The new Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, has confronted the state budget crisis with a big, bloody meat cleaver. Romney claims he has found over $2 billion in “waste and inefficiency” to help patch an estimated $3.2 billion gap in the 2003 budget. Romney, with the help of a Democratic-dominated state legislature, is making sure that big business will not have to foot the bill for decades of tax-breaks, handouts, and corporate welfare.
Romney is proposing a 2003 budget with severe cuts in aid to local cities and towns. Many will lose up to 15% of their state aid, crippling public education and health care and immediately causing 2,000 public sector layoffs.
At the beginning of March, he withheld a $370 million state bond for UMass, leading to a $1,000 fee hike for students – fees that have gone up more than 40% over the last year and a half.
The Democrats, the traditional ruling party in Massachusetts, have put up no resistance at all. In fact, Democrats in the state legislature are arguing that the cuts in local aid have not gone far enough!
A Fight-Back on the Horizon
In April, over 2,000 firefighters descended on the steps of Beacon Hill to voice opposition to cuts in local aid. A lobbying campaign against Romney’s reorganization plan for higher education has been initiated by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and SEIU Local 509. On April 29, workers and students from 29 higher education institutions around the state are planning a massive march and demonstration on Beacon Hill.
The 400,000-strong labor movement in Massachusetts needs to put all its resources into a strong fight-back. Their very existence is at stake – half of all Massachusetts union members are employed in the public sector. The labor movement must unite behind a strong program of opposing cuts and making big business pay, with a strategy of mobilizing their entire membership to fight cuts with strike action and organizing drives.
As the crisis deepens, anger amongst workers and youth towards the apparent ineptitude of the entire corporate establishment will grow. It’s time for a fight-back that goes all the way to working people challenging the domination of politics by the twin parties of big business.