Massachusetts House leaders today unveiled a budget for the new fiscal year that would likely leave fewer teachers in classrooms across the state and allow for fewer services for mentally ill residents, but would avoid raising taxes or dipping into the state’s dwindling rainy day fund.
The $27.8 billion proposal for the year beginning July 1 is an attempt to reconcile the state's needs with tough fiscal realities in an election year that has many Legislators fearful for their jobs.
The cuts to local aid and school spending in the proposal would be as much as 4 percent, though some cities and towns, depending on a state formula, would take a smaller hit.
Governor Deval Patrick submitted a spending plan in January that would protect local aid and school spending, setting up a conflict on Beacon Hill.
Patrick’s plan would also raise taxes on tobacco, candy, and sodas, something the House did not include in their proposal. The House was also more conservative than Patrick in protecting the state’s rainy day fund, which has been shrinking during the recession and may need to be called upon next year.
Representative Charles A. Murphy, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, took pride in balancing the budget without raising taxes or tapping reserves, but he conceded that the impact on residents, state workers, and local governments would be considerable and, in some cases, drastic.
“You’re going to be talking to a lot of people who aren’t going to be very happy with me,” he told reporters during a news conference in a State House hearing room.
Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said the House budget would be "a step back" in efforts to provide a world-class education for students and would reduce state aid to cities and towns when they can least afford it.
"It fails to adopt our public safety reforms and underfunds critical public safety programs. Finally, it excludes many of the Governor’s important proposals to streamline state government and improve its efficiency for those it serves," he said in a statement.
The House budget is the second step in the budget dance that began with the governor's budget. The Senate will unveil its proposal next. After the two chambers pass their budgets, a House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise version that will then be sent to the governor's desk.
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