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Build a sober state budget.


The economic pain of the last 18 months has been so acute that the first signs of recovery have state officials and taxpayers alike breathing a bit easier. But it is too early for lawmakers to assume that this recovery will take hold, and recent reports that the Legislature has begun to build the fiscal 2011 budget on the basis of an anticipated 3.2 percent growth in state revenue are troubling.

Although the governor is slated to submit his initial 2011 budget by Jan. 27, the state is still grappling with a $3 billion gap between spending and revenue. Combine that existing gap with the anticipated budget "cliff" that cities and towns are facing with the disappearance of federal stimulus money later this year, and the situation is ripe for another disconnect between rosy projections on Beacon Hill and grim realities for cities and towns.

Even as state lawmakers floated the 3.2 percent estimate for increased state revenues, the city of Worcester, for example, last week announced that its revenues are running $1.5 million behind expectations.

If state revenues don't perform as expected, further cuts in local aid will be unavoidable.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of a recovering economy, but it is just as surely a mistake, and a far more dangerous one, to overestimate any recovery. We have been through difficult financial straits, and we are not yet out of danger. The governor and Legislature would do well to dampen expectations by considering a level-funded budget for 2011. Today's financial discipline will pay off all the more handsomely tomorrow when - and if - recovery arrives.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 19, 2010
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