$26.7 billion gambit; Budget will be governor's first real political test.

Position:EDITORIAL - Editorial
 
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COLUMN: IN OUR OPINION

Declaring his budget a gimmick-free zone, Gov. Deval L. Patrick yesterday delivered his $26.7 billion fiscal 2008 spending blueprint to a Legislature that already has signaled skepticism about some aspects of the plan. It will take all of his considerable powers of persuasion to keep the package intact in the face of a Legislature that habitually declares governors' budgets dead on arrival and of special-interest pushback that began even before he submitted his plan.

The budget proposal would give a much-needed 5 percent increase in local aid to cities and towns while holding overall spending growth to about 1 percent of current spending (or 4 percent more than the 2007 budget proposal). After years of spending increases double and triple the rate of inflation, that would be a noteworthy feat - if it holds.

The chief political challenge will be to achieve the $950 million in "savings and efficiencies" in the budget request. That is by no means a given.

Already under fire is the plan to close $295 million in "corporate tax loopholes," such as provisions of the tax code that let multistate corporations to shift earnings to avoid Massachusetts taxes and allow companies to charge themselves rent. Such changes appear to be legitimate efforts to rationalize the tax code and create a more level playing field. At a budget briefing yesterday morning, however, representatives of the Boston Chamber of Commerce and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation both said the changes in the tax code would hamper job creation and economic growth.

Human services advocates, who enjoy considerable support in the Legislature, also have expressed concern about the effect of a half-billion dollars in spending cuts in the Patrick...

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