Governor's Budget Puts Emphasis On Education

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jan. 26, 2012

state of the state

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick delivers the 2012 State of the Commonwealth address on Jan. 23. (Steven Senne/AP)

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a $32.3 billion budget on Wednesday for the upcoming fiscal year.

Speaking at the State House, Patrick said the state’s economic picture is improving but that government spending will never go back to pre-recession levels:
"Revenue has continued slowly to recover as more people have been getting back to work, which is great news on many, many levels," he said. "But we still have unprecedented needs to meet in health care, emergency housing and other essential services because of the numbers of people whose lives have been turned upside down by the global economic collapse.”
In all, Patrick’s budget proposal calls for $32.3 billion in spending. That’s a 3 percent increase over last year. 
The plan would boost state aid to local schools by $145 million or 3.6 percent. Patrick also wants to give an additional $10 million to community colleges and $10 million toward efforts to close the educational achievement gap between poor students of color and their wealthier white peers.
"Because education is our calling card around the world and central to our competitiveness in the future, we owe it to ourselves to do everything we can to support the schools," he said.

The spending plan also makes some cuts. It would lay off about 300 government workers. It would cut funding for subsidized lunches for senior citizens. And it would reduce funding for child care vouchers for low-income families. 
Patrick also called for eliminating a sales tax exemption on candy and soda, increasing taxes on cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco, and expanding the bottle bill. He said there's public support for these proposals, which together would raise $260 million. 
"All together, these new revenues amount to less than 1 percent of the budget. They are not new. They are still sensible, still widely supported in the general public, in most cases, and still necessary,” he said.
But Beacon Hill lawmakers in the past have rejected similar tax proposals from the governor. And Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation questioned whether they would accept them this time around.
"Those tax proposals I think are reasonable but nonetheless this is an election year so there’s an open question on whether or not the legislature will approve them," he said. "So this puts the pressure on the Legislature because if you don’t achieve the new revenues then you have to cut more deeply than the governor has in this budget."
The budget submission is only the first step in a lengthy process. Both the House and Senate will pass their versions of the spending plan, then must resolve differences before sending a final budget to the governor for his signature ... or veto. 

> > Learn more about the governor's proposed budget.

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