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Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick announces 2015 fiscal year budget

Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick filed the Massachusetts state budget for the 2015 fiscal year Wednesday, allocating $580 million  to be invested in education and job creation.

“This budget is a balanced, responsible budget that supports our growth strategy of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure to create jobs and opportunity in the near term and strengthen our Commonwealth in the long term,” Patrick said in a Wednesday release.

The total budget is approximately $36.4 billion, a 4.9 percent increase from the 2013 fiscal year since the predicted tax revenue growth is also 4.9 percent.

Funding for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will increase by $141 million and if approved by legislature, $12.4 billion will be invested in public transit, highway, bridge and aeronautic programs over five years.

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center will receive $25 million in order to increase the grants and loans they give to researchers and start-up companies. In addition, this will help develop the workforce in the life sciences field.

Investment in education will increase by $204.9 million including $15 million to be invested in early education programs to accomplish Patrick’s goal of closing the achievement gap. In order to improve student success, Patrick allocated $4.5 million to expand learning time for middle schools, $3.1 million to schools, which want to offer innovative programs and $1.25 million to support students and their families in Gateway Cities.

“I am proud of the progress we have made by working together and governing for the long term over the past seven years,” Patrick said. “Let’s continue this work, inspired by our shared commitment to leave to others a better Commonwealth than we found. In that spirit, I look forward to working with the Legislature on this budget.”

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of Massachusetts Municipal Association, an association that provides research and advocacy to towns and cities in Massachusetts, says this new budget is very disappointing for municipalities across the Commonwealth.

“Unrestricted municipal aid is used by cities and towns to pay for police and fire protection, ambulance services, education, public works, road maintenance, senior and youth programs, libraries and much more,” he said. “Cities and towns would be forced to rely much more on the local property tax to fund local services and they would face possible service reductions. They would not have the resources to invest in very important programs that build our economy.”

Beckwith said he hopes the budget will be more focused on what local towns and cities need after the legislature reviews it.

“Now that the economy has stabilized for Massachusetts and is starting to grow again, we need that investment to happen at the local level to keep the state moving forward,” he said. “We believe that all legislatures listen very closely to their local officials and that’s why we’re optimistic that the budget will improve as the legislature begins its deliberation.”

Some residents said the money allocated in the 2015 budget is going to the wrong places and should be split up between other issues in Massachusetts.

“I see why Gov. Patrick would put so much emphasis on education,” said Kelly Powers, 29, of Brighton. “But $200 million is a huge portion of the state’s budget and there are so many other aspects of the city that it could go to. I think more of his budget should have gone to job creation … that’s one of the most important things with the economy struggling.”

Ian Howley, 22, of Allston, said he also sees many other issues that could be given more attention around Massachusetts.

“The city and state officials have been really active with new reforms and acts recently,” he said. “Education is definitely important, but they should take little steps instead of throwing so much money at it at once. I see so many homeless when I walk on the street, the public transportation could definitely use improvement … This is a big city, there are a lot of things that need attention.”

Ayoub Snouti, 39, of the North End, said more money should go to the individual towns in Massachusetts for them to allocate.

“It must be difficult for officials to generalize the needs of the state like that and figure out which areas are most important for the entire state,” he said. “If that money were to be given to town and city officials, they communicate more with the people and know better what areas need improvement.”

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