Senate Thinks Ahead With 2012 Budget

In a vote just before midnight on Thursday, the Senate approved a $29.2 billion spending plan for fiscal 2012 that calls for widespread cuts in state services, sharp reductions in public health care funding.

Because no new taxes are included, up to $1.5 billion in cutbacks were needed to make up for the loss of federal stimulus money used each of the last three years. As a result, the budget calls for $772 million in reduced spending for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income residents, and cuts in 200 other line items, while level-funding state aid to local schools. State aid for municipal operations would be cut by $65 million.

Health care savings will come from curtailed services, reductions in nursing home and medical care reimbursement rate, as well as savings from changes in state employee health care to divert more workers to lower cost insurance plans.

In a sign that the legislature is thinking ahead to the reality of the economy and the result of some of these cutbacks, the budget adds $30 million in spending over the House’s plan for the Department of Mental Health, including in-patient care, and it fully funds Clubhouses, which are community centers for people with mental illness. It also boosts funding for veterans’ outreach services and homeless shelter funding by 50 percent, and supports new veteran peer counseling programs.

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