Editorial: Imaginary funds in Gov. Patrick's budget

The Herald News

When will politicians learn? You can’t spend what you don’t have.

Gov. Deval Patrick is the latest civic leader to use fuzzy math and irresponsible political tactics to justify government over-spending. The $28.2 billion budget Patrick proposed Wednesday relies on hundreds of millions of dollars that are far from guaranteed and are, quite frankly, unlikely to come to fruition this fiscal year.

The governor included in his budget an anticipated $124 million in revenue from projected casino licensing fees he believes companies will pay for the right to build three casinos in the commonwealth. One problem: Patrick’s casino plan is far from becoming a reality and faces a tough, up-hill battle against gambling opponents that makes passage this year — if at all — doubtful. In fact, the state Legislature has yet to even schedule a hearing on the casino plan, further diminishing the chances of the bill getting approved in time to impact this budget. Then there’s the time it would take to negotiate those licensing fees with the Donald Trumps of the world should Patrick win the battle with lawmakers.

The governor’s budget also relies on an anticipated $297 million in revenues generated by closing a corporate tax loophole that allows businesses to escape some state taxes. While the proposal makes sense, including the revenues in this year’s budget does not, especially when House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi all but told Patrick it’s not going to pass: "When a recession is coming, the likelihood of putting burdens on our citizens and our businesses in Massachusetts doesn’t really bode well," he said.

Patrick defends including both sources of money as a way to force the House and Senate to take action on the bills. He should find a better way to grind his political axe than putting the state’s fiscal health at risk.

Unfortunately, the forecast for state over-spending has already done that. Even if Patrick is correct that the Legislature will quickly approve the casinos and close the loophole, and all revenues come in as he hopes they will, Massachusetts will still be facing a $1.3 billion deficit. That’s quite the best-case scenario.