Despite Skepticism, Patrick Admin. Says Budget Could Save $1 B

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Feb. 16, 2011

BOSTON — The Patrick administration is defending the governor's budget proposal. Gov. Deval Patrick's budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, was in the hot seat on Wednesday during a hearing before the House's and Senate's Ways and Means Comittees. 

As he fielded questions from lawmakers about Patrick's budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1st, Gonzalez defended the administration’s bare-bones budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We’re unfortunately in the situation where we do not have the resources we need to do everything that the governor, certainly, would like to do," Gonzalez said. "But we have to live within our means and we believe that our budget does the best job of that we possibly can in the fiscal environment that we’re in.”
 
At the crux of that budget is reigning in the state’s health care costs. Gonzalez touted a number of proposals he says will save the state $ 1 billion next year, including steering state employees toward lower cost health plans, raising copays for those on Medicaid and changing the way the state contracts for care.
 
Gonzalez was asked whether the state can really expect to save $1 billion in one year.

“Can I tell you with 100% certainty we’re gonna get every single dollar of those savings?  I can’t tell you with a 100% certainty because we’ve never done this before," Gonzalez said. "But can I tell you I feel very confident we will? Yes!”

Gonzalez also fielded questions about the Governor’s proposed overhaul of the public defender system. 

In the budget, Patrick calls for eliminating the use of private attorneys to represent poor clients. He says full-time staff attorneys can do the job for less. But lawmakers questioned whether he was overestimating the potential cost savings, and raised concerns that the staff lawyers would be overworked and underpaid. 
 
The next budget hearing  on proposed cuts to human services is scheduled to take place Friday morning in Boston.

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