While watching the Deval Patrick inaugural events on
television, I heard a woman who was there say that when he was sworn in
as governor, the clouds parted and the sun shone through. Another person
was quoted in a newspaper as having looked up and seen a rainbow.
I can buy the sun, but not the rainbow, since weather conditions weren't
right for that kind of atmospheric phenomenon. I would also note that,
despite the hopeful celebration, another dolphin beached itself and died
on Cape Cod during this same time span.
Nevertheless, I can understand why some black people, who can remember
serious, government-supported racial prejudice, are happy to see a
society so changed that a black man can be elected governor. I like
But don't expect me to celebrate Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker
of the House in Washington, D.C., or support Hillary Clinton as the
first women president. Symbolism is nice, but I want to be governed by
people whose political philosophy is like mine.
Last week, as some were looking for signs and portents, I was busy
counting the number of lawyers in the Legislature who voted not to
discharge the health-care petition from a committee, where it was being
"studied," for a required vote in the Constitutional Convention (ConCon).
The previous weekend, I sent a letter to the 42 lawyer-legislators who
had voted last summer to recess the ConCon without taking up the
health-care and marriage petitions. I reminded them of their oath to
uphold the Constitution, which the Supreme Judicial Court had just ruled
requires a roll call on voter petitions.
There was a vote on the marriage amendment earlier this month, but the
health-care amendment remained in committee and never received its
required up-or-down vote. So, as a citizen who wants to preserve the
initiative amendment process for everyone, I'm proceeding with a
complaint to the Board of Bar Overseers about the 34 lawyer-legislators
who voted not to bring this petition to the floor. I'm planning to
include Gov. Patrick in the complaint, since he publicly exhorted the
Legislature to ignore the SJC decision and the Constitution. That's 35
lawyers who should be publicly reprimanded, at least.
It was interesting that Senate President Robert Travaglini, who is not a
lawyer by the way, stopped the argument about the marriage amendment by
bringing it to the floor for a quick vote. Unfortunately, he didn't
follow through for the health-care amendment, but his choice may relate
to another interesting thing he did last week: He publicly stated that
"tax hikes are still off the table."
Here is my theory about that. The Massachusetts Legislature has become
accustomed to Republican governors and their "no new taxes" pledge. For
16 years the pledge helped the Democrats keep themselves in line, giving
them an excuse to say no to the traditional Democratic special interests
that always want unlimited spending and more taxes. The pledge meant
that any tax hike would require a two-thirds, roll-call vote to override
the governor's veto.
But Gov. Patrick did not take the pledge. So the legislative Democrats
are left alone to deal with the public employee unions and human service
providers, with no one to play the role of responsible grown-up and
prevent the overspending that will cause a state fiscal crisis.
When Mike Dukakis was governor, the Democratic House Ways & Means
chairman, Richard Voke of Chelsea, stepped into the void. He declared in
1989 that there would be no new taxes in the House budget, and he held
to this as long as possible before being overrun by executive branch
I think Travaglini is doing the same thing, moving as a
perhaps-responsible Democrat into the new void, at least until he finds
out what Patrick is about.
We are suddenly hearing from the new governor about a projected
billion-dollar deficit in fiscal year 2008, which begins in July. Yet
somehow he thinks there is enough "extra" money in fiscal year 2007 to
allow him to override Gov. Romney's recent spending vetoes.
This makes no sense at all. If we're flush in '07, we'll have a surplus
to help balance the budget in '08. If we overspend in '07, we'll create
a problem in '08.
The early Patrick-Travaglini relationship reminds me of the story of the
farmer and his bride riding home from the wedding on a mule-drawn wagon.
The mule balks and the farmer says, "One."
A little farther on, the mule balks again; and the farmer says, "Two."
The next time the mule balks, the farmer shoots it in the head. The
horrified wife cries, "What did you do that for?" and the farmer says,
I think Travaglini, with his quick vote on the marriage amendment and
his statement about taxes, is giving the new governor fair warning
before the Legislature exerts its own ascendancy on Beacon Hill.
No one expects House Speaker Sal DiMasi to play the grown-up. Travaglini,
who some thought was leaving soon, seems to be settling in for a while.
Maybe, like many of us, he suspects this is going to be an interesting
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.