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Friday, June 25, 2010

Budget illusion: Mass. does better than us

Union Leader Editorial:

Quick quiz: Which state's legislators budget more responsibly: New Hampshire's or Massachusetts'? No, it's not a trick question.

Wednesday night, legislators in Massachusetts approved a state budget that included reductions in lots of state programs and services. Many of those cuts were made necessary when legislators removed $687 million in federal stimulus money from the revenue side of the budget.

That huge sum had been included in some budget plans all year. But lawmakers decided to take it out because they realized it might never show up. Congress has not appropriated the funds and might never do so.

The money is from something called the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, which are matching federal funds distributed to states for social and medical service programs. Congress has not decided whether to approve proposed increases for this year. Wisely, Massachusetts Democrats removed the funding from the budget.

"We are, I would suggest, under no illusion that this . . . money is coming," Rep. Charles A. Murphy, D-Burlington, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Boston Globe.

New Hampshire Democrats, by contrast, were only too happy to accept the illusion that the money is coming. When they passed state budget fixes a few weeks ago, they included $48 million in FMAP funding even though they knew Congress had not, and might never, approve it. It was irresponsible, but, they decided, easier than cutting $48 million in spending.

Did you ever think you'd see the day when Democratic legislators in Massachusetts could legitimately claim to have budgeted more responsibly than New Hampshire? What is becoming of our once frugal state?

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