Friday, October 30, 2009

The (fifth? sixth?) Cut is the Deepest

Much is written this morning about the latest round of budget cuts proposed by Governor Patrick yesterday.  The specifics seem, as usual, to be blurry.  The initial round of coverage reported 2,000 state jobs to be cut.  Then Patrick's chief budget adviser pegged the number at 1,000.  The Globe has 1,000 jobs to be "ended," whatever that means.

Beyond job eliminations, the picture gets even fuzzier.  As usual, the State House News Service has the most specifics, so I crib liberally from them here:
Gov. Deval Patrick announced a plan Thursday to cut $352 million in state spending four months into the fiscal year, and rely on up to 2,000 layoffs, $82 million in new “departmental revenues,” and $62 million in federal stimulus aid to close most of a $600 million budget shortfall.  The package also pulls $60 million in surplus funds from the fiscal year that ended June 30, begins a phase-out of a police education incentives program, and offers a tax amnesty program estimated to generate $20 million...
Using unilateral authority, Patrick sliced $277 million in executive branch spending, and asked the Legislature for power to trim another $75 million from the Legislature, constitutional offices, courts, sheriffs and district attorneys....
Subtracting from Beacon Hill aid to municipalities, Patrick pared $18 million from a $40.5 million account that reimburses regional school districts for busing students and asked the Legislature to cut $10.7 million from the state’s payment to cities and towns for tax-exempt property. Patrick also cut in half the appropriation for compulsive gambling treatment, from $1 million to $500,000...

Aides said the new revenues Patrick laid out included roughly $50 million in anticipated Department of Revenue tax case settlements, $27 million in reduced transfers to the Mass. School Building Authority and settlements and $6 million in unspecified Department of Transportation revenues.
So far as I can tell, Patrick attempts to close a $600M (estimated) budget gap with approximately $277M in actual cuts.  The rest of the hole he hopes to fill with additional cuts to be authorized by the Legislature, yet another backfill of federal stimulus dollars, a bunch of revenue from a tax amnesty program that has not yet even been formulated, and then a bunch of accounting changes.

So he's cutting.  But what is missing?  As Senate Minoity Leader Richard Tisei puts it,
What jumps out at me about Governor Patrick’s proposal is that he is resorting to budget cuts that will harm the state’s most vulnerable residents, but he is still not doing anything to change the way the state does business. There were no calls for a state hiring freeze, no calls for a wage freeze, and no attempt to do away with the anti-privatization Pacheco Law that is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Despite his party's recent mantra, "never let a crisis go to waste," Patrick is again nibbling around the edges of state government to very temporarily plug an existing gap, instead of making the fundamental and long overdue changes necessary to both fill the gap and prevent it from opening again next year.

I have noticed in press coverage and in the blogosphere a troubling tendency amongst some Republicans to instinctively celebrate "cuts" - any cuts - without giving much thought to their substance.  It is apparently the case that 1,000 state employees are receiving real live pink slips next week as a result of Governor Patrick's actions this week.  Some of those people might be "hacks."  Some of them might not do all that much.  It is certainly the case, however, that many of them are hard-working and dedicated public employees who depend on their paychecks.  Likewise, some of the programs getting the axe are worthwhile.  They help people who will now be without help.  It is wrong, in my view, to celebrate that. 

Instead, we should press the point made by Senator Tisei:  The Governor "is resorting to budget cuts that will harm the state’s most vulnerable residents, but he is still not doing anything to change the way the state does business."  Again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Check out this new site

Take a moment to check out American Maggie, a new political website "for conservative and Republican women to share their views online about politics and public policy."  (The name is a clever reference to Margaret Thatcher, by the way).

In a very early stage, there is already quite a lot of good, substantive thinking going on there, including a feature piece on energy independence as a Republican rallying cry by my good friend former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey.

Take a look.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grab your wallet - here they come again.

You've probably heard or read somewhere relatively recently that, having hiked the state sales tax by 25% earlier this year, the Beacon Hill Democrats were laying off the tax hikes for a while. Well, according to a dispatch from the State House News Service this evening, you heard wrong:
As policymakers scrape every nook for dollars to help plug persistent budget deficits and revenue shortfalls, a panel of lawmakers on Wednesday opened a thick booklet of tax exemptions and credits – some decades-old – to decide whether they still serve a purpose.

Tax exemptions on everything from the small and obscure – cement mixers and flag purchases – to the broad and all-encompassing -- services – are in legislators’ sights and were the subject of a hearing of a special subcommittee combing through the hundreds of tax breaks, deductions and credits.

The long list of exemptions, known as the “tax expenditure budget,” is valued at $18.97 billion this fiscal year, according to an analysis accompanying the Patrick administration’s fiscal 2010 budget. Lawmakers hope to weed through the exemptions to determine which still have value and which are outdated.
Let's make one thing crystal clear from the outset: elimination of a tax exemption or a tax credit is a tax hike. The result is that consumers pay more tax than they did before. These efforts will be called "closing loopholes" or some-such nonsense, but the end result will be another tax increase. The only open questions are how large and how broad it will be.

And of course these money-grubbers are not trying to find exemptions that are "outdated" or no longer "have value." To the contrary, the only ones they will be interested in are those that do "have value" - value that they can redirect from the private sector to the state's depleted coffers.

The really scary thing about this quiet, pre-Halloween development is its potential scope. Sure, the Democrats could repeal a few minor credits - on "cement mixers and flag purchases," perhaps - that would impact a tiny sliver of the population and have a negligible fiscal impact (unless you happen to be a flag wholesaler). But the exemption that apparently got the most attention at the subcommittee hearing this week was the one on services. And that is ginormous. From the State House News:
Experts invited to speak by the subcommittee questioned the value of a sales tax exemption on services, which officials estimate saves consumers more than $6 billion a year on everything from haircuts to accounting work.

“I think it’s crazy,” said Karl Case, a Wellesley College economics professor. “What’s the difference between a good and service today? I never quite understood why it’s there.”

Randy Albelda, a University of Massachusetts economist, said a policy exempting the sales tax on services emerged in the 1930s, when service taxes were considered “a direct tax on labor.”

