- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

BOSTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Some Massachusetts lawmakers, advocates and municipal officials expressed concerns Friday over Gov. Mitt Romney's deficit-filling budget cuts.

The Republican governor on Thursday released details of his proposed spending reductions, including some $343 million in unilateral cuts.

The plan is designed to help address an estimated $650-million deficit in this fiscal year's budget.

Using emergency spending powers granted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Romney slashed $114 million from local aid to cities and towns and $133 million from health and human services programs.

Public higher education took a $41 million hit, and more than $21 million was sliced from public health prevention and treatment programs.

"These emergency actions do not cut into the bone and muscle of government," said Romney's Administration and Finance Secretary Eric Kriss. He said none of the reductions "compromise the core mission of government."

Michael Widmer, president of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation Municipal, disagreed.

"These cuts have a direct impact on the basic services provided by state government," Widmer said.

Romney also put before the Legislature $142 million in further proposed cuts, as well as increases in various fees and forcing state workers and state retirees to pay 10 percent more for their health insurance costs, up from 15 percent to 25 percent.

He is also seeking $114 million in savings from Medicaid, $39 million of which would require legislative approval.

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini expressed concerns over the size of cuts from health and human services, and hopes to use a supplemental budget to restore some of the cuts.

"It's our intent to be as cooperative as we can be," Travaglini said. He said he was "very concerned" that 42 percent of the cuts came from human services.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran planned to review the proposed cuts with members Friday before commenting on the governor's plan.

While the cuts are expected to cost 125 state workers their jobs, many cities and towns also warned they would also be forced to layoff employees.

Springfield Mayor Michael J. Albano criticized the cuts to his city, saying he expects to lay off 350 workers.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the $24 million cut in state aid to the largest city in the state would be "devastating," especially to education.

"Any hint that schools are not hit hard in Boston," Menino said, "is wrong."

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