Jan. 26, 2011
BOSTON — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick unveiled a lean budget Wednesday. The $30.5 billion spending plan includes deep cuts in human services and other state programs.
Over the past three years, the state used hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money to balance the budget. But now, that funding is gone, and Massachusetts is left with a budget gap of $1.5 billion.
To help close it, Patrick wants to slash state spending by more than half a billion dollars at a time when demand for state services is at unprecedented levels.
The budget includes cuts to homeless shelters, mental health hospitals, programs for people with disabilities and cuts to the state police.
Patrick says there haven’t been cuts of this magnitude for 20 years:
“Some programs will end, some facilities will close many services will be combined and there will be more of that to come,” Patrick said.
Patrick says the state will continue to eliminate positions, and estimated that as many as 900 state employees will lose their jobs.
Patrick also says he can realize big savings in health care costs by aggressively negotiating with insurers to bring down prices and by offering incentives to state workers to switch to cheaper plans.
Patrick says the strategies will save the state $1 billion, but Michael Widmer, a watchdog with the business-backed group Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says Patrick’s figure is too optimistic.
"He is very ambitious and bold talking about saving a billion dollars. I think that’s exceedingly unlikely," Widmer said.
Widmer says the budget doesn’t add up without these savings, but hopes tax revenues will continue to show better than expected growth.
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