“That doesn’t hold anymore. That doesn’t serve its purpose anymore,” she said. “Certainly, some services you don’t want to tax. That’s one that really could use some looking at.”
Again, let's be clear. These "experts" are pushing for repeal of the state law that exempts services from the state sales tax - a move that would constitute approximately a six billion dollar tax increase on Massachusetts consumers. Every service that we pay for, from hair cuts to lawn mowing to a shoe shine, would immediately increase in price by 6.25 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the Massachusetts Teachers Union sent a lobbyist to the hearing, who dutifully argued for changes to what Democrats call the "tax expenditure budget" (and you and I might call "the dwindling percentage of our pay checks that we're allowed to keep") in order to "open up some additional revenue." Yeah. Six billion worth of "additional revenue" - an amount that would make the 25 percent sales tax hike look like chump change.

Yeah yeah yeah, I realize it was just a subcommittee hearing. And yeah yeah yeah, I know we're going into an election year and conventional wisdom says even Beacon Hill's ruling cabal is not stupid or arrogant enough to try and get away with yet another mongo tax increase in the current political climate. But then again, barely anyone thought they would be stupid or arrogant enough to increase the sales tax by 25 percent during a recession, and they did that...

The larger point is this: while the Governor (again) makes a lot of noise about cuts, layoffs and hard-nosed negotiations with public employee unions, his compatriots on Beacon Hill are quietly noodling over another massive tax increase.

Just another week in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sure, but what about immmigration?

Plenty has been written about last night's Democratic Senatorial debate. Many have observed that the candidates were virtually indistinguishable on the issues, and demonstrated equal skill at avoiding the questions they were asked. That tendency struck me, of course. But what I found most amusing in an otherwise hum-drum hour was the runaway train quality of Attorney General Coakley's closing statement.

To be sure, Coakley feels considerably more pressure in these debates than does, say, Steve Pagliuca. She is comfortably ahead in the polls, and so must approach every engagement defensively. She does not need to make up ground - she just has to hold it. Still, as her closing statement picked up pace one could sense a barely-suppressed bit of panic just below the surface. Had she missed any must-hit hot buttons? As her mind ticked through the bullet list that her media team had obviously beat into her head, the words spilling from her mouth became less and less coherent. Think Tom Menino without the mouth full of marbles.

But don't take my word for it. WBZ-TV has the whole thing linked here (the AG starts her opening statement at 54:29). And here's a self-generated transcript (going by ear, so excuse any minor discrepancy with what you might hear):
I'm asking for your vote on November 8th because I believe that we need to get out of this economic recession grow more jobs here in Massachusetts and hold Wall Street accountable so this never happens again. I think we need health care with a strong public option that'll make sure that we get everybody insured and that we provide for the safety and the welfare of our health insurance so that we can afford the care that we want. I believe and I want to go to Washington because we need an energy policy that makes sense and that will, uh, challenge, uh, what we've seen so far with global warming and climate change. I wanna go to Washington because I think that we need to keep our kids and our seniors safe here and we need to keep those of our armed services safe over overseas. Finally, I want to go to Washington cause I think we need to continue to protect our civil rights and the challenge of Senator Kennedy I've challenged the defense against marriage act, I've done civil rights here, I believe I'll be a new leader, a new kind of leader in Washington so I'm asking for your vote on December 8th.
See what I mean? She starts off steadily enough. Recession? Check. Jobs? Check. Whack Wall Street? Check (nice one!). Health care, public option, universal coverage. Check, check, check. But what about safety and welfare? People like safety and welfare. So she'll "provide for the safety and the welfare of our health insurance so that we can afford the care that we want." What? Never mind, move down the list. The environment... She's going to challenge what we've seen with global warming. Check. What else...? SENIORS! She hasn't mentioned SENIORS. And, oh God, she almost missed KIDS. So wrap them both up in "safety." Check check. And so long as we're on safety, she'd better hit our servicemembers overseas, who people naturally think about in exactly the same way as they think about seniors and kids. They get safety too. Check. Long exhale. Miss anything? CIVIL RIGHTS! That's what they call a point of distinction, and she almost forgot to mention it! Senator Ted Kennedy 'did civil rights.' Martha has "done civil rights." How? By challenging the "defense against marriage act." Phew - good catch. Now the capper, which is also the slogan: "A new kind of leader." In what way? Sorry - your 45 seconds are up. Long exhale. Over to you, Mike.

Still, as the aforementioned Mayor Menino illustrates better than anyone, the voters do not necessarily require coherence of their preferred candidates. AG Coakley's verbal avalanche of a closing statement will not dent her lead in the polls. But it did provide cause for a rare chuckle last night.

Unions say "jump!" Dems say, "how high?"

This article from the Springfield Republican out in Western Mass provides a hilarious-yet-troubling example of the lengths to which some Massachusetts Democratic state legislators will go to appease the Commonwealth's powerful union bosses. Here's the meat of it:
A pledge to site a casino in Western Massachusetts, taken by 10 local legislators, is unlikely to carry much weight on Beacon Hill, critics say.

The pledge, developed by local construction unions, attempts to tell legislators how to vote on casinos. But even several signers are downplaying the significance of the effort.

“I don’t think any of us read the pledge,” said state Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield.

Buoniconti and nine other legislators from Western Massachusetts signed a pledge saying they will not support expanded gambling unless a bill includes a casino for the four counties in the region...

The 10 legislators who took the vow did so during a meeting on Oct. 2 with leaders of the Pioneer Valley’s construction unions. They were the only legislators who attended the meeting, and they didn’t know ahead of time they would be signing the pledge, Buoniconti said...

Besides Buoniconti and Kocot, the pledge was signed by Reps. Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, Sean F. Curran, Angelo J. Puppolo and Benjamin Swan, all Springfield Democrats.

The other signers included Reps. John W. Scibak, D-South Hadley, James T. Welch, D-West Springfield, Rosemary Sandlin, D-Agawam, and Aaron Saunders, chief of staff for Sen. Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham.
Senator Buoniconti (D-Malleable) gets points for honesty, if not for integrity. "I don't think any of us read the pledge"!!! And why would they? All they were asked to do, after all, was step to the front of the room to commit, in writing, to vote in a specific way on a yet-undrafted piece of future legislation. Why should they be bothered with the particulars when presented with such a great opportunity to curry favor with a big union?

As the article describes the scene, "Daniel D’Alma, president of the Pioneer Valley Building Trades, offered the pledge, and legislators walked up to an easel and signed it on a piece of paper." Of nine legislators in the room, nine queued up to put pen to paper (plus Sen. Canderas's Chief of Staff, whose vicarious obesiance was undoubtedly appreciated by his boss), despite not knowing about the pledge ahead of time and - according to Senator Buoniconti - not having bothered to read the text.

