BOSTON —With the state budget stalemate between Democratic leaders now spilling into the second half of July, Gov. Charlie Baker met privately with House Speaker Robert DeLeo in his office on Thursday morning and said he spoke with other legislators throughout the day, leaving him “more optimistic” that a compromise could be near.
Baker has not yet said whether he’ll heed the House speaker’s call for him to file another spending bill to fund the government through August, and told the News Service on his way to an event in Brighton on Thursday that he’d prefer not to have to file such a bill.
Baker was reluctant to discuss the specifics wof his meeting with DeLeo, but said, “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the Legislature today about the budget and I’m feeling a little more optimistic than I was on Monday that this might all get resolved.”
Asked if he planned to file a second interim budget, Baker said, “No, not if I don’t have to.”
DeLeo made the budget request of the governor on Monday after the two met along with Senate President Karen Spilka, sending a seemingly ominous signal about the state of negotiations between House and Senate Democrats by saying it would be “prudent for the Governor to file a 1/12th budget for August to ensure the Commonwealth’s fiscal obligations are met.”
While it’s unclear exactly when the $5 billion in spending authorizations for July will run out, Baker administration and other finance officials who have spoken to the News Service are in general agreement that if the budget impasse extends for any significant duration into August another interim budget will be necessary to cover the state’s expenses.
Both the House and Senate were meeting in informal sessions on Thursday, and it was unclear whether they planned to meet again on Friday. The widely held belief in the capitol is that negotiations between the House and Senate over pharmaceutical drug pricing controls have been one of the sticking points, if not the major obstacle, between the branches.
According to one official familiar with the state’s financial obligations, the first local aid payment to cities and towns in fiscal 2020 of $500 million is set to be made on July 31, and a roughly $380 million debt payment is owed in August. Those outlays are in addition to the state’s substantial payroll costs.
The state Comptroller’s Office, which tracks state spending daily on its website, indicated that $1.72 billion has been spent so far in fiscal 2020 as of Thursday. The bulk of that money has gone toward MassHealth and other health care programs, and debt payments.