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Public Health Receives "Healthy" Budget Boost

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 By Kevin Clay/Chris Thomas, Contact
March 5, 2007

As lawmakers go over the Governor's new budget with a fine-toothed comb, public health workers say they're feeling a little better after what they've seen so far. And they say you should be, too. Patrick had to work with a budget deficit of one billion dollars, but managed to keep funding for public health above last year's levels. Geoff Wilkinson, director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, says things like disease prevention efforts and doubling the funding for smoking prevention are good for everyone.

"A lot of public health protects all of us, regardless of race, class, regardless of where we live, so we're pleased that the budget is increasing for everybody's sake."

Funding for human services was raised, but not by much, so it won't quite keep pace with inflation. The governor has been criticized for reducing services for the mentally ill, and cutting the salary reserve for social workers, meaning they won't get raises this year. Rebekah Gewirtz, with the Massachusetts Association of Social Workers, says that's unfortunate, but the budget still has its priorities in the right place.

"We recognize the importance of closing corporate tax loopholes. We need revenue to be able to support people who are doing some of the most important work in the state."

Gewirtz says she hopes closing these loopholes will bring in enough revenue to eventually increase the salary reserve again. The total public health budget was increased by $32.6 million.

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