Governor Deval Patrick will unveil a budget Tuesday that would boost state aid to cities and towns by more than 5 percent, and increase spending on community policing, while providing virtually no increase for the state's human service agencies.
Patrick, seeking to fulfill campaign promises while grappling with a gaping budget deficit, would send an additional $200 million to communities for education, which would mean at least $50 extra per student, according to administration sources. His budget proposal also calls for:
Spending $13 million to help 800 of the state's 1,500 half-day kindergarten classrooms expand to a full day.
Doubling the amount spent on extended school day programs to $13 million.
Increasing other local aid to communities by $112 million, including a $15 million increase in lottery distributions.
Adding about $10 million in community policing grants to help pay for 250 new officers.
Not too shabby. I wanted to go to Melrose on Tuesday and listen to his speech, but unfortunately I have rehearsal. However, I expect we'll have a year in which the UMASS system is at least level funded. I expect some other good ideas coming from Patrick's administration too.
However, the Governor is going to face some very tough choices in a very difficult financial situation. That means a lot of the legilsature's pet projects may have to be cut. That means a lot of truly important projects could face a loss of funding. That means even I am probably going to be pissed off at some of his decisions - but it can't be helped. What Patrick's priorities, resourcefulness and creativity bring to his budget decisions will - in great part - determine his competency in office. I expect we're going to have a wizard, but who knows?
Sadly, Governor Patrick may not be given the chance he needs to make the budget work - despite the fact that Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly for him, in large part because they felt he was going to be exceptionally competent in creating budgets. Didn't we all vote for him, in large part, because of his business savvy?
Beacon Hill seems poised to prevent many of Patrick's attempts at closing the gap. For example, the House Speaker - DiMasi - isn't very fond of Patrick's proposal to give towns the option of creating a local meals tax. How anyone could be against that, I don't know. It just gives towns a choice, one they could choose not to employ. However, for some towns this year, it could mean the difference between level funding a school - or laying off a teacher. Aren't we trying to improve our school systems? Doesn't the State Leg get that?
Beacon Hill ought to pass Patrick's proposal to give towns more control over what they do within their own borders. They also ought to pass his other proposals meant to increase tax fairness and balance the budget, especially the removal of corporate loopholes. Massachusetts is one of the most generous states to corporations in terms of taxation - while the rest of us suffer. No one is suggesting we tax the hell out of Bank of America; it's just time everyone pays their fair share in making our Commonwealth great. Deval Patrick seems poised to help do that, he may just need a lot of angry constituents on his side calling Speaker DiMasi.