Sure, the article also quotes a number of Democrats who claim that they will not sign the pledge. And others are crying foul:
Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said signers of the pledge were put on the spot by the union leaders.

“I do think it’s unfair for them to go to a meeting ... and then get held up for this one issue,” said Bosley, who opposes casinos.
But Bosley has it backwards. The fault here is not with the union bosses who "held up" those ten Democrats "for this one issue." The unions have an interest in the gaming issue, and they have every right to press representatives of their government to adopt their preferred position. The fault is with the Legislators who, when "put on the spot by the union leaders," lacked the modicum of intestinal fortitude necessary to oppose (or even to examine!) the bosses' entreaty.

The pledge in question was comprised of a mere sixteen words: "We will not support any casino gaming legislation unless it includes a site in Western Massachusetts." Senator Buoniconti and crew could not be troubled to read it.

The state budget, by the way, runs into the thousands of pages.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charlie Baker: a refreshing contrast

I was at a Charlie Baker event a couple of weeks back. Following Charlie's long, detailed, no-notes speech and a Q&A session that lasted over 20 minutes and featured not a single ducked question, most of the comments I heard coming out of the event focused on the substance of the speech and the (amazing!) fact that Charlie seems to actually enjoy providing straight answers to the questions he is asked.

With the left-hand column of my blog being what it is, I do not suppose I need to offer an affirmative disclaimer: clearly I am in the bag for Charlie. But I am in that bag for exactly the reason I'm getting at here. Charlie is, in many ways, the anti-Patrick. Where now-Governor Patrick managed to stiff-arm his way through an entire campaign on the strength of aspirational rhetoric and ephemeral promises, Charlie likes to get into the policy weeds. Thankfully, he manages to remain intelligible - even informative - while providing a whole lot of substance and detail.

There were a lot of Independents - and even Democrats - in the room with me earlier this month who came out of the event aware of and impressed by that contrast. Being in that bag I mentioned, clearly I cannot expect anyone to just take me at my word on all of this. Ideally, every voter in the Commonwealth could have the chance to see Charlie speak in person. Obviously that cannot happen, no matter how grueling a schedule he keeps for the next year. The marvels of modern technology allow him to reach a whole lot more people that was plausible just a few years back, though. Take a few moments to watch the two videos below. Read his responses to 10 policy questions at his website. And ponder whether you have ever seen anything remotely similar from the current Governor (and if you have, please point me to it).

My view might well be distorted from the bottom of this bag. And yes, I realize - more than most - that Kerry Healey was also the substantive 'anti-Patrick' in much the same way. But it strikes me that with a high degree of public awareness of the mess this state is in, substance has a good shot at prevailing over atmospherics this time around.

And speaking of contrasts... this gimmick puts me in mind of a classic Christian Slater flick.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hitting close to home now

It is easy to look down one's nose at the liberal on the Cape who drives a Prius but opposes Cape Wind, or the guy in New Bedford who gripes about the high cost of home heating, but would tie his body to a piling before allowing a new LNG terminal near his neighborhood. "NIMBYism," we sneer. "Not-In-My-Back-Yard."

Through the wax and wane of the semi-annual casino gambling debate that has taken place in Massachusetts in the years since I became politically involved in the state, I have professed detached opposition. On a gut level, I've said, I do not like casinos. I have been in enough of them, in Vegas, in Atlantic City, in Connecticut, to know from experience that for every casual gambler like me, well off and visiting for a short amount of time and with a pre-budgeted (and mentally already lost), small pile of cash to blow off some steam with friends, there are countless seniors feeding their social security into the slots a quarter at a time, and who knows how many desperate souls hoping for a big score to solve all of their financial problems.

More to the point for purposes of the present (and recent) debate in Massachusetts, I just do not buy the proposition that a bunch of 'destination resort casinos' across the state will solve, or even partially solve, our state budget problems. Other states have tried that gambit, none successfully. To the contrary, states (and cities) that have bet big on casinos uniformly provide a powerful cautionary tale, if anyone cares to pay attention.

Still, for all of that, a part of me clings to the libertarian argument. It's a free country. If consumers want to spend their money in casinos, who am I to argue with that choice? If developers have the land and the resources to build gambling meccas, and can convince a majority of the voters in the area in question to support their efforts, so be it. I think casinos, on balance, wreck more lives than they better by providing the jobs that are always central to any pro-casino argument. If I were in the legislature I'd vote against allowing casinos. But if Palmer wants a casino and pro-gaming forces win out on Beacon Hill this time around? I wouldn't lose sleep. I'd probably even visit eventually.

Ah, but all of that prevarication was before one of those casino developers started talking up a proposed casino in Milford, on land adjacent to my home town. In my proverbial back yard. Now I am a full-scale NIMBYite. Now all of those social ills that invariably come along with casinos threaten my bucolic little 'burg, the town of my birth, and my dad's, and my grandfather's. Suddenly a region where a new neon sign on a pizza joint might well cause a public uproar is flirting with multiple high-rise hotels, thousands of blinking, beeping slot machines, over a dozen restaurants. 'Economic development,' sure. But at a high price. Governor Patrick's initial gaming proposal a couple of years back came with tens of millions of dollars budgeted for gambling treatment programs - tens of millions of dollars to paper over the inevitable damage that organized gambling wreaks on individuals and families. In my back yard.

Realtors in the area tell the Milford Daily News that they've already seen an uptick in activity by people taking formal steps to sell their homes in the event that a casino actually comes to Milford. That is undoubtedly an overreaction. Were these particular developers proposing a trans-Atlantic swim they would barely have a toe yet in the water. There are many, many hurdles to be cleared before any casino breaks ground in Massachusetts, anywhere, never mind in Milford specifically. But the reaction of these gun-jumping homesellers speaks to the nature of the opposition to these things, wherever in Massachusetts they may spring up. Las Vegas was built from nothing, in a vast desert wasteland. A casino in Milford, on the land in question, would rise in close proximity to dozens of suburban neighborhoods. It would loom in marked, unsightly contrast to its surrounding communities, all of which maintain a distinctly old New England character. Stately colonial homes. Old church steeples rising from pedestrian-friendly town centers where the coffee shops are still run by local families. Sure we have an interstate passing close by and the requisite contingent of Dunkin' Donuts shops. But the towns surrounding Milford are much closer to Rockwell than to Vegas.

