By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
JULY 8, 2012…Gov. Deval Patrick on Sunday signed a $32.5 billion state budget that raises state aid for public schools by 4.5 percent and counts on $700 million in health care cost savings to achieve balance.
Patrick found only $32.1 million in objectionable spending in the budget crafted by the Legislature over the past few months. He vetoed $10 million of a proposed $20 million human services salary reserve, $10 million for the probation department, $5.1 million to continue operating Taunton State Hospital, $3.5 million for a school district reserve, $400,000 for a State Police benefits fraud unit, and $3.1 million in earmarks.
While the total amount of vetoes was small compared to the overall budget, the spending plan relies on significant savings, estimated at $700 million, largely through management, procurement and contracting efforts to reduce the state’s tab for health care, the largest expense in the state budget.
The budget supports spending with $350 million drawn from the state’s reserve account, leaving the rainy day fund with a projected balance of $1.28 billion.
Patrick administration officials said the 4 percent budget growth rate in fiscal 2013 is less than the assumed growth rate of state revenues collections in fiscal 2013, which began on July 1.
Patrick on Sunday also signaled his support for another sales tax holiday weekend in August. The governor included in a new spending bill a plan to use a one-time payment to the state’s General Fund of $20 million to account for sales tax revenues that would be foregone during a tax-free weekend next month that retailers say will lift their businesses and offer consumers reduced prices.
In other budget actions, Patrick agreed to stricter penalties for driving without a license in Massachusetts, returned with amendments changes to electronic benefits for welfare recipients, and approved a requirement that mutual insurance companies provide clear disclosure to their members of compensation paid to executive officers.