Baker calls governor’s budget plan a mistake
Says federal funds not a done deal
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles D. Baker criticized Governor Deval Patrick yesterday for counting on more than $600 million in federal funds in building a state budget for the next fiscal year, money that now may not materialize.
“When the governor filed his budget back in January, I said I thought it was a mistake to rely on an unbudgeted and perhaps not real $600 million from the federal government,’’ Baker said at a downtown breakfast with business leaders. “So now it looks like it may not happen, and the budget’s got to go to bed in 30 days. . . . That’s not the plan-for-the-worst approach; that’s the hope-for-the-best.’’
State lawmakers are awaiting word from Congress on whether the money — which Patrick, the House, and Senate all included in their spending plans for next year — is indeed coming. The funding is part of an expected six-month extension of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage program.
If Congress declines to extend the program, the Legislature will have less than a month to fill the gap, and lawmakers have warned of major spending cuts if that happens. Baker said the governor is most at fault for not providing a backup plan.
Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, said that if the status of the federal money is still uncertain next week, the administration will recommend changes.
“That’s $608 million of resources that no longer would be in the budget, which means we have to find $608 million worth of solutions,’’ Gonzalez said. “There are not many options other than additional budget reductions.’’
Baker also addressed a report in yesterday’s Globe on Patrick’s finance committee cochairman Sean Q. Curran, who is also a State House lobbyist. Patrick “ran saying he was going to change the culture on Beacon Hill,’’ Baker said. “That looks a lot like the Beacon Hill people from Massachusetts are sick of.’’
Patrick’s campaign says it has never hid Curran’s role in fund-raising, and trumpeted the governor’s role in tightening ethics and lobbying rules last year.
In the informal discussion with former WBZ-TV anchor Scott Wahle at the breakfast meeting, Baker also called for streamlining state government, more consistency within the tax code, and more transparency within the health care sector. He lauded US Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, for his efforts to protect the local fishing industry from federal regulation.
On the state Senate’s proposal to license three casinos, he expressed skepticism.
“The thing I worry about with three casinos,’’ he said, “is it’s a lot to bite off without knowing what the consequences are.’’
Jack Nicas can be reached at email@example.com.