I may well be in the minority. It could be that, on balance, times are tough enough that people who might otherwise be skeptical of a local casino complex will be swayed by the promise of 'thousands of jobs, with benefits.' I do not think so, though. People who chose to live in communities like Holliston, Hopkinton, Milford and Bellingham do so, by and large, for well-considered reasons. The character of the communities has something to do with that. Whatever number of jobs a casino might bring, such a complex would undeniably and irrevocably change that character. Three high-rise hotels? Blegh. NIMBY.

Next week, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Economic Development will hold an initial hearing on a number of casino bills. Co-chairing that committee will be Senator Karen Spilka, who happens to represent a number of towns adjacent to Milford (including mine). Senator Spilka has a tightrope to walk here. Her close ally and mentor, Senate President Murray, is four-square for casinos, are are the Governor and the Speaker of the House. On the other hand, if I'm right, a majority of her district is likely to oppose them - especially with the NIMBY factor so recently injected into what was heretofore a relatively abstract debate in the region she represents.

This seems as good a time as any to note that Senator Spilka will have a credible opponent next year in Ed McGrath, a good guy who has been politically active for years and understands the issues. I do not in truth know where he stands on casinos. In a recent interview, Spilka said (as she must) that the fact of a contested election bid next year will not 'change her game plan.' Like virtually everyone else on Beacon Hill, including a majority of Democrats who dutifully followed the lead of now-indicted former Speaker Sal DiMasi and voted against gaming the last time around, Spilka claims to be keeping an open mind and studying the issue.

With the question of legalized gambling likely to be fought out in an election year, the prospect of a casino smack in the middle of her district, and a credible opponent, though, Senator Spilka will not have the option of dancing around the issue behind closed doors. Nor will her colleagues.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cynicism Watch!

Coakley: E-mail probe will not be completed before mayoral election.

Go figure!

Of course it does not really matter that the Attorney General (who by the way is running for US Senate) waited until the 11th hour to get involved in the Boston email investigation, thereby guaranteeing that there will be no findings before Mayor Menino is safely reelected to his fifth (!!!) consecutive term. Coakley could wrap up the investigation tomorrow, determine that the Mayor himself helped his aide delete those emails and then cover it up, and post her findings on billboards all over the city - and still Mayor Menino would win a comfortable reelection. Such is his inexplicable, unfathomable popularity.

Still, it is hard not to shake one's head sadly at the entirely predictable way the whole thing is playing out.

Not the strongest argument she's ever made

In an address yesterday to the Massachusetts Bar Association, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall urged attorneys to contact the governor and their legislators to argue against further cuts to the state judiciary's budget. In so doing she made an argument that might strike more than a few voters as somewhat less than convincing. From the State House News Service:
Marshall said the court system was at a “moment of peril,” adding, “Justice is not a public policy choice. Justice, delivered in our courts, is a constitutional imperative. The residents of Massachusetts could no sooner make do with a functionally disabled Judiciary than they could with a functionally disabled Governor's office or a functionally disabled Legislature.”
I realize I spend a lot of my time in a Republican bubble. But based on poll results and the tenor of a lot of news coverage of Beacon Hill lately, I'd guess that plenty of Massachusetts citizens would be more than willing to see how the state might fare "with a functionally disabled Governor's office or a functionally disabled Legislature." Especially the latter.

There are plenty of good arguments for maintaining a baseline level of funding for the court system. These days, in Massachusetts especially, "we're just as useful as the Legislature" is not one of them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bluffing and bloviating

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has an excellent editorial this morning, entitled Who's Bluffing?, about Governor Patrick's latest pledge to make the cuts necessary to get the state budget under control.

The reference to "bluffing" in the title refers to Governor Patrick's threat to cut up to 2,000 state employees if unions do not give him cost-saving concessions. Those talks are on-going. Skeptics might be forgiven the assumption that Patrick is indeed 'bluffing,' since despite all of his talk of painful cuts since the beginning of the current recession, it remains the case that the executive branch of state government has added thousands of employees since Patrick took the reins.

The Telegram & Gazette correctly points out that good ideas for true cost-saving reforms - not just cuts - have been on the table for quite some time, many of them regularly offered by the invaluable Pioneer Institute. In addition to repealing the Pacheco Law, a legislative abomination that hamstrings any and all efforts to outsource non-essential government work to the private sector, which in other states saves millions, the T&G lists these common-sense Pioneer gems:
•Establish a sliding scale for public employees’ eligibility for retiree health-care benefits, in place of the current system that grants such benefits after just 10 years of service.

•Retain the approximately 1,100 state workers added to Health and Human Services budgets since 2004, but trim other levels of state employment back to 2004 levels.

•Cap annual spending increases and segregate capital gains revenues in annual budgets.

•Halt the practice of spending rainy-day funds in years with budget surpluses.
Isn't that last one a beaut? We are told that the state budget is currently over $600 million in the red, and that this state of affairs is a direct result of the national recession. We are trusted to forget that, consistent with 'the practice of spending rainy-day funds in years with budget surpluses,' Beacon Hill sucked considerably more than $600 million out of the so-called 'stabilization fund' in the first two years of the Patrick Administration, when the state budget was more than 'stable.' And still, presented with undeniable proof of their folly, lawmakers have been unwilling to pass a law prohibiting such rank irresponsibility in the future. That unwillingness to address true, relatively simple reforms demonstrates that when it comes to their supposed efforts to control the budget, the rhetoric coming from Beacon Hill is as much bloviation as bluffing.

And by the way, about those negotiations Governor Patrick is having with public employee unions? Take another look at the article I liked above, and pay attention to the specific language used by AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes. He recognizes the need for "concessions," but:
“If sacrifices are made now there has to be some opportunity later, when things improve, to restore the kinds of contributions the unions made to solve the problem,” Haynes said.
The ever-present union credo: 'you give something to get something.' In this case, you can bet the "something" Haynes intends to get goes well beyond an agreement from the Governor not to lay off his members. He says as much, referring to "some opportunity later." So even if the Governor gets the unions to agree to furloughs to save some money now, you can bet the state will pay double for them down the line.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A tiny minority within the Supermajority

Yvonne Abraham's piece in the Globe this morning is worth reading, for two reasons: (1) it gives belated and well-deserved kudos to seven (seven!) "brave souls" - Massachusetts House Democrats who, at great professional risk, stood on principle last January and voted against Sal DiMasi for Speaker. And (2), it provides (by stark contrast) another reminder of the fact that fully 135 of their colleagues voted for Sal, despite his very well-known ethical 'issues.' Writes Abraham,

Say you’re one of the 135 Democratic legislators who voted to keep Sal DiMasi as House speaker back in January. Right now, you’ve got to be feeling even chumpier than usual, which hardly seemed possible until a few days ago.

