Obama's Budget Is Mixed Bag For Massachusetts

By Sarah Birnbaum

Feb. 15, 2011

President Obama talks about his $3.7 trillion budget for 2012 during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday. (AP)

BOSTON — President Barack Obama unveiled his budget plan yesterday for the upcoming fiscal year.  It cuts back or eliminates some 200 federal programs -- and municipal officials in Massachusetts say they'll feel the pain. 
The budget is a mixed bag for Bay State, according to UMass Boston economist Christian Weller. He says the budget would preserve or expand funding for education and clean energy. Massachusetts, with its strong academic and tech sectors, could benefit from those investments.
"The good news for Massachusetts is continued spending in innovation, more money in research and development, particularly for renewable energies, more money for education, especially in k-12 and more support in college education," Weller said.
But experts say the budget also contains some bad news for the state: Proposed cutbacks in heating assistance for poor families would disproportionately affect New England, where winters are cold, although some observers say Congress is unlikely to accept the President's proposed $2 billion or more cut in the program.

And Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says the president's planned reduction in so-called community development block grants would be particularly painful for Massachusetts cities and towns.  Beckwith says the grants fund a wide range of neighborhood improvements, everything from road repairs, to the Boys and Girls club to senior housing.
“So we’re talking about basic human services, leveraging housing, leveraging job creation, economic development projects.  These funds are irreplaceable really,” Beckwith said.
President Obama’s budget proposal is just the first move in the Capitol Hill spending debate. Republicans are calling for even steeper cuts.

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