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Editorial | Governor Patrick’s budget cuts embody fiscal cliff’s high stakes

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 01:12

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick held a press conference yesterday describing coming budget cuts for the 2013 fiscal year due to a projected hole of $540 million in the state budget. The governor described the cuts as mostly coming from executive branch bureaucracy and agencies in the state government, as well as being pulled from the “Rainy Day Fund,” which will still have “a balance of $1.2 billion, one of the highest in the country,” according to Patch’s Beach Hill site. The rest will be filled with other small savings and a small percentage of cuts to local aid at the county and municipal levels.

Patrick puts the blame for the projected budget hole on the so−called “fiscal cliff,” citing the stalemate on a deal as the “direct cause of our budget challenges,” as reported in The Boston Globe.

Though many other states have worse debt conditions and have also been brutally affected, it is absolutely necessary for Massachusetts’ economy that a deal be made.

The fiscal cliff was intended to force a bipartisan agreement of some sort to stop the disastrous and immediate cuts set to occur on the first day of next year.

Unfortunately, it appears that the fiscal guillotine that it has become is still not enough of a force to convince two polarized parties to compromise. President Barack Obama believes that he came out of the election with a mandate for higher taxes on the rich and has said that he will not support a deal without them.

The Republicans, under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner (R.−Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.−Kentucky), have offered their intransigence to a deal that includes tax hikes. Yet even Boehner’s plan, which eliminates a large swath of tax deductions, has been attacked by a large part of the GOP. Indeed, both parties have flashed their extreme sides, as some Democrats have expressed reluctance to offer up too much in spending cuts and at least one, Sen. Patty Murray (D.−Washington), has said that going off the cliff would not be the worst possible thing to happen.

Avoiding the cliff should be our goal, as there is too much at stake for states whose own programs will also be affected otherwise, including Massachusetts. This is a time for leadership on both sides: Boehner has to exercise what strength the Republican establishment still has in the face of a fiscally ultra−conservative faction of his party that is poised to make a comeback after Mitt Romney’s defeat.

President Obama also has a responsibility to help the two sides of Congress reach a deal. In his campaign, he proposed a balanced approach that would cut spending and raise taxes. However, it appears he may be pushing his luck. He refuses to budge after failing to negotiate what he wanted in past budget battles, and may have gotten all he will get from Boehner, who loses support for his own plan by the day.

Boehner has already made a risky deal, one that he is certainly aware may fail in his own party. The president has to make a choice as to whether he should hold the hard liberal line and hope the GOP will fold entirely to his demands, or make a bold compromise before it is too late.

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