CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Real government reform is in the works


Government watchdog groups today announced their support for Governor Mitt Romney's proposal to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department, saying the plan will eliminate duplication and save tens of millions of dollars each year.

Flanked by leaders of the independent organizations, including the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey said it makes no sense to have two different agencies managing our state's highways.

News Release - February 2, 2004
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department
Gov't Watchdog Groups Back Turnpike/Highway Merger


The Romney administration took its case to streamline transportation agencies to the heart of bureaucracy Monday, hosting a press conference in the State Transportation Building and saying the state could not invest more money in education without savings generated by consolidation.

"Our ability to start investing in education hinges on our ability to get agreement with these reforms," said Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. This is "money we can use to build more schools, lift up our most challenged school districts and provide free public college tuition to our top-scoring MCAS students."

Healey filled in at the press conference for Romney, who was delayed on his return trip from Houston, where he traveled to attend the Super Bowl Sunday....

Monday's press event included a background of leaders from the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation, all speaking out in support of the merger and the savings associated with reforming state transportation.

"It doesn't surprise me that this could save $20 million, and it wouldn't surprise me if we could save more," said Stephen Adams, president and CEO of the Pioneer Institute. "This is based on real numbers."

State House News Service
Monday, February 2, 2004
Healey: Education investments
dependent on transportation merger


As lawmakers prepare to debate the merits of Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the state Highway Department, a group of government watchdogs gathered in Boston yesterday to endorse the governor's proposal.

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who touted the merger plan during a press briefing at the state Transportation Building, was joined by leaders of Citizens for Limited Taxation, the Free the Pike coalition, the Beacon Hill Institute and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research....

Also flanking Healy yesterday were Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Stephen Adams, president and CEO of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research.

Anderson said the Pike is a "symbol of everything wrong with Massachusetts government."

"It's less likely to have a problem if the person in charge (the governor) is someone who is elected and has to take responsibility," she said.

The MetroWest Daily News
Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Pike merger idea has many friends


State Representative Scott Brown today signed the Citizens for Limited Taxation's 'no new taxes' pledge. Brown called for reform of state government to fund priorities, rather than increasing taxes.

Scott Brown for State Senate
January 29, 2004
Brown Signs No New Taxes Pledge


Ordinarily, David W. White-Lief pays his bills on time, but the Boston personal injury lawyer owes the state about $2,000 on behalf of his clients, and he has no plans to pony up.

White-Lief is among thousands of lawyers for civil plaintiffs across Massachusetts who have received bills from the courts requiring them to pay fees of $90 to $120 on the one-year anniversary of filing suit and each year thereafter, until the case is resolved. And a number of lawyers, including White-Lief, are balking....

Meanwhile, leaders of the 18,500-member Massachusetts Bar Association voted unanimously Jan. 22 to file a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional, after White-Lief and others argued that the fees unfairly penalize plaintiffs in the type of cases that routinely take several years to be resolved....

But White-Lief said the proposed changes are not enough. "They're trying to salvage bad legislation with amendments that don't solve the real problem: the unconstitutionality of the fee," he said.

The Boston Globe
Tuesday, February 3. 2004
Lawyers balk at state fee on prolonged civil cases


Barbara Anderson's  CLT Commentary

Last week we got this excellent question from CLT member Bill Hees:

"I saw your email about Gov. Romney's new budget. Thanks for the update. I was wondering if you know why his new budget is only $22.9 billion. Isn't the budget for the current fiscal year already around $23 billion? If so, and it's going up by $1.1 billion, shouldn't the new budget be higher?"

I responded that we had been wondering this ourselves, and were searching for the answer, while trying to update our year-to-year budget numbers.

We have always used the state comptrollerís reports, which adjust each budget year in the fall, after all bills have been paid and the fiscal year is truly over. It's not easy, as there are different accounting methods, and we like to use the familiar one that corresponds to the numbers that we are all accustomed to seeing in the media.

As soon as we double-check what we have, we will put the budgets on our website. But keep in mind that the comparisons are sometimes skewed when the state takes certain things "off-budget."

The answer to Billís question is that the pension money, over a billion dollars, was taken "off-budget" last year. If pension spending was still in the budget, the governorís new budget would be $24.2 billion, not $22.98 billion.

Taking the pensions off-budget was the Legislature's, not the governorís idea, but itís not necessarily a bad one. If the two accounts are kept separate, pension money goes into its own fund and cannot be raided to balance the budget. Some of you may recall when Governor Dukakis achieved his "11th balanced budget in a row" while he was running for President; he did this by raiding the pension fund.

The budget was balanced last year by offering early retirement incentives to government employees, which takes some of their higher salaries out of the immediate budget, while increasing the unfunded pension liability. This is NOT a good idea.

Barbara --


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department
February 2, 2004

Gov't Watchdog Groups Back Turnpike/Highway Merger
Romney plan frees up $190 million in one-time savings and $20 million annually


Government watchdog groups today announced their support for Governor Mitt Romney's proposal to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department, saying the plan will eliminate duplication and save tens of millions of dollars each year.

