Legislators last night outlawed tobacco use in the Commonwealth's restaurants, taverns, and nightclubs, and voted to lift the state's ban on Sunday liquor-store sales as the House and Senate concluded the year's business with a last-minute flurry.//
Working until nearly midnight, lawmakers also approved a sales tax "holiday" designed to spur shoppers to spend more, thereby pumping up the state's flagging economy, and approved $102 million in extra spending for the current fiscal year, much of it for social programs hit hard by budget cuts last spring. The supplemental budget includes $3.7 million for the Department of Social Services, $3.2 million for the Department of Mental Retardation, and $3.1 million for the Department of Youth Services.
The lifting of the Sunday liquor sales ban and the sales tax holiday were part of a compromise "stimulus" package containing more than $100 million in spending and tax credits designed to stoke the state's economy. On the sales tax holiday, scheduled for Aug. 14, the state's 5 percent sales tax would be suspended on computers, furniture, appliances, and other goods, but not on more expensive items, such as cars and boats.
The stimulus bill's ultimate prospects are uncertain. Governor Mitt Romney has proposed a stimulus plan that is about half as large, and the governor has not taken a firm position on either Sunday alcohol sales or the sales tax holiday. Because it is a spending measure, Romney may veto certain parts of the bill and not others in the coming days.
Romney also proposed a supplemental budget that is about half as large as the one approved by the Legislature. In ironing out the differences between the versions approved by the House and Senate, lawmakers removed a $1.5 million enticement targeted at Virgin Atlantic Airways, which is contemplating a move to Boston, and $20,000 for a Worcester memorial to Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.
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