Defeated presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, declaring he is "back and rarin' to go," acknowledged his state faces financial problems but denied they were aggravated by his 20-month campaign.

"We face major challenges," Dukakis told a jammed news conference on Monday, promising to balance the current $11.6 billion state budget when the fiscal year ends next June.As he did on the campaign trail, he refused to rule out new state taxes. But, he said, "I hope we can avoid them."

Dukakis admitted that the presidential race "took some of my attention away," but he said other states are facing the same fiscal problems. "I'm back and rarin' to go," he added.

During his conference at the Massachusetts Statehouse, Dukakis appeared rested after his first weekend of rest in months. The defeated Democrat ducked reporters' questions about his political future.

"It's too early to tell. I'm back at a job I love. I'm challenged by it," Dukakis said, promising to make a decision on his plans "sometime next year."

Last Wednesday, Dukakis held a day-after news conference to assess his unsuccessful campaign. At the time, he said he planned to continue the fight for the national agenda his campaign stressed, but he would not speculate on a possible second run for the presidency in 1992.

On the campaign trail, President-elect George Bush challenged Dukakis' credentials as a fiscal manager by brandishing a copy of a tabloid Boston newspaper featuring a front-page story on the state's borrowing to pay its bills under the banner headline "What a Mess!"

Dukakis refused to characterize the state's fiscal condition and declined to specify the size of the shortfall in the current $11.6 billion budget. Moments later, however, his top budget official testified at a House oversight hearing and admitted that the state is lacking at least $282 million.