Weld Builds Bipartisan Team For Bay State Budget Battle

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

MASSACHUSETTS Governor-elect William Weld (R) is assembling his administration from across the political spectrum as he prepares to wrestle with the state's chronic fiscal crisis by downsizing government and promoting economic development. Mr. Weld's first cabinet appointments, announced last Thursday, include a conservative Republican legislator, a moderate Republican, and two members of departing Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis's administration.

Steven Pierce, a conservative Republican who is the outgoing minority leader of the House of Representatives, was named secretary of communities and development in the Weld cabinet.

Mr. Pierce, a Weld rival for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, is an advocate of ``enterprise zones'' to spur private-sector development in depressed areas.

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Peter Nessen, a Democrat who has been Governor Dukakis's secretary of administration and finance, was named to the same post by Weld. He will be responsible for implementing Weld's program to restructure state government. Mr. Nessen wrote a report identifying millions of dollars worth of inefficiencies in the state's delivery of human services.

Weld appointed Susan Fallows Tierney, a registered independent who is a commissioner of the state Department of Public Utilities, as secretary of environmental affairs. David Forsberg, regional administrator for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a moderate Republican, will hold the renamed position of secretary for health and human services.

Weld reportedly has had difficulty finding Republicans to appoint. And some conservatives are said to be grumbling over his appointments. Brushing aside those complaints, Weld says: ``By the time the sun has set on the last day of March 1991, there will be no illusions about whether [Lt. Gov.-elect A.] Paul Cellucci and I and our team are going to bring change to Beacon Hill.''

How Weld will cut state spending is already a matter of debate. He apparently is planning a mixture of consolidating some agencies, trimming others, and promoting economic recovery to increase state revenues. But he promises not to cut aid to those truly in need.

In a Monitor interview before his appointment was announced, Mr. Pierce said Weld must ``set a tone'' to rebuild confidence in the state's economy. ``We have to take a close look at entitlements and other benefits that the state government purports to confer, but is not able to - in Medicaid, housing allowances, and health care.''

Pierce says he believes a coalition of Republicans and Democrats exists on Beacon Hill that will support a comprehensive solution to the state budget crisis. Pierce said he thought a recent House Ways and Means Committee estimate that, despite tax increases, the state still faces a $500 million deficit this fiscal year was ``generally accurate.''

Sen. Patricia McGovern (D) of Lawrence, chairman of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, says her committee's staff estimates the deficit at anywhere between $250 million and $600 million. She says Weld will have to be ``very bold very quickly.'' THE only way to balance the state budget, she says, is through ``massive cuts and layoffs.'' Raising revenues to balance the budget is ``truly out of the question.''

Senator McGovern says the new governor should look, in the short term, at combining state agencies with overlapping mandates. This would not bring major savings, she says, but it would help convince the public that change is taking place. In the long term, McGovern says, the state must review and get under control the five ``budget busters'': Medicaid costs, health insurance for state employees, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, debt service, and state employee pensions.

The senator agrees with Pierce that there exists a bipartisan coalition that will help Weld get restructuring proposals through the General Court ``if he actively fights for them.'' She says, ``There is a window of opportunity for the governor to get broad-based, systemic reform.''

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