Flanked by leaders of the independent organizations, including the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey said it makes no sense to have two different agencies managing our state's highways.

Healey, standing in the state Transportation Building, which houses both the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Department, asked: "If these two agencies can share the same building, why can't they share the same legal department, the same public relations department and the same set of books? The answer is, they can."

Romney's plan calls for the Turnpike Authority to enter into an agreement with the Highway Department to operate and maintain the Turnpike roadways, creating an estimated savings of $20 million annually through improved efficiencies and sharing of maintenance and administrative resources.

Under the plan, the Turnpike's debt would move to the state's balance sheet at no additional cost to the Commonwealth. The move will free up an immediate $190 million to invest in priorities like education and health care.

The Beacon Hill Institute said the Administration's estimated savings from the merger is conservative.

David Tuerck, the organization's Executive Director, said, "The Beacon Hill Institute has determined that the state could save up to $57 million per year in operating costs by merging the Turnpike with the Highway Department. The state could furthermore enjoy the savings without any loss of quality of services that are currently provided by the Turnpike Authority."

"Massachusetts can no longer afford the wasteful and inefficient duplication of effort represented by the Turnpike Authority," said Stephen Adams, President and CEO of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. "The Romney Administration's merger of the Turnpike Authority into the Highway Department will produce significant savings that can help support important public services."

Healey also detailed the new governance structure the Administration is proposing for the Turnpike Authority.

Under Romney's proposal, the Turnpike Board will expand from its current five members to nine. The new members will include the Secretaries of Transportation and Administration and Finance and the Secretary of the Office of Commonwealth Development as ex-officio members. One additional member will be appointed directly by the Governor. The Governor noted that the addition of ex-officio government members will enhance accountability and make it more accountable to state government and the taxpayers.

"It's time to do what should have been done years ago. It's time to spend our dollars in a smarter, more responsible way," added Healey. "This proposal takes great strides in our efforts to advance the education of our children by removing wasteful spending from our budget and putting it where it is needed most."

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State House News Service
Monday, February 2, 2004

Healey: Education investments
dependent on transportation merger
By Amy Lambiaso


The Romney administration took its case to streamline transportation agencies to the heart of bureaucracy Monday, hosting a press conference in the State Transportation Building and saying the state could not invest more money in education without savings generated by consolidation.

"Our ability to start investing in education hinges on our ability to get agreement with these reforms," said Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. This is "money we can use to build more schools, lift up our most challenged school districts and provide free public college tuition to our top-scoring MCAS students."

Healey filled in at the press conference for Romney, who was delayed on his return trip from Houston, where he traveled to attend the Super Bowl Sunday.

Monday's push was the latest in a barrage of efforts by the administration to highlight its proposal to merge the independent Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department. Administration officials believe the two agencies are a natural target for consolidation, which they say will generate $20 million a year in operational savings and a $190 million windfall associated with the authority's cash reserves.

"Can we invest in education if we have $200 million less?" Healey asked. "Perhaps the answer is no."

Administration officials say toll revenue is sufficient to cover the turnpike's debt, but lawmakers say the big downside of the union is the likelihood that $2.5 billion in turnpike debt would be transferred to the state. Lawmakers also question the fairness of forcing taxpayers statewide to retire the turnpike's debts.

In his House 1 budget, released last week, Romney called for the authority to enter into a operating and maintenance agreement with the Highway Department, folding the Authority into the state department.

Romney's budget plan also calls for an expansion of the Turnpike Board of Directors from five members to nine. The additional members would be the Secretaries of Administration and Finance, Transportation and Construction, and Commonwealth Development as ex-officio members, and another gubernatorial appointee. All employees of the combined agencies would report to the board.

Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction, said the new members are important because they are all directly accountable to state government.

The direct route between the savings and its purpose comes as lawmakers and independent watchdog groups are emerging on both sides of the issue. Since the unveiling of Romney's budget, a handful of Republican and Democrat lawmakers have expressed a willingness to examine the proposal without dismissing it altogether. Healey made a point today of saying the administration has bipartisan support.

Chief budget writer for the Senate, Sen. Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), responded to Romney's budget last week by saying she was "not dismissing" the merger proposal, while House Speaker Thomas Finneran and House budget leader John Rogers (D-Norwood) remain highly critical of the plan.

Rep. Joseph Wagner, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he is concerned that the plan would shift the financial burden of the Turnpike Authority, the agency overseeing the Big Dig and responsible for maintaining 130 lane-miles of roadway, from the toll payers to the taxpayers.

"Fundamentally, those people that don't use the turnpike road system don't pay for it," said Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat. "Most taxpayers aren't on the hook for any of the costs. If the taxpayers become the guarantor of the Turnpike Authority's $2.5 billion in debt, they are exposed to a risk that they are presently not exposed to, and that is not right."

Monday's press event included a background of leaders from the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation, all speaking out in support of the merger and the savings associated with reforming state transportation.

"It doesn't surprise me that this could save $20 million, and it wouldn't surprise me if we could save more," said Stephen Adams, president and CEO of the Pioneer Institute. "This is based on real numbers."

