Both the state House and Senate have signed off on a compromise $52.7 billion annual spending plan Monday that includes Rep. Andy X. Vargas’ priority for free meals for all school children.
Vargas took to Twitter Sunday night to celebrate that budget negotiators preserved one of his priorities, universal free school meals for all school children across Massachusetts at a cost of about $115 million.
“A huge win that provides economic relief for public school parents, removal of social stigma, and most importantly—less hungry kids and better academic outcomes! So hyped and grateful,” the Haverhill Democrat tweeted.
Senate officials agreed universal free school meals provide “immediate relief to working families by saving them up to $1,200 every year.”
Gov. Charlie Baker has up to 10 days to review the budget and send back amendments and vetoes. The state is expecting a surplus of around $3 billion and expects to add nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s “rainy day” fund.
The spending plan also includes investments in early education and care, schools, behavioral health and safety at the MBTA, while adding policy measures such as banning child marriage and making phone calls free for the families of people in prison.
Massachusetts is the last state in the nation to put a budget in place for the current year which began July 1. It represents an increase of $5.1 billion or 10.7% over last year’s $47.6 billion annual budget. Much of that new money is targeted for spending or savings, with lawmakers on pace to also enact $500 million in one-time rebates and $500 million in permanent tax relief.