Mass. Governor Baker Unveils Plan for Closing $765M Budget Gap

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker declared Tuesday that it's time for state government to live within its means as he outlined more than $500 million in spending cuts to help close a budget shortfall.

Some of the deficit plan will require approval from the Democratic-controlled Legislature, while other actions can be taken unilaterally by the governor.

Baker, who took office less than a month ago, said he inherited the deficit from his Democratic predecessor, Deval Patrick, whose administration had originally estimated the shortfall at $329 million and cut about $250 million in spending before leaving office.

Baker last month pegged the deficit in the $36 billion budget as much higher and blamed it on a "spending problem." The administration on Tuesday added another $3 million to the projected deficit, bringing the shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30 to $768 million.

The governor's deficit reduction plan calls for $514 million in spending cuts, including $150 million in executive branch reductions that would not require legislative approval.

It also seeks $168 million in savings to the state's Medicaid program through eligibility redeterminations and other measures.

Baker said the budget for the governor's office itself would be slashed by 10 percent as a symbol of austerity.

In addition to the spending cuts, Baker says his plan calls for more than $250 million in new revenues, including a tax amnesty plan and diverting proceeds from the capital gains tax that otherwise would be earmarked for the state's reserves - better known as the rainy day fund.

But he said the deficit plan - as promised - would not raise state taxes or cut local aid to cities and towns.

Baker said because of the recent heavy snows, the state will also have to seek an additional $50 million in snow removal funds.

Legislative leaders have promised to work cooperatively with Baker to close the budget gap. There was no immediate word on when lawmakers might take up Baker's proposals.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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