After all, how much dumber could you look? On Jan. 7, you reelected DiMasi, even though you knew about his shady connections to a software firm that won millions in state contracts. You did it because he brought you back from legislative Siberia, or because he shared your priorities, or because you didn’t want to risk his wrath.

Whatever the reason, you stuck out your neck for him. And three weeks later, he stuck it to you by resigning. Then he got indicted on federal corruption charges, which made you look like even bigger dopes. The whole thing was fading from voters’ memories until Tuesday, when the feds added extortion charges to the mess. When it comes to other shoes dropping, this guy is Imelda Marcos.

Man, that must hurt.
The seven who bucked the tide, Reps. Atkins, Callahan, Calter, Canessa, Quinn, Stanley and Torrisi, were gutsy beyond even the credit that Abraham gives them this morning. Because theirs was not simply a bet that Sal would, as he did, ultimately fall from grace and resign his recently-renewed Speakership. Just because DiMasi is gone does not mean all is forgiven and forgotten within the Democratic caucus. Those seven marked themselves with their votes as the rare Beacon Hill legislative Democrat who will not automatically fall into line with leadership in response to promises or to threats. Rep. Quinn tells the Globe, “I’ve had more pats on the back or whispers in my ear saying ‘John, you were right, you had the backbone to stand up there and I wish I had done that.’ ’’

Sadly, there's a reason that his colleagues are still whispering their praise. It's the same reason none of the 'brave seven' is in leadership, and only one (Torrisi, co-chair of the joint committee on higher ed) has a committee chairmanship. Sure, DiMasi is gone. But he was replaced by Bob DeLeo, his hand-picked successor. There's been no suggestion whatsoever that DeLeo shares in DiMasi's ethical shortcomings. But it is indisputably the case that while the king changed, the regime remained more or less intact. And so the ramifications of the votes cast by those seven Democrats linger.

Soapbox time: the only way to fundamentally change the paradigm in the Massachusetts legislature - the one that resulted in an overwhelming majority vote to reelect a guy who was about to be indicted based on facts that had been plastered all over the newspapers for weeks - is to restore some semblance of partisan balance in the Legislature.

Vote Republican.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sal is not just about Sal - and he's not old news

Yesterday during my commute I listened to WBZ radio's report on the new indictment of former Speaker Sal DiMasi, this time for extortion, as well as related new charges concerning a secret financial interest he had in a building management company that sought and received state contracts. As it often does, WBZ included very brief commentary by Republican 'strategist' Charlie Manning and Democratic 'strategist' Mary Anne Marsh. Manning's comment was a prediction that this latest DiMasi development will reverberate across the state and cause problems for Democrats next year at the polls. If his was a predictable and perhaps optimistic analysis, Marsh's was even more so. "This is about Sal DiMasi and only Sal DiMasi," she declared before opining that voters can distinguish between a deposed Speaker and the rest of the Democratic machine on Beacon Hill. The new indictment "will have no impact" on Democrats' prospects in Massachusetts, according to Marsh.

Ludicrous as that might sound, if past is prologue then Marsh could well be right. After all, DiMasi is only the latest in a string of three Democratic Speakers of the Massachusetts House to be put out of office by corruption investigations. Her hopeful claim that the ongoing investigation into Sal's doings is "about Sal DiMasi and only Sal DiMasi" is belied, however, by rampant buzz on Beacon Hill. As Rep. James Miceli told the Herald, “In the building they keep saying this investigation is going to involve more people.”

And of course when it comes to corruption and other bad doings by Massachusetts Democrats of late, Sal is hardly the only game in town. Joan Vennochi's column in today's Globe calls out not only Senator Galluccio for his most recent auto-related transgressions, but also his colleagues for their enabling of his bad behavior. She sums up the last two years nicely:

Until elected officials stop thinking of themselves as something other than ordinary citizens, bound by the same laws and consequences as everyone else, Beacon Hill’s shield of arrogance remains unscathed. Can anything pierce it?

After all, this Senate is filled with lawmakers who watched two members, who are now former members, stand accused of serious criminal charges over the past year. Dianne Wilkerson, a Roxbury Democrat, is facing corruption charges after federal agents photographed her allegedly stuffing bribe money into her bra. James Marzilli, an Arlington Democrat, was indicted on charges of accosting four women in Lowell. Both resigned last year, under pressure from a public that held their elected officials to a higher standard than their colleagues did.

The speaker of the House also resigned this year, and is under indictment on corruption charges involving the awarding of state software contracts.

The year of scandals forced lawmakers to tighten ethics regulations. But no law can legislate humility. No law can zap arrogance. No law can supplant fear of getting caught with conscience, or replace the basic instinct for self-preservation with the higher principle of personal responsibility.

Well put. And additionally notable for the fact that over a year since Senator Marzilli's grope-a-thon and nearly as long since Senator Wilkerson's undergarment deposit, those transgressions are still very much in the forefront of the public consciousness. Many a House Democrat - especially the brand new ones, who were forced to cast their very first votes for the soon-to-be-indicted DiMasi - desperately cling to the notion that time heals all wounds. A year is an "eternity" in politics, they surely say to themselves.

Still, a year after Senator Wilkerson's bra-stuff, nobody has to root around in the memory bank for her name. Ten months on from that ill-advised vote to reelect Sal, a fresh indictment puts the whole mess right back on the front pages. And, if all of that weren't enough, helpful folks like Senator Galluccio pitch in with fresh ways for Beacon Hill Democrats to demonstrate anew just how cloistered and arrogant they are, sitting comfortably in public offices that too many of them have come to believe are theirs by right.

The Sal DiMasi scandal is not just about Sal DiMasi, any more than the Marzilli, Wilkerson, or Galluccio imbroglios are "just about" their protagonists. All are illustrations of what happens, inevitably, when total control is vested in an insular and entitled group of like-minded people.

