NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 13, 2013

Gov. Patrick vetoes local aid funds

Holaday is 'confident' cuts will be overturned

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed more than $400 million in spending for transportation and local aid from the state budget on Friday, citing the lack of agreement with lawmakers over a separate transportation financing bill that includes new taxes needed to balance the budget.

Patrick signed most of the $34 billion state budget Friday, but vetoed $240 million in transportation and $177 million for cities and towns.

The governor said he hoped to restore the funds once the dispute over the transportation bill was resolved, but municipal officials warned of devastating consequences for cities and towns if the nearly 20 percent cut in unrestricted local aid stands, while the state’s top transportation official said the MBTA might have to impose fare hikes or service reductions if the funding was not restored.

“This action will come as no surprise,” Patrick said in announcing the line-item vetoes. “I have never signed a budget that is out of balance, and I am not about to start to do so.”

Patrick has refused to approve the transportation bill without an amendment that would allow the gasoline tax to increase if tolls on the western portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike are eliminated as scheduled in 2017. Legislative leaders oppose the amendment, and the governor has promised to veto the bill if it is returned to him unchanged.

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, called the veto of money for cities and towns “a massive reduction that would destabilize local budgets all throughout the commonwealth.”

Beckwith said the cut was unprecedented and would return unrestricted aid to 1986 levels, forcing communities to slash services and lay off thousands of employees, including police officers, teachers and firefighters.

“This veto must be overridden. The funds must be restored,” he said.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, in a statement, strongly suggested that lawmakers would move next week to overturn the vetoes.

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