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August 5, 2013

State's free cash fund jumps to $1.6 billion

BOSTON — Addressing a year-end surplus totaling nearly $540 million and spending accounts that are running in the red, Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a bill to close the books on fiscal 2013 by depositing $501 million into the state’s reserve account and proposing $41.1 million in spending.

The deposit into the state’s “rainy day” account – mostly required by law — brings the savings account balance to over $1.6 billion, a figure that leaves Massachusetts with the third largest stabilization fund in the country.

It also comes at a time, however, when the governor has declined to release half the money set aside for local street, sidewalk and other transportation projects — including more than $500,000 due to Gloucester and nearly $850,000 in all still due the communities of Cape Ann. And it comes as Gloucester and Cape Ann’s other communities are awaiting final figures for diminished amounts of state aid.

In the bill, the governor asked the Legislature to approve $2.5 million in “unavoidable costs” incurred by public defenders over the last year, and to reimburse public college campuses $2.6 million for tuition and fee waivers granted to National Guard members.

Patrick also proposed $36 million in new spending to address costs he says are required in fiscal 2014, but unaccounted for in the new budget. The 2013 fiscal year closed June 30; the new fiscal year, with lawmakers and the governor’s office still wrangling over transportation revenues and new taxes that took effect last week, began July 1 and runs through next June 30.

“Thanks to sound management and wise spending, we are closing out the last fiscal year strong,” Patrick said in a statement. “In order to keep the Commonwealth’s momentum, this supplemental budget proposes a few investments in proven job growth strategies to keep Massachusetts economically competitive.”

Though Patrick urged “prompt and favorable consideration” of the bill, lawmakers do not appear poised to return for formal sessions soon, meaning the bill can either be considered during lightly attended informal sessions, when an objection from any member can stall any bill, or when formal sessions resume in the late summer or fall.

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