As time marches on, as more examples pile up and the old examples keep reappearing, I get more and more optimistic about the possibility that next year, finally, the voters will do something about all of this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why don't we just put up signs at the borders? "Business: KEEP OUT!"

A common convention in Western movies is the sign post at the edge of town, warning ruffians, rustlers, road crews and other ne'er-do-wells to keep out.

The front page of today's Globe is the modern day equivalent of those sign post, telling employers, entrepreneurs, small businesses and other engines of economic development that they are not welcomed here in Massachusetts. Warning them away. Telling them to KEEP OUT. The Democrats who run our Legislature could save themselves a lot of time and effort by just erecting signs.

Here's the headline (above-the-fold): Business Tax Deal May Cost $535M. Sounds bad, right? You should take the time to click that link and read the whole article, but here's the relevant background (from the Globe):

Since taking office in 2007, Governor Deval Patrick had been moving to close so-called tax loopholes that he said were allowing certain companies to unfairly benefit and causing the state to lose money. He was initially rebuffed by House lawmakers, who said tax increases would damage the business community. But ultimately, House and Senate lawmakers approved the change, while also lowering the state’s corporate tax rate.

Most of the changes involved implementing what is called combined reporting, which is designed to prevent large multistate corporations from shifting certain profits to other states that have lower tax rates. The new law requires all companies in Massachusetts to combine all income and apportion the Massachusetts share.

But in making that change, lawmakers included the provision that allows corporations to temporarily sidestep certain tax liabilities.

The amendment had the backing of the business community - Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the largest state business organization, strongly advocated for the changes - and was pushed by state Representative Daniel E. Bosley, a North Adams Democrat.

Administration officials fought the amendment at the time, pointing out in a letter to legislative leaders that it “would likely negate significant amounts of income that would otherwise be taxed.’’ Lawmakers say the provision was included to give corporations time to readjust their projected profits while the state began assessing taxes they had not previously been required to pay.

Once the legislation was approved with the provision included, the administration was afraid that vetoing it or amending it would have caused the entire bill, which was deeply controversial, to collapse, administration officials say.

So far, so politics-as usual. To tamp down opposition to a controversial tax hike on the state's employers, the Legislature negotiated a deal with the measure's critics that allowed it to pass. Our business community suffered a tax increase at the beginning of a deep recession - but not so large an increase as they otherwise would have suffered. As Representative Jay Kaufman, the House's top tax-writer, puts it to the Globe, "At the time, the argument was this was a reasonable and necessary accommodation for the business community to keep business growing in Massachusetts even while we’re closing corporate tax loopholes.’’ An "accommodation." A deal, in other words, with a laudable goal: "To keep business growing in Massachusetts" by sticking it to them less than the Democrats really wanted to stick it to them.

Ah, but now... now with state tax revenues in the toilet, hundreds of millions below projections... with things so bad that the Legislature has run out of money to spend... now Legislative Democrats are "re-thinking" that deal. Again from the Globe:
A corporate tax deduction, created last year as a sweetener for businesses in a tax-tightening measure, will cost the state at least $535 million over seven years, according to a new estimate by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue...

“The number certainly raises eyebrows,’’ said state Senator Benjamin B. Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat and Senate chairman of the Committee on Revenue. “And I think it would be disingenuous to say that people don’t want to revisit some of the decisions we made in that debate.’’

Said state Representative Jay R. Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat and House chairman of the Committee on Revenue: “We did this before the bottom fell out of the economy. If we were to debate this now, anything that would cost us [this much] would have absolutely gotten our attention more than it did at the time.’’

What's the problem there, you ask? A bad deal that has "cost us" over half a billion dollars? What self-respecting steward of the public trust would not want to "revisit" that deal?

But here's the thing. When Chairman Kaufman says the deal has "cost us," he means that in the same way as my decision not to rob you of your wallet "costs me" whatever cash you happen to be carrying - as the Globe makes subtly clear:
The tax changes, to be implemented over the next several years, will still bring in additional revenues. But the benefit will be significantly lower than originally projected, and the hit will come at a time when the Bay State will be trying to recover from budget cycles that have gutted state services and caused pain for cities and towns.
So the corporate tax hike is still bringing in more tax revenue than would have come in had the deal in question not been struck and the measure defeated as a result. Just 'less more.' And Rep. Kaufman and Senator Downing, you see, they want 'more more.' And they have allies in the think-tank world:

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which analyzes the state budget and tax policies, is suggesting that state officials investigate whether the law should be altered.

“At a time when the state faces severe budget problems, having to pay $75 million a year for a particular new deduction for what appears to be a handful of corporations may not be the best use of our state’s resources,’’ said Noah Berger, the group’s executive director.

Get that? In this perverse worldview, by not collecting $75 million in taxes, by leaving that $75 million in the hands of the businesses that create and sustain our jobs and drive our economy, the state is "having to pay." More, according to Mr. Berger (and Messrs. Kaufman and Downing, no doubt) those dollars - never (yet) in the state's grubbing hands - are "our state's resources."

The Globe is on board. By limiting the size of last year's corporate tax increase, last year's legislation has (according to the Globe) "cost" the state $535 million. Of course, by that way of thinking the Legislature's refusal to accede to Governor Patrick's call for a gas tax increase "cost" the state hundreds of millions more. And the T's failure to double fares this year? Hundreds of millions more. And the Democrats' heroic forbearance in deciding not to hike the income tax along with the sales tax? More. There is no end to that logic, once one buys into Mr. Berger's core assumption: that every dollar generated by the private sector in this state from conception represents "our state's resources."

But never fear. As the Globe notes, "Pending legislation would make further changes to corporate tax laws, making it easier to revisit the deduction issue." So Kaufman, Downing and their allies will have their chance to "revisit" the deal they struck just last year. You know, the one intended "to keep business growing in Massachusetts"?

And our business community - and employers who might, for God knows what reason, still be thinking about expansion in or into Massachusetts - will get a valuable object lesson: Not only is Massachusetts ready, willing and able to repeatedly raise taxes on business. Worse, our government is not an honest broker. It does not honor its bargains. We're a Commonwealth of welshers.

