Just look at the premiums on political insurance!
Yesterday the Massachusetts state Auditor estimated the cost of the upcoming special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy at up to $12.6 million dollars. Further (to the great relief of municipal officials from the Berkshires to the Cape) he determined that the cost constitutes an unfunded mandate on cities and towns, and so the entire tab must be picked up by the Commonwealth. That would be the same Commonwealth whose budget chief yesterday announced another pending round of budget cuts.
Five years ago, the Massachusetts legislative Democrats saw a potential political disaster looming on the horizon. If John Forbes Kerry were elected President, he would have to give up his Senate seat. Under the law as it stood then, and as it had been since time immemorial, then-Governor Mitt Romney would have appointed a replacement Senator to fill out Kerry's term. A Republican Senator from Massachusetts! Imagine the horror.
So against this potential political disaster, the Democrats took out some political insurance. Exercising the prerogative of a supermajority to do pretty much whatever it pleases, they changed the law, stripping Romney (and his successors) of the appointment power and establishing a special election process to fill any future Senate vacancy.
The disaster of a Kerry presidency never came to pass, of course - one small part of this mess for which we can all be thankful. But that does not mean we do not have to pay for the Democrats' pricey insurance policy. And oh, what a balloon payment! Nearly $13 million dollars, sucked out of a budget that, we have been told time and again, cannot possibly sustain any further reductions. $13 million would pay for a lot of teachers. Or police. Or firefighters. Or infrastructure repairs. Or a little tax relief.
Instead, it will pay for a four month political spectacle the likes of which the Commonwealth has not seen in decades. How's that for a lousy return on a partisan political investment?
In related news, there is a hearing today on Beacon Hill concerning the bill that would re-change the law, sort of, to give Governor Patrick (D-political toilet) the power to appoint a placeholder Senator to warm the seat until the special election (for which we'd still have to pay) and, more to the point, to cast a 'yea' vote for the President's health care boondoggle. No dummies, the Democrats in charge of the schedule have set a 1:00pm start time for this hearing, pretty well guaranteeing that the hearing will be dominated from start to finish by testimony offered by Democratic legislators, who will exercise their prerogative to jump the line and pontificate at their leisure. The highlight of the day will be Senator John Kerry (D-foie gras), who will take the mic to explain why he was for stripping Governor Romney of the appointment power, but has since decided the Governor needs appointment power.