$30.5B opener; 2012 plan makes nod to restraint.

PositionEDITORIAL - Editorial

COLUMN: In our opinion

Gov. Deval Patrick's $30.5 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2012 contains $570 million in cuts. Coming at a time of tentative economic recovery - and with the disappearance of federal dollars that helped out last year - it is being viewed as one of the most frugal in years.

Make no mistake: This budget does represent further belt-tightening for many, including social-service agencies and cities and towns, which will see a $65 million, or 7.2 percent, cut in local aid. Worcester will lose more than $2.5 million.

No one is happy about such cuts, but we have repeatedly urged the governor to cut spending, and applaud him for what restraint he has shown. We support the governor's budget not because it is perfect - indeed, we believe his cuts do not go far enough - but because it is a start toward fiscal conservatism, and there is little chance that the Legislature will cut any deeper.

Indeed, if experience is an accurate guide, lawmakers will be inclined - under withering assault from those whose funding has been cut - to add to this budget.

We urge them instead to stand with the governor. Increasing spending further would be a serious mistake with a budget that already comes with a blizzard of asterisks and uncertainties.

State tax receipts are recovering, and the economy - while hardly in a robust recovery - has at least stabilized. Skeptics of the governor's spending plan have warned that much must go right for it to succeed. They're right, but one of the major things that must go right is also one of the only things within anyone's control: The Legislature can stop spending.

To be sure, spending is a team effort.

By way of review, recall that the fiscal 2011 budget Mr. Patrick signed last June came to $29.4 billion. Since then, the Legislature approved supplementary spending of $420 million in October, and $330 million earlier this month. On Wednesday, Mr. Patrick placed another $311 million in spending before them.

Whatever the wisdom of such spending bills, the bottom line is Massachusetts...

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