By Matt Viser
Governor Deval Patrick today signed a budget for next year that cuts aid to cities and towns, pares back programs throughout state government, and imposes $1 billion in additional taxes on Massachusetts residents, shoppers, and visitors.
In signing the $27 billion budget, which is $400 million less than the proposal approved this month by House and Senate lawmakers, Patrick issued vetoes that cut funding in a number of areas. The budget takes effect Wednesday, the first day of the next fiscal year.
“This is without question an austere – and in some respects, painful – budget,” Patrick told reporters. “It contains many unavoidable spending cuts, and many of them will have a painful impact.”
He said the budget “reflects the stark economic realities of the time.”
Patrick's plan restores health care coverage for 30,000 legal immigrants and provides a record-high $4 billion in education funding for cities and towns, thanks in part to $167 million in federal stimulus money. It also includes more than $1 billion in new taxes, a portion of which will prevent a planned toll increase on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
His budget calls for nearly $150 million in line-item vetoes, eliminating or slashing programs that the Legislature approved. In addition, it eliminates $217 million in funding for county sheriffs, according to an administration official briefed on the budget. That funding will likely be restored through a bill that consolidates sheriffs departments throughout the state.
The Legislature now must decide whether to override the governor’s vetoes or let them stand.
The budget includes more than $1 billion in tax increases, which include new taxes on hotels, alcohol, meals, and satellite dishes. The new sales tax rate, which will increase from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, will go into effect Aug. 1.
Patrick had said he would agree to the lawmakers' plan only after they agreed to overhaul the state's ethics, pension, and transportation laws significantly. Over the past two weeks, House and Senate lawmakers approved plans on each of those items, all but forcing the governor to sign on to their tax proposal.
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