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Final budget to bail out Massachusetts towns

By George B. MerryStaffwriter of The Christian Science Monitor / July 23, 1981



Boston

Near fiscal chaos in Massachusetts is abating. The July 21 signing of a new $6.3 billion state budget has removed the threat of further payless paydays for public employees, pensioners, and welfare recipients.

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Also assured is substantially increased financial aid from the state to its cities and towns hard hit by a local property- tax rollback approved by voters last November.

Still in doubt, however, is how the state's additional $265 million will be shared by the 351 municipalities. Before the ink on the gubernatorial signature could dry, a move was under way within the Legislature to amend the local aid distribution formulas to prevent inequities. Under the present plan, some communities would receive much less - or much more -- aid than what they stand to lose in realestate revenues.

Gov. Edward J. King is sympathetic to some kind of a revamp in the arrangement for allocating the increased local aid, but went along with the budget measure sent to him July 15 by state lawmakers.

Since the fiscal year was already three weaks old and without a budget, he decided not to return the spending package to the Legislature, which would have further delayed funding of programs.

Members of at least two state worker unions had threatened that if the budget-was not approved by July 15 another walkout, similar to the four-day work stoppage earlier this month, could be expected.

The earlier "no pay, no work" walkout, which resulted in National Guard troops being brought in to provide certain essential services, ended with passage of a two-week ministate budget July 13.

The newly signed, fiscal 1982 Massachussetts budget calls for slimming the Commonwealth's more than 70,000-worker payroll by more than 3,000 jobs.

Many of the jobs in question, however, are currently vacant and even the lawmakers who approved the personnel cutbacks do not have an accurate count of how many people must be laid off during the coming weeks.

In signing the overall budget, Governor King vetoed a record 124 items, including several controversial provisions aimed at pruning the state bureaucracy or programs unwanted by certain influentia l lawmakers.