Gov. Patrick releases $32 billion budget proposal

MASSACHUSETTS – Governor Deval Patrick released a $32 billion budget proposal that aims to improve education, eliminate wasteful spending, and increase taxes.

Schools would see a record $4.136 billion in state aid, including $10 million to improve the Commonwealth’s community colleges.

The budget also includes a number of components that would cut spending, including the elimination of 400 positions in the Governor’s own executive branch, saving $30 million. The plan also closes the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk, saving nearly $9 million.

Despite these and other cuts, the proposal represents a nearly 3% increase over the current year’s budget.

Patrick proposes a number of tax increases, many generally supported by the public, including the elimination of a sales tax exemption on candy and soda as well as an increase in taxes on cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco.

Patrick has also once again proposed expanding the state’s bottle bill.

Tax collections are expected to grow by $940 million compared to last year’s estimates, a hopeful sign that economic recovery has taken hold in the Commonwealth.

However, costs for indigent health care, homelessness assistance programs, and other social safety net programs are expected to grow by more than $1 billion as well as nearly a half billion in expenses related to pensions, union contracts, and other legally required expenses.

Both the Massachusetts House and Senate will each propose their own spending plans over the next several months, and all sides must come to an agreement in time for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1st.

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