State lawmakers are expected to wrap up the current session on July 31 without approving a budget for the fiscal year that began more than three weeks ago.

In other words, they are going home without completing their most primary job function, enacting a budget as required by law.

Legislative leaders, Democrats all, say the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to forecast how much revenue the Commonwealth actually has on hand or can expect to have to pay the bills. The tax filing deadline was bumped from April 15 to July 15 due to the pandemic.

Governor Charlie Baker, who submitted a "one-twelfth" spending plan for July, has just done the same for August. Lawmakers now have a little more than a week to approve the thing before bolting for summer junket season and, of course, the re-election campaign trail.

Senators and representatives should remain on Beacon Hill until a budget is enacted. Municipalities are having to do their best to figure out budgeting going forward with no solid indication from the state as to what can be expected in local aid. Many, like New Bedford, are making deep cuts to services in anticipation that state aid will be reduced or level-funded.

Lawmakers will do their best to ram through pet legislation such as a sanctuary state bill, driver's licenses for illegal aliens, and of course police reform legislation before they head out to face the voters. Why should they not remain at their desks until they figure out a spending plan for the balance of the fiscal year?

The Massachusetts Legislature should not budge from Beacon Hill until a budget is in place. Period. Enacting a budget is not only the single most important thing that lawmakers do, it is also the law. Get it done.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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