In the old west, welshing on a bet could earn you a smoking hole in the forehead (in the movies, anyhow). In 21st century Massachusetts, our Legislature's welshing will just accelerate the exodus of employers from our state.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another great argument for a part-time legislature

This delightful blurb comes from the State House News' Weekly Roundup (read the whole thing - it's a good one):
So, what do they do now, with no money to spend? That was the question posed in DeLeo's office Tuesday when the speaker met with senior leadership and committee chairs. Biding its time on Gov. Deval Patrick's charter and school reform packages, the House is a bit short on the affirmative side of the agenda these days. DeLeo's assignment to his underlings: bring me good ideas that don't cost anything. Eyes alight, the committee chairs returned merrily to their committees to produce all manner of no-dollar proposals: bottle bill expansions, transgender rights, criminal offender record information changes, reduced voter registration age, canine devocalization. Even Senate President Therese Murray got into the spirit, rifling from left field the suggestion of consolidating economic development agencies.
Out of our money and needing to justify the fact that Massachusetts is one of only ten states with a full time legislature, our legislators are set to brain-storming. With the zero cost precondition, this state of affairs is certainly a lesser evil compared to recent quests for 'revenue enhancers.'

But might it not be better still to send these folks home, and spare ourselves a legislative 'brain-storm' that will inevitably turn into an autumn blizzard of inanity presaged by the short list above?

Canine devocalization? My highly intelligent Black Labrador says "WOOF!" (Translated: "Oh for the love of God will you people give it a rest?")

Friday, October 9, 2009

From the really bad guess file

Globe headline today: "Unicycling may catch on in carbon-conscious world." Um... yeah. Pardon me if I do not rush out to buy stock in the local unicycle manufacturer. But that is not the worst guess making news today.

The latest estimate of this year's state revenue shortfall is out, and it's up to $600 million. For those of you keeping track, that's nearly a three-fold increase in the estimate that was circulated just over a week ago. That's some superbad estimating. 'New England meteorologist in April' bad.

It is worth a reminder at this juncture that the initial budgets formulated months ago by the Governor and the Legislature barely reduced budgeted spending at all for this year as compared to last, even though just about everyone by that time understood the magnitude of the economic crisis. So when revenues come in hundreds of millions of dollars below the "estimates" that were used to justify continued good-times spending, it is fair to ask whether some of the crisis-induced pain being felt now might have been avoided with a little more responsibility at the front end.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take the time to read - and share - this

Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has posted the first of what will become many policy missives here, on his campaign website. Styled as a series of responses to "the top 10 questions" Charlie has heard during his first weeks of campaigning, the essay gives more common sense, detailed policy prescriptions than we've gotten from the current governor in three years of his term plus the entire campaign that put him in office.

I talk to plenty of people who tell me that they do not yet know enough about Charlie. That is understandable. Charlie has extensive government experience, but it came largely in the background of the Weld and Cellucci Administrations. The campaign is still very young. He has a lot of work to do to raise his profile - and he is doing it. This policy piece is part of that. And unlike many or even most candidates for high office, Charlie writes all of this "stuff" himself. He does not need it to be spoon-fed; he gets his opinions from his experience - and his successes - in state government, in local government, and in the private sector.

So take a look, and pass along the link to others who might be interested.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What a tangled web (Mayors and AGs and Congressmen, oh my!)

The Boston Globe's editors provide a nice capsule summary of the email mess roiling Boston City Hall - and of the case for a long-overdue takeover of the investigation by legitimate law enforcement. Unbelievably, weeks into a scandal that seemingly gets worse every couple of days, the "investigation" is still being handled as an internal matter by the Mayor's office.

But in making the case for a takeover by Attorney General/Senatorial candidate Martha Coakley, the Globe's analysis carefully avoids the pink elephant in the corner of the room: Coakley, a notoriously shrewd and cautious politician, needs to avoid alienating the notoriously vindictive Menino and his workhorse supporters if she is to have any chance at winning the coveted Kennedy seat. The Herald pointed out this inherent conflict of interest several weeks ago, when Coakley first brushed off the notion of her office getting involved:

Attorney General Martha Coakley - who needs Mayor Thomas M. Menino's backing in her Senate bid - yesterday refused to probe the mysterious destruction of public e-mails by his close political adviser - even as she unveiled her new computer forensics lab.

In an interview with the Herald, Coakley dismissed the controversy as a politically charged public records flap.

“Particularly understanding this is the middle of a campaign, we get lots of complaints from folks who are adversaries who have a particular agenda,” Coakley said, referring to the request by Menino’s challengers for a criminal probe of potentially hundreds of public e-mails deleted by Menino policy chief Michael Kineavy.

Last week Coakley's fellow Senate aspirant Congressman Mike Capuano had the temerity to accuse Coakley of being "cautious" - a milquetoast accusation on the spectrum of political attacks that nonetheless drew the predictable counter-charge of 'sexism' from the Coakley camp. The flap also led to a hilarious and painfully strained bit in the introduction of Coakley by Senate President Murray at a Massachusetts Womens' Political Caucus event later in the week, when Murray claimed that Coakley collects giraffes (they are her favorite animal, you see, because they "stick their necks out." Oy.). [Scott Lehigh has a fun, related column today.]

It is ironic that Coakley invokes "the middle of a campaign" to swat away the inconvenient fact of blatant law-breaking at the highest levels of the Menino Administration, while she herself is increasingly "in the middle of [another] campaign" that is clearly informing her decision to stay on the sidelines.

The bigger problem, though, is that in light of her obvious political conflict of interest, a takeover of the investigation at this stage might not be much better than the bogus internal "investigation" currently underway.

UPDATE: Half a giraffe?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Innocent until proven guilty... in court, anyhow.

Innocent until proven guilty and all of that. But based only on the facts in this Globe article, I have a hard time thinking of too many conclusions to which one could safely jump beyond the obvious one.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, not only in the courts but on Beacon Hill. Before last year's Wilkerson / Marzilli / DiMasi Corruptapalooza, the Beacon Hill modus operandi in such situations was tried and true: circle the wagons, 'no comment,' business as usual. Then those three bombs went off, messily, inside of that tight circle... and now a relatively new Senator with, er, driving "issues" might just pay an accumulated political price.

