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Gov. Deval Patrick Signs New State Budget

By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press
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(Photo credit: Matt Bennett/Governor's Office)

(Photo credit: Matt Bennett/Governor’s Office)

420x316-grad-tunnicliffe1 Kim Tunnicliffe
Kim Tunnicliffe is an anchor and reporter for WBZ Newsradio 1030. She...
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BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a $30.6 billion budget that he said reduces overall state spending while laying the groundwork for an ongoing economic recovery in Massachusetts.

Patrick signed the budget in his Statehouse office on Monday, 11 days into the 2012 fiscal year that began July 1. He made no vetoes to reduce spending in the budget plan sent to him by lawmakers.

The budget is one of the tightest in recent memory as the state continues to pull out of the recent recession.

The spending plan contains no broad-based taxes, draws $185 million from the state’s rainy day fund, and overhauls Massachusetts’ public defender program by reducing the state’s reliance on higher-paid private attorneys.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports.

“This budget reflects tough decisions and sacrifice across state government,” Patrick said.

The state begins the new fiscal year with $585 million left in its one-time rainy day fund, far below the more than $2 billion in the account at its peak, but still among the top 10 largest stabilization funds of any state, according to the administration.

Patrick said the budget also includes changes to help reduce homelessness in Massachusetts, tightens oversight of quasi-public agencies by requiring annual audits and maintains funding for programs designed to close the racial and ethnic achievement gap in the state’s schools.

The spending plan also supports increased efforts by the state to reduce youth violence.

The budget signing follows an agreement reached Friday on a contentious plan to reduce the cost to cities and towns for providing health insurance to municipal employees.

Amendments filed by Patrick to the budget would give cities and towns more flexibility to make changes in co-payments, deductibles and other aspects of public employee health insurance outside of the collective bargaining process.

Under the proposal, cities and towns could shift their workers into the state’s Group Insurance Commission or another lower-cost plan after a monthlong discussion period with unions.

The issue had been one of the thorniest of the lengthy budget negotiations on Beacon Hill, with intense lobbying by union leaders who claimed it would violate collective bargaining rights won over the years. Meanwhile, cities and towns facing cuts in local aid demanded that the state provide them relief from the soaring costs of providing health insurance to workers.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray support the changes.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the amendments later Monday.

Despite the souring national economy, Massachusetts’ jobs picture has brightened somewhat. In May, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell to 7.6 percent, well below the national rate that rose to 9.2 percent in June. The June numbers for Massachusetts have yet to be released.

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Associated Press writer Johanna Kaiser contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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