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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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