The cloud caused by a federal investigation into patronage hiring at the state probation department also continues to hang over Beacon Hill. No lawmakers have been charged in the more than two-year probe, but prosecutors continue to look the hiring of politically connected people over more qualified candidates for jobs in the department.
And economists note an already sluggish Massachusetts economy could suffer greatly if Washington fails to avoid the combination of tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. Such a development would pose even more challenges for the Legislature as it assembles a spending plan.
‘‘The budget for 2014 is going to be very difficult,’’ Widmer said.