State has $765M budget shortfall, Baker says

Patrick had estimated deficit to be only $329 million

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (WWLP) – After just 12 days in office, Governor Charlie Baker has come up with a total for the state’s spending gap, and it’s a big one; more than twice former Governor Deval Patrick’s estimate.

Baker said Tuesday that the state budget is more than three-quarters of a billion dollars short, and he said tax revenues aren’t the issue. He said the primary problem here is spending.

“This problem needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now,” Baker said.

He said the deficit is largely due to health care costs.

“I think one of the things we have to do is get this Health Connector piece right. It is the most significant factor in the ’15 deficit and if we don’t get it right, it’s going to be a big problem in ’16 as well,” the Republican said.

In order to help close the gap, Baker hopes to use $200 million in capital gains tax revenue, which would otherwise go to the state’s rainy day fund. That plan, however, requires legislative approval.

In addition to finding a fix for the $765 million gap, Baker has to submit his own version of the fiscal 2016 budget by the end of next month. State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) told 22News that timing is crucial as state lawmakers enter budget season.

“We, of course, have to look at plugging this gap for this fiscal year, and of course the next fiscal year begins in July, so preparations need to be made,” Lesser said.

Governor Baker has ruled out raising taxes or making cuts to local aid as a solution to the state’s budget woes.

The Patrick Administration had predicted that the budget deficit for fiscal year 2015 would be $329 million.

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