$150M local aid boost sought; GOP criticizes Patrick budget.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - House and Senate Republicans yesterday called for a $150 million increase in nonschool aid to cities and towns, above the amounts sought so far by the governor and a budget blueprint laid out earlier this week by House Democrats.

In a letter to legislative leaders, the group of lawmakers also complained that the governor has tied his proposal for level funding of nonschool local aid next year to approval of a plan to license three casinos in the state.

"Local aid is not a game to be used for political gain," the lawmakers said in their letter, which was signed by 150 city and town officials from around the state.

Beyond the issue of tying local aid to casino approvals, state House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr., D-North Reading, and state Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei, R-Wakefield, said they would support a one-time $150 million increase in local aid by tapping the state's $2.3 billion rainy day fund.

That amount would be in addition to a $223 million state increase in local school aid proposed by the governor that has been agreed to by House and Senate Democrats and Republican leaders.

State Rep. Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury, said yesterday that the governor's plan to level fund lottery aid to municipal budgets amounts to a cut in state support for local government because it does not reflect the cost of inflation and rising fixed costs to cities and towns for services they provide.

Without an increase, she said, the cities and towns could be forced to reduce services next year since the likelihood of local Proposition 2-1/2 overrides has diminished because property owners already are being taxed to their limits.

"The only real solution is a better partnership with the state and local government," she said.

Ms. Polito described Gov. Deval L. Patrick's plan to use casino revenues to fund property tax credits for low- and moderate-income homeowners as "pie in the sky" because it is tied to casino revenues that may not be approved.

She said she favors direct assistance to the cities and towns, which would allow municipalities to offer property tax relief, rather than

the governor's proposed property tax credits.

"His proposal is so limited because it is only for some eligible residents. It...

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