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Patrick Unveils $30.5B Budget Proposal

BOSTON — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke4IIgSvUgo

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday unveiled his $30.5 billion budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

The governor’s plan reduces state spending by $570 million — the largest one-year cut in 20 years. Cuts include $65 million in direct local aid — as he told cities and towns Friday — $45 million in counsel to those who can’t afford a lawyer and $23 million in spending on emergency homeless shelters.

The budget would cut as many as 900 jobs — after cutting 5,900 jobs in the past two years.

Patrick also called for modest spending increases in youth violence prevention and education achievement. The money for schools would increase the aid to its highest-ever level.

“It reflects many difficult and painful choices. but we are making those choices to support our priorities: job creation, health care cost control, better schools and reduced youth violence,” Patrick said.

“It challenges us to do differently some of those things government ought to do,” Patrick added at the State House. “It also eliminates the $2 billion structural deficit that was waiting for me when I took office four years ago.”

One way the governor intends to close that deficit is to change the way the state contracts health care coverage, as well as to cut Medicaid spending.

Before the proposal was released, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer identified Medicaid as one area the governor would likely target.

“So when one looks at this budget, the only way to really try to bring over the longer-term some stability to it, needs to control the rate of growth of Medicaid,” Widmer said.

Widmer said Medicaid represents about a third of state spending — about $10 billion a year — and has been growing at a rate of 10 percent a year.

Though tax revenues are up slightly, the budget comes as the full weight of the recession hits following the end of supplemental federal stimulus money and depleted rainy-day funds.

Patrick’s proposal calls for withdrawing $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund.

Later this year the House will unveil its version, followed by the Senate. The measures will be merged in a conference committee. The 2011 fiscal year ends June 30.

WBUR’s Benjamin Swasey contributed reporting.

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