The Governor yesterday announced to the media that the state budget remains about one billion dollars short, which will trigger a new round of budget cuts that likely will include local aid.
Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday that he was preparing for up to $1 billion in additional budget cuts, raising the specter of reductions in aid to municipalities, more layoffs of state employees, and drastic cutbacks in the services that state government provides to its residents. “There’s a lot of pain, and it’s going to have to be spread around,” Patrick told reporters during a 30-minute briefing in his State House office. “Nobody’s enjoying this. This is incredibly difficult.”
While the Governor states the obvious in terms of difficulty it was not apparent from his news conference that he will couple his proposed cuts to local aid with a forceful demand that the legislature grant additional management tools to municipalities that will help us to manage these cuts so that we can stretch our remaining dollars as far as possible. If these cuts are made mid year to localities without such a political effort it would be nothing short of an outrage. I am continually amazed that solutions that force layoffs of union workers always seem to trump solutions that will save union jobs.
The Governor will not be condemned for making cuts that budget realities are forcing on him. There are two questions however that come to mind immediately. The first is the Governor’s initial budget estimates. At the begining of the budget process Michael Widmer predicted a multi-billion dollar shortfall. Why was the Governor so off in his estimates, and why has he waited so long to act? These cuts, made at the begining of the budget cycle, would have been painful. Now, midyear, they will be catastrophic. The second question relates to what I spoke of above. Where is the political effort to promote a wider range of management options for localities that will enable us to manage our funds more efficiently? As we move forward into what will likely be the most serious shrinking of government in our lifetime incremental changes in the burdensome laws that handcuff localities will not do. We need real change, right now. That is the difficult part. Cutting numbers on a spreadsheet and listening to some protests from local officials. That is not nearly as difficult.