- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Massachusetts—Budget for fiscal year 2003 ending June 30, $23 billion. Shortfall estimated at about $600 million, despite tax increases and program cuts. New Republican Gov. Mitt Romney will be considering further human service program cuts, borrowing, to help make up shortfall for current fiscal year, but taxes off the table. Legislature gave Romney emergency powers to cut local aid to cities and towns by $200 million. Budget for fiscal 2004 that begins July 1 to be proposed in February to the Legislature by Romney. That budget shortfall estimated at between $2 billion and $3 billion. Taxes expected to be on the table, along with further program cuts, expanded legalized gambling including possible Indian-run casinos.

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Connecticut—Budget for fiscal year 2003 ending June 30, $13.2 billion. Shortfall estimated at about $650 million. Re-elected Republican Gov. John Rowland proposed $200 million in program cuts, $200 million in tax increases, and $100 million in state employee concessions on wages and benefits, as well as delaying already approved construction projects. Issued 3,000 layoff notices for January, more in near future, if unions don't agree to concessions. Legislature this session expected to address both current shortfall and estimated shortfall of $1.5 billion in fiscal 2004. Added tax on millionaires considered.

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New Hampshire—Budget for fiscal year 2002-2003 $3.9 billion. Shortfall expected to be about $80 million by end of June, and $250 million by 2005 (New Hampshire has a biennial budget). New Republican Gov. Craig Benson asked department heads to propose cutting their budget requests by 7 percent. Craig has to present balanced biennial budget proposal to Legislature by Feb. 15. New or increased taxes not a popular option in New Hampshire, which has neither statewide sales nor income tax. Legislative leaders are considering stricter eligibility requirements for Medicaid programs in order to ease looming deficit.

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Maine—Fiscal 2003 budget $5 billion. New Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and Legislature considering options to avoid a potential budget shortfall of $1 billion in fiscal 2004. He has to submit a balanced budget proposal to the Legislature on Feb. 7. Options include approving Indian-run casino to help bring in new revenues, as well as cuts in expenditures.

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Rhode Island—New Republican Gov. Don Carcieri has no deficit to deal with for the current fiscal year's $5.34 billion budget, but could face an expected deficit of $175 million to $200 million in fiscal 2004. He has called for Legislature to cut its own $27 million budget by 25 percent. Casino gambling, program cuts, among options under consideration.

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Vermont—New Republican Gov. Jim Douglas inherits a balanced $3.38 billion budget for fiscal 2003, thanks to cuts made during 2002 by the outgoing administration. There is a projected deficit of about $40 million for fiscal 2004. Douglas has said he is not going to new taxes, but has not ruled it out. Surplus in a special education fund, funded by statewide property tax, expected to be tapped to address any shortfall.





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