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Report: What the Budget Cuts Mean

August 2, 2010

BOSTON - From schools to public safety, budget cuts have hit programs across the board in The Commonwealth, and a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center illustrates how much has been cut, and from where. The report documents budgetary issues that began in 2009 and have led to more than $3 billion in cuts.

According to Brian Rosman, research director for the group Health Care For All, the state's health care system has not been spared. He says dental benefits have been eliminated for about 700,000 MassHealth recipients, including 130,000 seniors.

"What they're doing is eliminating coverage for dentures, for dental implants, and we see this really directly harming people, leading to difficulties eating. We know that good dental health is related to overall health."

Rosman sees the cuts as a short-term solution that he says will end up costing the state more down the road.

According to the report, the state's revenue shortfall was caused by a combination of the current economy, tax cuts and stalled federal Medicaid reimbursements. These led to the deepest local aid cuts in state history, with thousands of layoffs of teachers, police officers, librarians and other state workers.

Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford says since 2009, his city has laid off more than 150 employees, and furloughs are in place for all non-emergency workers.

"So Friday at noon, we close City Hall and all our day-to-day type of office functions come to a halt until Monday morning again. The fact is that every business in the city relies on the government to provide certain services, whether it's sewer, water; whether it's sidewalks; whether it's roads."

This fiscal year, Lang notes the local schools are laying off 220 employees, including 109 teachers. He says New Bedford will not maintain its vitality if the government continues to contract.

In addition to the problems created by the national recession, the report says Massachusetts also suffers from its own, longer-term structural budget problems due to tax cuts and loss of revenue.

The report, "FISCAL FALLOUT: The Great Recession, Policy Choices, & State Budget Cuts," is available online at www.massbudget.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA