WBUR

Gov. Patrick Signs $32.5B State Budget

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick signed the state’s $32.5 billion budget Sunday, vetoing a plan to keep the Taunton State Psychiatric Hospital open. Patrick also rejected controversial welfare and immigration measures.

The budget increases state aid for public schools and cuts spending on health care. Patrick says despite continuing economic challenges, Massachusetts is in better shape than most of the country.

“We are able to do this by making some tough decisions and working hard to do more with less,” Patrick said.

Patrick vetoed $32 million in spending, including a $5.1 million plan to continue operating 45 beds at Taunton State, a public psychiatric facility.

The governor says a new hospital opening in Worcester in August will compensate for the lost beds, and that the state is moving toward a strategy of treating mental health patients at home.

But state Rep. Patricia Haddad, a Democrat from Somerset, says Worcester is not convenient for families south of Brockton.

“A whole swath of the state will not have access to the entire spectrum of mental health care services,” Rep. Haddad said. “And I think that is patently unfair.”

Haddad says she will try to override Patrick’s veto.

The governor also rejected plans to control what people buy with food stamps and other welfare benefits. The budget would have prohibited purchasing certain items such as jewelry and manicures.

“I’m not going to do anything that makes vulnerable people beg for their benefits,” Patrick said. “This notion of humiliating poor people has got to be separated, and quite frankly disposed of, from how we make a program work and work well and with integrity.”

The governor did go along with restricting where people can use welfare benefits. Bars, casinos and spas — among other places — are now off limits.

Patrick also did away with plans to require proof of legal residency for car registration, which he said targeted illegal immigrants and had no clear public safety benefit. The governor did support budget plans to increase penalties for driving without a license.

Republican leaders, who pushed for welfare and immigration restrictions, said they need time to study Patrick’s changes before commenting.

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  • JT

    Don’t the mentally ill people in Southeastern Massachusetts deserve a place for treatment without forcing them and their families to travel an extra 50 to 100 miles to Worcester?  Why would Patrick veto the Taunton plan that requires a study of the need for mental health beds?  The new Worcester hospital was not built to replace Taunton, but that’s what the Patrick administration is doing.  Don’t they care about the Southeastern part of the state? 

  • Nowthatithinkofit

    I believe there’s a place for welfare, as a just society, but did I just read correctly that welfare benefits can be used for manicures and jewelry? Please tell me that I didn’t just read that.

    • Pur

      Is this item perhaps more about retaining local small businesses than about the buyers?

  • Art Lawler

    People who have mental health issues requiring hospitalization need to be close to their community.  Moving them to Worcester without family support is absurd.  It is also clear that many cannot be treated at home when they require acute care.  The governor is not thinking clearly and should reconsider his plan.

  • nicoise

    Many, many of the states mentally ill are homeless.  So I wonder how moving towards treating these patients at home is going to help?

  • Carver3781

    Always tough to decide where to locate a public service outlet,
    but decisions and choices have to be made.  Only wonder is, what politics
    determined the best location vs consideration for those being served.  I
    would generally agree Worcester
    is easier for some, and more difficult for others,  but pretty central for
    this state and it does make sense to have it near a metropolitan area vs rural.
     No way everyone can be satisfied with the location, any location. But the
    fact remains, the economy, including state of Mass. is in need of serious  budget
    paring.  Making the most of the least resources available is better than
    wasting more on administrative costs and providing less services.  It is actually about time government, in general,
    got control of their spending habits.

     

    At the same time, I am stunned that the “dignity” of
    poor translates
    to allowing
    relief money to be spent on by any means non-essentials such as manicures and
    (WTF!!!!) jewelry???!!!!  My family,  and I suspect a huge percentage of the
    population, has generally been OK financially,  even though right now things are tight.
     I would consider us as, over time, middle class for the most part.  No luxury cars, expensive vacations, expensive
    furniture, high end tech gadgets, and certainly not dripping in gold and
    diamonds.  My wife has a manicure maybe once or twice a year depending on
    finances.   My extended family (about 9 cousins on
     side) is about the same.   Manicures, while “nice”, are
    not anywhere near a priority when choices have to be made.  Women, and
    men, have every capability, to groom themselves quite well with the myriad of
    products out there.   I bet more
    people drink alcohol than have manicures and (frequent) hair stylings.  

     

    So should we fund booze if chosen by the beneficiary? Why not
    tobacco?  Or dining at the Ritz?  Who decides who gets shortchanged
    in their spending because some decide to spend on these items while others
    focus on food and basics (not necessarily speaking about austerity level here)?
      The incentive is, or those who
    would be more thrifty, to spend more on things they would otherwise skip until
    better times so they get a better slice of the the public pie.

     

    Then the tax payers, who
    directly or indirectly, pay for those purchases,  have to
    make decisions on what to cut or not, from
    their own spending, because they are paying for manicures and jewelry?  This is as
    unwise a use of 

  • Carver3781

    not, from their own spending, because they are paying for manicures and
    jewelry?  This is as unwise a use of assistance as is the other extreme,
    where those who have legitimately fallen on hard times through no clear fault
    of their own (health issues, layoffs, etc), and didn’t do foolish things like over finance their homes to pay
    for vacations, and expensive cars, and big screen television and bloated cell
    phone plans, or buy homes on speculation and/or well beyond their means,
    need some help with basics getting back up.   But some would be more satisfied seeing those
    legit folks go into foreclosures and bankruptcies.  That would serve very
    little end except a sense of punishment.  Restricting  use of
    financial assistance is the equivalent of giving children more money when they
    blow their allowance on junk, but want more… well…. junk. 

     

    Public
    assistance is not easy to monitor and control, but there are certainly lines
    that can be drawn in anyone’s budget, beyond which which lie the more
    discretionary expenses that can wait, without dire consequence, for better
    financial times.  A difficult task but the only prudent, responsible way
    to take money for some, and provide it to those having problems, the purpose of
    which is to provide a safety net that will offer a chance to get back on their
    feet, with “dignity” for all.

     

    I can only hope there is some missing information in this
    interpretation of the budget rules.    If not, I am going to go apply
    for assistance so I can buy my wife a gold necklace.  What the heck.
     “They” can do it, right?

  • Carver3781

    Public assistance, safety nets, welfare,  retirement pensions, and so on, are not “Rights” guaranteed by the Constitution.  They are the benefit we all have behind us, for what has been a hard working, successful nation as a whole, who has always been empathetic and offered help to, not just in this country, but globally, those who are in or near dire need.  Having facilities, with services provided by the public coin, within 5 or 25 or 50 miles,  is not a “Right”.  Having facilities AT ALL, is a benefit we all share from past generations, and can hopefully pass on (responsibly, not like the decade or 3 or 4 or more) to future generations.  It is good business to have a cafeteria, but not everyone needs to be served steak.

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