Closeout Budget Now Latest Since At Least 1995

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — With no end in sight to the staring contest over what strings to attach to emergency shelter funding, the Legislature now appears on track for the most overdue closeout budget in nearly three decades.

"This is the latest into the year that legislative leaders have been unable to agree on a bill to reconcile the final loose ends on the budget from the prior year since at least 1995," the News Service wrote Nov. 26, 2019, the last time the now-common staring contest went this long.

A long holiday weekend with no apparent breakthrough has passed the crown of nonachievement from 2019 to 2023. The subject of disagreement and the people left in the lurch as a result are different this time around, as is one other factor that played into the previous record slow pace: a threat that Democrats would be disempowered from decision-making.

The state comptroller cannot file an annual financial report that by law is due every year on Oct. 31 until the Legislature finishes its final closeout budget, and with no House and Senate compromise in sight four years ago, then-Comptroller Andrew Maylor issued a potent ultimatum. Maylor told legislative leaders on Nov. 21, 2019 that, without action in the next three weeks, he would simply cut them out of the process and officially close the state's financial books on his own, in the process sweeping more than $1 billion in surplus tax revenues into savings.

His political maneuver proved successful. The House and Senate finally cut a deal, though in typical fashion they did not finalize it until late into the night on the Dec. 11, 2019 deadline Maylor set.

Current Comptroller William McNamara has not hit the nuclear button yet and threatened to close the books with or without a legislative deal.

Still, McNamara has not exactly minced his words. In a letter to House and Senate Republicans last week, McNamara detailed potential negative consequences and warned that inaction by the end of the year would put him in an "untenable position."

Written by Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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