UPDATE: The Senator has apologized for his hit-and-run. He "panicked." Having done some prosecuting in Massachusetts myself, I can say that generally an apology, no matter how sincere, generally does not do it for Joe-on-the-street. I doubt it will make much difference for the Senator either.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More Stimulus Baloney

The front page of this morning's Globe blares: "State lags badly on stimulus spending." The thrust of the article comes in the first two paragraphs:
Massachusetts is almost dead last among states in spending federal economic stimulus money for transportation projects, prompting a powerful congressman to sharply rebuke Governor Deval Patrick for not quickly deploying nearly a half-billion dollars to create jobs for struggling families.

US Representative James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, told Patrick that Massachusetts ranks 49th in the nation in putting highway stimulus money to work, committing only 23 percent of its funds so far.
I am not going to waste time on the substance of the claim that Massachusetts is not spending its allocation of federal tax dollars "fast enough." This is a facially ludicrous measure of a facially ludicrous nationwide spending boondoggle, as illustrated by the inconsistency between today's "news" and the "news" that broke just over a month ago - generating headlines like "Mass among top ten states in stimulus spending." Why, just last week I sat in an audience that was told by the sitting Lt. Governor that Massachusetts is just a cracker-jack, best-in-class stimulus spender compared to its peer states. Clearly there is more than one way to evaluate state stim spending, once one decides that pace of spending is a performance metric worth evaluation.

I, for one, have a hard time believing the claim that Massachusetts, under the stewardship of its current Governor and legislative leadership, is a spending laggard. If it is, the whole country is in big, big trouble.

More than the headline, though, this part of today's Globe article piqued my interest:
"It’s regrettable that folks, including the congressman, are looking at statistics and raw data as opposed to taking a look at what states are doing to make the stimulus work for them,’’ said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary James Aloisi...

Aloisi said the administration is looking for highway projects that will allow developers to move forward with new shopping malls, offices, and other private complexes. For example, the state in July provided $15 million of the stimulus funds for an access road in Somerville that will feed the Assembly on the Mystic project, a 66-acre mixed-use development that will include an Ikea superstore.

“We know that by building significant infrastructure in Somerville we can attract an Ikea,’’ he said. “We’re spending stimulus with an eye toward creating longer-term growth.’’

But finding projects that fit the state’s goals has proved to be difficult and time consuming. In addition to the work in Somerville, only one other proposal has been funded, a $70 million interchange for Route 24 that will help a business park in Fall River expand.

So Massachusetts has been handed nearly half a billion federal tax dollars for transportation infrastructure, and the Patrick Administration has been holding it back, looking for business parks and Ikeas that need a boost. All well and good... but what of all the hyper-ventilating we've heard on a regular basis since 2006 about the dire condition of our roads and bridges? Heck, Lt. Governor Murray gave his audience an earful about the transportation infrastructure "mess" that Patrick & Co. "inherited" just last week, in the aforementioned speech.

During Patrick's push earlier this year for an increase in the gas tax, we heard no end of warnings about the dangerous condition of our roads and bridges. During their successful push for a sales tax increase, Democratic Legislators by the dozens told us that the 25% hike was absolutely crucial, in part, for the dollars it would set aside for crucial and long-delayed maintenance on roads and bridges that were Minneapolis bridge disasters just waiting to happen.

And yet, with $497 million to spend, we get... an access road to the new Ikea Superstore.

Either the Democrats in charge of our state do not care about the doomsday conditions on our roadways, or their own rhetoric about those conditions, deployed to push tax increases, was so much hyperbole.

I'm going with option 2 (and looking forward to checking out that Ikea Superstore - did you know they sell meatballs?).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday afternoon miscellany

So President Obama is finally coming to Massachusetts to do some fund raising for his friend, Governor Patrick. Patrick's political committee released the following statement today (annotated with hyperlinks, to emphasize the 'Iraqi Information Minister-like' quality of the dispatch):
The Governor’s commitment to our best-in-the-nation public schools and quality health care for all our citizens has earned him the support of the President and the people of Massachusetts. Our economy is poised [to] recover faster and stronger than ever before and we are confident the voters will show their support for the Governor when the President visits and in November of 2010.
Patrick had better hope Obama holds more sway with big money donors than he does with IOC voters...

There goes another one. Hot on the heels of his top economic adviser, another top Patrick Administration official is heading for the exit. According to the State House News, Lora Pellegrini, who joined the Administration as head of legislative affairs a mere five months ago, is leaving to take a post with the Mass Association of Health Plans.

Bad news? It must be Friday. In a story pointing out the Patrick Administration's habit of releasing bad news on Fridays, Glen Johnson of the Associated Press has plenty of examples:
Last week, Patrick announced the resignation of Leslie Kirwan, a Cabinet officer and his top finance aide. She has been overseeing budget development and cuts amid the national recession, and she is assuming a similar job at Harvard University.

The week before, Patrick released a report analyzing the salaries and benefits for employees at the state's 42 public-private agencies, which have been accused of overpaying. The survey had been promised in 90 days; it was delivered in 184.

And the week before that, Transportation Secretary James Aloisi announced he wouldn't reapply for his current job under a new transportation structure taking effect Nov. 1. The statement effectively ended a tumultuous tenure that began when his hiring was announced in December — during a Friday afternoon blizzard.
Patrick, for his part, insisted that this patern is nothing but a "coincidence." Also coincidental, no doubt, is the steady decline in Patrick's poll numbers as he continues to patronize the press and the voters.

Chicken - er, piggy? - Little. Headline from Monday's Globe: "Dire flu predictions scaled back." Headline from Thursday's Globe: "Report: flu might fill up hospitals in 15 states." It is tempting to observe that the media has a "the sky is falling!" mentality when it comes to the swine flu... but I think I used that one more appropriately three years ago, when it was the Avian Flu that was supposedly going to kill us all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hmmmm... where have I heard that before...?

Fox News Boston wonders if Governor Patrick is really planning to run for re-election. I feel like I've read that before somewhere, a while ago...

Fox also reports on Charlie Baker's very impressive fundraising results for the month of September. Between Charlie's fast start and Patrick's anemic pace, Charlie has all but caught up with Patrick's total for the entire year.

Fox concentrates on Patrick's lackluster fundraising pace and barely-there campaign schedule. Others have noted high level members of the Patrick Administration jumping ship with increasing frequency of late. Still others (me) see evidence that Patrick will be a self-selected one-termer in virtually every story about the guy.

On the other side of the decision coin, this week brings news of yet another bright, ambitious, young Republican who is most definitely running next year - in this case for State Senate. Keep an eye on Eric Dahlberg; he is worthy of your support.