The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVIII, Issue 18
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
January 24, 2003

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Romney given broader budget cutting power

by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons, Chronicle staff

Lawmakers voted last week to expand Gov. Mitt Romney's authority to make emergency cuts in the areas of local aid and higher education to close a $450 million to $600 million gap in the current state budget.

     Romney administration officials said they would assess tax revenues before detailing any cutbacks in state spending. Updated revenue reports were expected to be released Wednesday. Romney's cuts will probably be announced early next month.

     Under the measure, Romney can reduce funding for any state program, except for the 14 percent of the state budget which supports constitutional officers, the Legislature, inspector general, comptroller and the judicial branch and debt service.

     The expanded fiscal authority, which extends through June 30, gives the governor the power to reduce the $5.5 billion set aside for local aid and the $950 million for public higher education, which includes the University, state college and community college systems.

     The measure limits the local aids cuts to one-third of the projected shortfall, or about $200 million, in the worst-case scenario.

     The Senate, which removed House language that called for equal percentage reductions to cities and towns and protecting "foundation" education funding for poor communities, easily passed the measure 29-8. The House then agreed to the changes after Romney promised to treat all communities equally.

     Last week, a President's Office spokesman said the Board of Trustees will likely defer budget discussions scheduled for its Feb. 12 meeting until after the governor details his plans.

 
    
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