So there I was, having my
traditional St. Patrick’s Day shamrock shake at McDonald’s with a
Fillet-O-Fish sandwich, thinking about the election that was
occurring in Israel and hoping Benjamin Netanyahu would win, when I
realized: Even though many people think that peace in the Mideast is
impossible, that’s what we thought about peace in northern Ireland,
not long ago. And peace in the Balkans and a peaceful resolution in
Yes, in the spirit of
spring, arriving here tomorrow, let’s dwell for a while on the
positive. For instance: Here in Massachusetts, things are getting
Gov. Charlie Baker, after
dealing responsibly with the present budget’s shortfall left by his
predecessor, filed his proposed budget for the state fiscal year
(fiscal year 2016) beginning July 1, 2015. His spending growth for
fiscal year 2016, while an increase of roughly a billion dollars, is
below the projected rate of revenue growth, showing fiscal restraint
for the first time in years. As the governor promised, there are no
new taxes or fees; the nursing home tax won’t increase. It will be
interesting to watch the coming battle concerning his proposal to
phase out the film tax credit, with which taxpayers subsidize the
ability of state politicians to hobnob with famous actors.
Gov. Baker’s focus is on
economic competitiveness and job creation. His promised increases in
local aid will help communities with unexpected snow removal costs.
The outrageous growth in MassHealth costs is curtailed, partly by
limiting the subsidies to people who actually qualify for them.
Though the governor’s
budget will be replaced by versions crafted by the House, and then
the Senate, I found it a hopeful sign that Gov. Baker, Senate
President Rosenberg and House Speaker DeLeo have seemed quite
compatible lately. They appeared together on WGBH’s Greater Boston,
where Jim Braude is replacing Emily Rooney as host; his opening show
was a paean to the usually unrealistic fantasy, “Can’t they all just
get along?” The Big Three guests agreed on the basic need to get
spending under control, reform Mass Transit (again), and create
There was the same
getting-along at the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, televised
last Sunday on NECN; again, we were treated to the sight of usually
adversarial politicians seeming to enjoy each other’s company. I
myself missed the humor in the MBTA breakdown jokes, but there were
some laugh-out-loud moments, and Charlie Baker was dignified as he
took a few moments to talk about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
South Boston, the first in the nation.
While politicians bond,
some interesting things have been happening in activist circles. As
part of its ongoing education about Massachusetts education, the
Pioneer Institute is
holding a breakfast forum this coming Thursday, March 26. There will
be four Pulitzer Prize-winning historians for “‘Tear Down This
Wall!: Teaching the Cold War in Schools,” speaking about the History
of the Iron Curtain, Ronald Reagan, former Soviet Premier Nikita
Khrushchev, John F. Kennedy, and China’s gulag.
With the federal
government getting involved in education with Common Core, it’s
essential that we find a way to teach children the truth about the
American Way through our local school systems. Also, it’s a shame
the Legislature refuses to raise the cap on charter schools; I hope
Gov. Baker can get legislators to understand the need for more
One reason they don’t
understand it now is the mind-melting from the state teacher unions,
which dislike having non-union public schools competing with them.
Another activist group is addressing the general union issue, with a
lawsuit seeking to close “the union loophole” in Massachusetts
campaign finance law.
Early this month, two
companies (1A Auto Inc. of Pepperell and 126 self-Storage Inc. of
Ashland) affiliated with the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance filed the
lawsuit in coordination with the Goldwater Institute. It’s
ridiculous that, even in this Blue State, unions can contribute as
much as $15,000 to state candidates, while individuals are permitted
to contribute no more than $1,000. After unions have donated $15,000
to a campaign, their political action committees (PACs) can
contribute even more; businesses and business PACs are banned from
contributing at all. Unfortunately, last year’s legislative reform
effort to close the union loophole was overwhelmingly defeated.
So, the plaintiffs are
asking the Massachusetts courts to apply the same campaign finance
limitations to unions and businesses, in order to create a level
playing field for state elections. On such a field, voters might
find it would be easier to “all get along” if there were a tad more
balance in the Legislature.
What is it with the
Legislature — what does it have against “fairness” for parents who
want a chance for their children and citizens who want a level
playing field in campaign finance laws?
This week is “Sunshine
Week” and some media leaders are supporting more public records
access; most normal people think the Legislature should also abide
by the open meeting laws that city/town officials must obey. Can’t
we all just get along more openly?
Let’s hope Gov. Charlie
can pull this all together to make the commonwealth work — so we can
point to a small victory for hope trumping experience.
Bibi Netanyahu seems to
have been re-elected Israeli Prime Minister. Our own USA 2016
election is beginning with forays into New Hampshire by prospective
candidates. Spring arrives tomorrow after record winter snowfall.
Never give up.
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem