Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God Save The Commonwealth

Governor Patrick recently decided to rescind $18 million in planned cuts to the Regional School Transportation account. His top budget aide, Jay Gonzalez, noted in today's Boston Globe that “[The cuts] would result in teacher layoffs and other school cutbacks, which the governor had not intended or had expected.”

Apparently the governor was absent when Newton's Third Law of Motion was taught in school; namely, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We here at Scaling the Hill find it alarming that Governor Patrick and his Administration would make such a substantial cut to an account without fully understanding the ramifications of their action.

As the Springfield Republican recently noted, school districts cannot cut transportation services because state law requires that transportation be provided to any student that lives more than 1.5 miles from a school. By slashing state funding for transportation services, Governor Patrick was essentially forcing local school districts to make up the shortfall elsewhere in their budgets, which no doubt would have led to layoffs and reductions in other education programs.

Ironically, Governor Patrick once said he wanted to be known as the “Education Governor”. But slashing education funding for cities and towns certainly isn’t going to help him preserve this legacy.

This is the second time this month the governor has reversed direction and righted his compass by rescinding 9C cuts he unilaterally exercised in October. On December 4th, the Patrick Administration took a mulligan by including $42 million for emergency shelter services in a supplemental budget proposal after cutting other homeless services by $2.7 million in October.

This latest debacle is further proof that state government in Massachusetts is rudderless and adrift. The Patrick Administration seems to be lurching from one crisis to the next, and spending most of its time cleaning up messes it created that could have been avoided by doing just a little more homework ahead of time.

By now, after three years in office during an economic downturn, the governor should be very familiar with the effects of budget cuts. If this sort of haphazard budgeting process continues into the New Year, then Captain Patrick – oh wait, we mean Governor Patrick - will be steering the “USS Massachusetts” into some pretty dark and frigid waters.