NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 18, 2012

House budget plan is a good start

We're pleased to see that the budget being considered by the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week forgoes the $250 million in new taxes proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The governor is out of touch with the people he was elected to serve if he imagines there is any appetite for massive new taxes in this state.

Credit for the fiscal restraint goes to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who is perceptive enough to recognize the antitax sentiment among the commonwealth's citizens, and to Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, the principal author of the House budget proposal.

"This plan rejects all the governor's tax increase proposals," DeLeo said. "The economy is still fragile, and this budget recognizes that."

While it is difficult to call a $32.3 billion spending plan a model of fiscal prudence — it comes in just $14 million less than Patrick's budget submitted in January — the proposal rejects new cigarette, candy and soda taxes and other revenues backed by the governor.

An analysis by the independent Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said the House plan balances the budget with cuts and savings, including reduced funding for early education and care and public health programs, and one-time revenues drawn mostly from the state's "rainy day" stabilization fund.

The House plan guarantees $898 million in unrestricted aid to cities and towns, including $64 million that Patrick said he would spend on local aid only if a surplus existed at the end of the current fiscal year. It increases local education aid by $164 million over current levels to $4.1 billion — $18.5 million more than the governor's proposal.

The House Ways and Means plan now heads to the full House for consideration and changes. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will then consider both the governor's and the House's proposals as it creates its own budget, subject to review by the full Senate. The two chambers will then develop a single bill to be sent to the governor for his review and eventually his signature. Debate on the House plan is expected to begin later this month.

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