Governor Deval Patrick, again going to bat for health care for legal immigrants, is seeking to restore enough money to the state budget for next fiscal year to cover the program for six months. Under Patrick's proposal, the program would be covered for the rest of the year if additional federal Medicaid funding comes through, which remains uncertain.
Patrick made the announcement as he signed the budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins Thursday, in his State House office this afternoon. But Patrick did not specify exactly how he would pay for extending the coverage, instead instructing his administration to figure that out.
The governor signed the $27.6 billion spending plan and made $457 million in cuts, to account for the fact that Congress has yet to approve the Medicaid funds.
"For the fourth consecutive year, our budget is balanced, responsible and on time -- not something many other states can say." Patrick said in statement. "For that achievement, I want to thank the Legislature and my team for effectively responding to challenging and quickly changing circumstances, and doing the hard work required to get this done thoughtfully and on time."
Patrick's decision to try to restore health care spending for legal immigrants would mark the second time in two years that he has advocated strongly for the money. At issue is $56 million for a program that subsidizes care for eligible low-income legal immigrants.
The federal government does not reimburse the state for the immigrants, making the program, which serves those who have been here less than five years, a prime target when legislators are looking to cut costs. Last year, they eliminated $130 million set aside for the program. After a battle with Patrick, they restored about a third of the money, giving about 26,000 immigrants a program with less care and significantly higher copayments for medication and treatment.
Patrick today also signed into law budget amendments codifying state practices restricting illegal immigrants from many public services and making state funding for Boston libraries contingent on keeping branches open. The budget would also tap the state's rainy day account for $100 million, and delay payments into the fund next fiscal year.
Meanwhile, across Beacon Street from the State House on Boston Common, hundreds of union members, including many who are in town for a national convention of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, protested budget cuts at the city and state level. AFSCME president Gerald McEntee singled out proposed cuts to Boston libraries, calling them, "wrong, insulting, and unfair." He led the crowd in chants of "Show some guts! Stop the cuts!"
Republican Charlie Baker, who is vying against Patrick in the November election, criticized the Democrat's signing of the budget, saying the budget was "unrealistic" in its spending and revenue assumptions and would lead to tax hikes and lost jobs.
"Nothing is changing under this budget because Beacon Hill is satisfied with the status quo," he said in a statement.
On the beat
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