It’s not really a surprise, but the nation’s financial woes have begun to affect state government. On Wednesday, Governor Deval Patrick announced a set of wide-ranging budget cuts, intended to save more than $1 Billion. The cuts were made necessary by a steep drop in tax revenue and predictions that the drop will continue for the rest of the state fiscal year. The Governor’s stated intention is to avoid cuts in local aid and education funding and this announcement did avoid any cuts in these areas.
Therefore, it is not surprising that agencies such as the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection have had to make cuts, though the Governor apparently did take into account the severity of the cuts made at DEP during the last downturn, and spared DEP more than what might have been expected.
One area where the cuts may be felt is in the speed of environmental permitting and responsiveness to the regulated community. Among the cuts at DEP are $100,000 from the Clean Air Operating Permit and Compliance Program and $45,000 from the Hazardous Waste Cleanup Program. Although Governor Patrick has frequently trumpeted his goal of having DEP and other permitting agency respond “at the speed of business,” such cuts cannot help but slow down DEP’s ability to respond to permit applications and other filings by businesses.