Saturday, 2:15 PM
$28 billion House budget avoids large cuts
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
The House this afternoon released a $28 billion budget that includes new taxes, budget cuts, and more than a third of the spending increases sought by Governor Deval Patrick.
The House proposal funds about $80 million of the $213 million in spending increases that were in Patrick's fiscal 2009 budget for a variety of programs including education, police, and social programs.
Patrick, for example, proposed spending $15 million more to fund an additional 892 prekindergarten classrooms, but House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi is only backing $3 million. Patrick also wanted to double for the second year in a row the amount spent on extended school day programs, to $26 million, but DiMasi is backing only $2.5 million.
"Hopefully better times are ahead, but if not this budget prepares us well," said Robert DeLeo, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.
The House budget also includes $109 million in direct budget cuts, which are spread throughout the budget to limit the impact.
The governor has identified $344 million in cost-saving plans, including $124 million through a mixture of "constrained growth in agency and program spending" and cuts to legislative earmarks.
The House voted last week to raise $392 million in corporate and cigarette taxes, a major political victory for the governor, who has been seeking corporate tax changes since he took office.
The House is also going along with the governor's plans to spend $10 million on homelessness programs; raise $51 million by increasing state employee healthcare contributions; and raise $166 million in additional taxes and increased enforcement of tax collections.
Patrick aides claimed victory yesterday after being briefed on the proposal, saying DiMasi was embracing most of their initiatives, such as additional prekindergarten classes and extended school-day programs.
"We see a lot to like in this budget," said Leslie Kirwan, the secretary of administration and finance. "They've adopted many of the reforms that the governor initiated."
Over the next several days, House lawmakers will file amendments to the budget, before debate later this month.
The Senate will weigh in following House deliberations, and then the different plans will have to be reconciled before July 1, when the budget takes effect.
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