'09 budget bets on casinos; Gambling revenue is in Patrick's plan.


Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON - Gov. Deval L. Patrick yesterday sent the Legislature a budget plan that links vital local aid to cities and towns to passage of his casino proposals, and also depends on closing $297 million in corporate tax loopholes rejected by the Legislature last year.

Mr. Patrick insisted his $28.2 billion budget plan was reasonable, balanced and efficient, while designed to help expand the state's job base and economy by licensing casinos and beefing up public schools.

Although the governor would rely on $124 million in casino revenue for a portion of the annual state aid to municipal operations, the budget calls for no increase in state funds for city and town operations next fiscal year, even with those gambling revenues.

If the governor's plan to license three resort casinos is not approved, cities and towns could see a reduction from this year's allocation of $935 million to $811 million, unless the difference is taken from the state's $2.3 billion rainy day fund.

The governor's spending plan already calls for taking $369 million from those reserves to balance the spending proposals.

Meanwhile, the governor would provide a $223 million increase in Chapter 70 funds for local schools, an increase equal to this year's boost in school funding, which is not linked to casino funds or loophole closings.

The budget also calls for an additional $251 million over this year's $471 million allocation to "fully fund" the first full year of insurance subsidies for the state's new mandatory health insurance program. It also calls for $4 million to train and hire 100 additional local police officers in high crime communities; $36 million to expand pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and extended school day programs; $20 million for clean energy programs; $15 million in additional heating assistance; $10 million to reduce homelessness; and an increase of $7.7 million for state beaches and parks.

"We can afford to do what we are proposing," Mr. Patrick said.

"We have seen what the cost of inaction looks like - failing schools, broken roads, violence on street corners - and we must not settle for it any longer."

Even before he filed the budget, top lawmakers including House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Robert E. DeLeo, D-Boston, complained that the governor should not base his spending plan on either the casino or loophole-closing revenues that may not be approved.


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