this," Michlewitz said.
Last month, House and Senate leaders held a roundtable with economists to hear the latest predictions for how the economy and tax revenues might perform over the remainder of the fiscal year, and Gov. Charlie Baker soon after filed an updated $45.5 billion budget for fiscal 2021 that took into account a decrease of $3.6 billion in previously anticipated revenues.
Michlewitz has been meeting for weeks with House lawmakers to discuss their priorities, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the News Service on Tuesday that he thought the House would try to pass a budget before Thanksgiving.
"Yeah, I think that that's something we're looking to do, but I would stay tuned. But, I think it's going to be relatively soon," he said.
Baker has said he would like a final budget on his desk by Thanksgiving. Once approved, a House budget bill would move to the Senate. After the Senate passes its budget, the branches would need to agree to a single plan to sent to the governor's desk.
Michlewitz declined Wednesday to discuss details of the budget he planned to release or if it had been pre-negotiated with Senate budget committee leaders.
The House is expected to meet Thursday in its first formal session since July, when the Legislature extended its formal two-year session until the end of the year, and DeLeo said it is likely that the branch will take up a different budget bill to close the books on fiscal year 2020, which ended July 1.