Governor Deval Patrick this afternoon signed a $32.5 billion budget into law, vetoing $32.1 million in spending including a controversial decision to reject the Legislature’s efforts to keep open 45 beds at Taunton State Hospital while the need for psychiatric resources was being analyzed.
“The fiscal environment remains challenging,” Patrick said. “We were able to do this by making some tough but necessary decisions and working hard to do more with less.”
Patrick touted several aspects of the budget: it spends less one-time revenue than last year’s budget and puts the state on track to have the third-largest amount, among states nationwide, in its rainy day fund. He noted that health-care spending growth has slowed and committed to stronger oversight of community colleges along with incentives, including a $5 million grant program to reward performance and $2.25 million for colleges to develop with employers relevant classes and training. He also announced a sales tax holiday in August.
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said that the budget was largely uncontroversial and that the vetoes — including 10 line items a five outside sections, were relatively minor.
“When one looks at a budget of $32 billion, these are modest changes,” Widmer said. He noted that while sales tax holidays are politically popular, studies have shown they have little economic impact.
“It’s not really an economic generator for the Commonwealth and it costs roughly $20 million a year,” Widmer said.
But Patrick came under fire, particularly for the decision to close Taunton State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital with 169 beds.
State representative Patricia Haddad, a Democrat from Somerset, said she planned to seek an override.
“We have maintained from the beginning that every section of the state deserves to have the full spectrum of services,” Haddad said. “I’m very disappointed that the Governor would choose this route when I thought that what we presented was not only a good plan, but a good compromise that gave everybody the opportunity to take a look at the situation before we drastically change the circumstances for people on the South Coast.”
State senator Marc Pacheco, a Democrat from Taunton, said he was extremely disappointed by the veto.
“Patients, families in the Southeast have already been on the phone today, asking their legislators including me, to seek an override,” Pacheco said.