Grappling with a continuing decline in state revenues, Governor Deval Patrick today announced that he had directed his Cabinet to reduce spending by $600 million in the current fiscal year and warned that the reductions could result in the layoffs of 2,000 state workers.
Governor Deval Patrick
Patrick said that tax revenues for the first quarter of the 2010 fiscal year were $212 million lower than had been expected.
"That means we have to act immediately to bring state spending in line," he said. "Painful as it is, we have to adjust."
Patrick said his goal was to achieve savings without harming essential services, but there were "no quick fixes, no easy choices, and no low-hanging fruit."
Patrick said he would ask executive branch managers to take as many as nine furlough days and he urged state workers and their unions to "work with us on ways to share in the sacrifice," saying that it was possible that if unions made concessions the projected layoffs could be averted or reduced.
He said the 2,000 layoffs would come on top of 1,400 already made during the budget crisis the state is enduring during this economic recession.
Patrick said he would ask the state's constitutional officers to also voluntarily reduce their spending commensurate with his administration's cuts.
Patrick said his administration would look at a number of other ways to help close the gap, including, possibly, suspension of certain programs, asking quasi-public agencies or charitable organizations to take on certain services, consolidation of agencies and functions, the sale of surplus state property, and lowering energy costs at state buildings.
"We have to find cheaper ways to get the job done," he said.
Patrick said the private sector is beginning to recover, with the economy showing some life. "Get through we will," he said. "I am absolutely confident of that. Better times will come and there are some early signs that they are not far off."
But state revenues tend to lag behind, looking at past economic performance rather than the future, he said.
House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. welcomed the Democratic governor's announcement.
"I am flattered that his fiscal crisis management plan includes so many Republican proposals that were offered back in April during budget debate including: expediting the sale of surplus state land, personnel reductions and requiring furloughs," Jones said in a statement.
Jones said there was a "real possibility" that the budget gap would widen further.
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