SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 6, 2012

Local aid cuts bring angst

N. Shore politicians react to governor's budget plan

Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to keep the state budget in balance with more cuts, including cuts to local aid, is getting a mixed reaction on the North Shore.

In Danvers, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said, the selectmen have already voted unanimously to urge their representatives on Beacon Hill to fight any cuts to the town.

“The thought local aid would be cut is unpleasant,” he said.

And he cites the reductions currently sustained locally in the wake of the recession — approximately $1 million — as well as the mounting, unfunded mandates placed on Danvers by Beacon Hill.

Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon is more philosophical about the potential loss of revenue.

“I think when there are difficult times, we all have to share the pain,” he said.

Acknowledging that the Massachusetts Municipal Association is fighting the governor’s proposal, he said, “It’s a difficult thing. But I’m not prepared to fight it.”

A shortfall in state revenue, along with misgivings about the consequences of the fiscal cliff (the potential of large tax increases from Washington in January), are behind the governor’s decision. He is required to keep the state budget balanced. Some cuts he has made unilaterally, but others, including cuts to local aid, will require an assent from the Legislature giving him the temporary power to make them.

Whether this would happen prior to the seating of the new legislation in January remains uncertain.

With the fiscal year at roughly the halfway point, the state is short about $250 million of the revenue it was estimated to collect. Thus, the governor has calculated a shortfall for the entire year at $540 million. He anticipates dealing with it in part by withdrawing $200 million from the state’s billion-dollar-plus rainy day fund and making some cuts in executive departments.

Determining the exact amount slated to come from local aid depends on who you talk to, with the figure varying and rising as high as $35 million, according to House Minority Leader Brad Jones.

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