Whether it was being blurted out loud or held on the tip of the tongue, the "i" word floated through Beacon Hill this week like a poorly kept secret.
No, not impeachment or investigation. Though those words got a fair share of airing this week as well. But more topical here at home, the operative word was imbalanced. As in how is the state going to pay for the spending that the Senate will debate next week.
As the unemployment rate ticked up again to 3.9 percent and with state revenues being watched more closely than the State House's resident red-tailed hawk eyes the rabbits that hop blithely across the capitol grounds, Senate leadership released its budget plan for fiscal 2018.
The roughly $40.3 billion budget bill is widely understood to be a document written in erasable ink.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in May and June, budget writers are preparing for the likelihood that revenues will have to be adjusted during negotiations between the branches, which will in turn require spending to be lowered to fit the new frame.
"We recognize that we may need to adjust," Spilka said Tuesday, as she detailed the ways in which she and her committee had invested in local aid, housing, education and economic development.
As put by another senior Senate official: "This budget has a lot of vision, and maybe a few sugar plum fairies."
But even if the numbers won't exactly add up by the end of next week. There's plenty of meaningful pieces in the budget that will shape the debate moving forward. For instance, the Senate chose to include a hotel room tax on short-term rentals, such as those offered through sites like Airbnb, that would generate an estimated $18 million next year.
The Joint Committee on Financial Services is already planning a three-stop tour around the state to get input on the idea of short-term rental taxes and regulations, and the House is waiting for that process to play out. But Spilka's budget put a marker down on the Senate side that's vastly different from what Gov. Charlie Baker included in his own budget.
The Ways and Means budget proposes taxing short-term rentals on day one, while Baker sought to target those unit owners renting their homes like a business for more than 150 days a year.