Gov. Patrick Rolls Out New Budget

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By: Michael C. Bailey
Published: 01/27/12

 The Fiscal Year 2013 state budget process has officially begun.

Governor Deval L. Patrick released on Wednesday his proposed spending plan for FY13, a document that rarely resembles the final budget produced by the House and Senate, but highlights the administration’s priorities and provides an early clue as to what local aid amounts for the year will look like.

The “balanced and fiscally responsible plan” of $32.3 billion represents a $939.5 million (2.98 percent) increase in spending over FY12—“significantly less than originally projected because of significant program reductions, positions eliminations and reforms,” according to the official budget announcement.

Gov. Patrick is proposing level funding unrestricted local aid at $833.9 million, meaning that for the first time in four years, cities and towns will not go into their budget cycle bracing for a decrease in state aid. Better yet, the governor is proposing a $145 million increase to Chapter 70 aid for public schools.

Overall, the state is poised to grant municipalities $5.2 billion in state funding.

The governor has proposed numerous cuts to keep spending down, including from his own corner of the commonwealth; Gov. Patrick has proposed cutting 400 jobs from the executive branch, a move that would save $30 million.

Other proposed savings, listed in the budget announcement under the header “managing tough choices”: further refinements to the state’s landmark health care reform law are expected to save $730 million through cost containment; closing the Bay State Correctional Facility in Norfolk, which would save $8.9 million; and reductions for programs supporting subsidized lunches for senior citizens, child care vouchers for low-income families, and school nurses in public and private schools.

The governor is also proposing a $4 million cut to local tourism councils, but that recommendation could face a tough fight in the State House. Gov. Patrick last year proposed chopping funding for tourism councils to $1 million, but the Legislature funded tourism councils for $6 million.

Despite the cuts and reforms, Gov. Patrick’s plan also relies on increases in revenue derived from strategic hikes in fees and taxes. The governor is proposing a 50 cent-per-pack increase in the state’s tax on cigarettes, and lifting the 6.25 percent sales tax exemption on soda and candy. He is also recommending that the state eliminate its allowable tax deduction on losing lottery tickets, and expand the bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages.

The increases are expected to raise $190 million in new revenue. The governor also planned to tap the state’s “rainy day fund” for $400 million, which will leave an estimated $1.037 billion in the fund at the end of FY13.

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