Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Cutting the right corners

When Gov. Deval Patrick was elected almost two years ago, he promised to bring down property taxes and maintain the income tax rate while cutting unnecessary costs from the state budget. That’s why it’s not surprising that now, faced with a global economic crisis that imperils the state’s ability to provide even basic services, Patrick is doing all he can to cut state expenditures before asking for more income. With the state budget running a $1.4 billion deficit, Patrick’s budget cuts may be painful, but they are entirely necessary to deal with and prepare for economic woes both present and future.
In a hastily called press conference Wednesday afternoon, Patrick called for the elimination of more than 1,000 state jobs and outlined budget cuts totaling more than $1 billion in an effort to close the budget gap or at least stave off a deeper deficit. He promised to cut from some Massachusetts services like the Registry of Motor Vehicles and public parks maintenance, but vowed to leave other services like public education and health care relatively unscathed. His choice to be selective and cut from specific programs rather than making across-the-board goals for budget cuts, shows wisdom and takes a stand for the average worker.
In the midst of this recession, people from the middle class will share the burden of slow growth as much as the poor, particularly those who are dealing with the increasing costs of college education. It’s a relief that these cuts are designed to take from the departments and services that can afford to operate with fewer officials. In doing so, Patrick spared the vital human services that support those who are already the most vulnerable.
But perhaps Patrick’s best decision was the one to act quickly. Letting the budget gap widen and waiting until next year’s budget to address it would be a mistake leaving Massachusetts in an even poorer position to deal with the growing economic crisis, potentially digging a hole deeper for the commonwealth.
What’s certain is that the current financial environment is affecting everyone from civil servants to entire state government. As the market and eventually the economy take years to right themselves, Bay State residents should prepare for more painful budget cuts. It’s a necessary measure to preserve the overall health of the state, and in the end, wise planning will make all the difference. Massachusetts should plan well and continue to use good judgement and common sense when preparing its budget, and the state will fare well through the economic crisis.

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