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Mass. governor cuts jobs, spares local aid

Glen Johnson

WORCESTER, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick said he plans to close Massachusetts’ $600 million budget gap with a blend of cuts in state services and programs and up to 2,000 job cuts but none of the local aid and few of the school funding reductions many cities and towns warned would decimate local education and public safety.

In a somber address to the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce last week, Patrick said he would immediately begin cutting $277 million in executive branch budgets he controls, including making up to 1,000 layoffs. He did not specify exactly where he would make other cuts but said, “That will affect the level and quality of many of the services that you and others expect from your government.”

He also said he would ask the Legislature for permission to cut $75 million in budgets he does not control, including those for the legislative and judicial branches. That could trigger additional layoffs.

In addition, he said he planned to tap $60 million left over from the fiscal year that ended June 30, as well as $62 million in federal stimulus funds, to avoid even deeper cuts. Dwindling tax collections forced four rounds of budget cutting last year, and their continuation is prompting the latest trimming in the state’s $28 billion budget.

Patrick warned the state’s public employee labor unions that they had to choose between job cuts and wage concessions. Executive branch managers, including himself, must take nine furlough days this year, after taking five last year, he said.

“While we will keep talking, we cannot talk indefinitely,” the governor told the unions. He said he is ordering managers to prepare layoff plans to either cut 2,000 jobs or save $35 million in labor costs.

Unions have suggested trading furloughs for an agreement to avoid further increases in their health insurance premiums. “I think that somewhere in there is a deal to be made,” Patrick said.

Even with such an agreement, Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said at least 1,000 jobs will have to be cut because of the budget shortfall.

The governor said he’s proposing a tax amnesty program to bring in another $20 million in revenue, and filing a bill to eliminate two state worker holidays, Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day, that he branded “traditions whose time has passed.”

(Associated Press)