Massachusetts House budget writers unveiled a proposed $32.3 billion state spending plan this morning that includes measures aimed at reforming the state's community college system and cracking down on abuse of electronic benefit cards by welfare recipients.
The House Ways and Means bill would spend $14 million less than what Gov. Deval Patrick proposed in January, but it does not include approximately $250 million in new cigarette, candy and soda taxes and other revenues backed by the governor.
"This plan rejects all the governor's tax increase proposals," House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, told the The Eagle-Tribune this morning. "The economy is still fragile and this budget recognizes that."
DeLeo said the plan makes local aid to cities and towns a top priority. It increases state education aid by $164 million over current levels. That is $18.5 million more than Patrick has proposed. The plan also provides more money than proposed by the governor for special education and school transportation.
"This plan sends a strong message that we look at cities and towns as our partners," DeLeo said. "We think this is one of the best ways to give the best possible services we can to the residents of Massachusetts."
The proposal eliminates most of Patrick's proposal to "centralize" control of the 15 community colleges in the governor's office and the Department of Higher Education, said state Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the spending bill's chief author.
Dempsey, a Haverhill democrat, said the proposal calls for "increased coordination" among the community colleges in areas such as curriculum, but retains "local involvement" in school administration.
"We don't think it's a good idea to run the community colleges out of Boston," Dempsey said. "We need to leave them the ability to respond to their local business communities and local economic development issues."
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