Patrick Unveils Budget Plan: A Boost for Education, Taxes for Soda and Candy

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a $36.4 billion state budget proposal Wednesday.  That’s an increase of about $2 billion over last year.  

Patrick gave his spending plan measured praise.

“I’m proud of this budget,” he says. “It’s a good budget. It’s a sensible budget.”

It doesn’t contain the type of ambitious proposals as Patrick pushed for last year.

“I don’t think we can come back year after year asking for significant tax increases,” Patrick says. ” So what we have is what we have for the next little while.”

Patrick’s budget proposal would provide money for full-day kindergarten, and pre-school for children from poor families.

“Taken all together, we are proposing an increase in public education spending by some $205 million,” he says. “We do so because education is our calling card around the world, and that’s our single best way to prepare people for work and for life.”

 The troubled Department of Children and Families would see an increase of about $30 million.  Some of that would go toward reducing caseloads for social workers. An extra $140 million would go to the MBTA and MASSDOT.

The proposal would not increase local aid for cities and towns. But Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer says legislators are unlikely to go along with that.

“It’s an election year,” Widmer says. “I think you’ll see a little boost in municipal local aid.”

Overall, the governor’s budget would increase funding by about 5 percent over last year’s levels. Widmer says most of the increase will go to fixed costs like Medicaid, debt service and pensions. 

“There’s not a lot of money to play around with…maybe $400 or $500 million of discretionary dollars,” he says. “So, not a lot in a $35 to $40 million budget.”

The governor also wants to expand the bottle deposit bill and apply the sales tax to candy and soda. Both proposals have been shot down by the legislature year after year.

The spending plan now goes to lawmakers.