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The MetroWest Daily News
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Pike merger idea has many friends
By Michael Kunzelman, Staff Writer


As lawmakers prepare to debate the merits of Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the state Highway Department, a group of government watchdogs gathered in Boston yesterday to endorse the governor's proposal.

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who touted the merger plan during a press briefing at the state Transportation Building, was joined by leaders of Citizens for Limited Taxation, the Free the Pike coalition, the Beacon Hill Institute and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research.

Free the Pike founder Doug Barth, a Sudbury resident and longtime advocate for the elimination of Pike tolls, said he supports Romney's merger plan because cost-cutting is the first step toward tearing down toll booths.

"The goal is to take down tolls," he said. "This will make the eventual job of taking down tolls easier (and) possible....This is certainly accelerating the end date of when tolls come down."

Healey said the merger would generate $190 million in one-time revenue for the state in fiscal year 2005, which starts July 1, and would save an estimated $20 million annually.

David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute, said the administration's cost-saving estimates appear to be conservative. He claimed the merger could save up to $57 million annually.

Tuerck also said the Pike's operating expenses, compared with the Highway Department's, are 250 percent higher per mile of road and 125 percent more expensive per lane mile.

"Mass. Highway has made great strides in recent years in resurfacing roads and repairing and replacing bridges," he said. "We don't need a separate bureaucracy to keep the Turnpike roads up to par."

Romney offered a similar plan last year, but it died in the Legislature. His latest proposal once again has encountered stiff opposition in the House of Representatives.

"I look at it cautiously," said state Rep. Joseph Wagner, House chairman of the Transportation Committee. "They have gone down this road before and offered something that didn't measure up in terms of accomplishing real savings."

Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat, questions the wisdom of having the state assume the Pike's $2.5 billion debt burden.

"In an effort to grab the ($190 million in) cash, in the name of instant gratification, they're putting taxpayers across the commonwealth in a lot of risk," he said.

Healey said the proposal has garnered broad bipartisan support.

"We do have support on both sides of the aisle in the House and in the Senate, but we're going to need more," she said.

State Rep. James Vallee, a Franklin Democrat who serves on House Speaker Thomas Finneran's leadership team, said he supports the Republican governor's proposal even though some of his fellow House leaders firmly oppose it.

"I just think it makes sense," Vallee said. "There should only be one highway department. By its very nature, it's going to save us money not to have two duplicative administrations."

The Romney administration invited Vallee to join Healey at the Transportation Building, the site of Turnpike headquarters, but he turned down the invitation.

Vallee said he does not expect House leaders to pressure him to vote against the merger plan.

"We need structural reform and structural change because we have a structural deficit," he said. "We have to be innovative."

Also flanking Healy yesterday were Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Stephen Adams, president and CEO of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research.

Anderson said the Pike is a "symbol of everything wrong with Massachusetts government."

"It's less likely to have a problem if the person in charge (the governor) is someone who is elected and has to take responsibility," she said.

Romney was scheduled to attend the briefing, but his flight from Houston, where he attended the Super Bowl, was delayed yesterday morning.

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Scott Brown for State Senate
January 29, 2004

Brown Sings No New Taxes Pledge
State Representatives and Senators Rally Behind Brown


State Representative Scott Brown today signed the Citizens for Limited Taxation's 'no new taxes' pledge. Brown called for reform of state government to fund priorities, rather than increasing taxes.

According to Brown, "Massachusetts has a bright future where we continue to improve education, create jobs and expand access to health care. We can get there by cutting waste, streamlining government and merging agencies which serve as havens for patronage."

Brown echoed Governor Mitt Romney's call to merge the Turnpike Authority and Mass Highway Department to save over $200 million in the first year. "We can afford to provide full day kindergarten in our school districts most in need. We can afford a modest increase in local aid to help fund local schools, police and fire. By adopting common sense reforms, we will accomplish these goals without burdening people with a tax increase."

State Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, joined by a crowd of State Representatives and Senators, spoke to the crowd about why they are supporting Scott Brown in the February 3rd primary.

"We know how difficult it is to get reforms through this Legislature. The building is filled with obstructionists and politicians protecting their patronage projects. We saw the Senate prevent Governor Romney's reforms last year, with a vote along party lines. Massachusetts needs Scott Brown to begin to shift the State Senate back into balance - and to help bring true accountability to the legislature."

Brown thanked Brian Lees and his colleagues for their support. "I have sponsored legislation to provide for property tax relief for seniors. In accordance with the ballot initiative, I have fought for the charitable tax deduction. I have worked on making the investment tax credit permanent. We have worked together in these endeavors. Together we have been fighting for reforms, we have been protecting the taxpayers, and funding education reform, public safety and Prescription Advantage. Together, we will see our state into a full economic recovery, fueled by more efficient government that does not overburden taxpayers."

"I am overwhelmed by your support," said Brown of the endorsement of 23 State Representatives and 6 State Senators.

The special election primary vote is scheduled for Tuesday, February 3.

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The Boston Globe
Tuesday, February 3. 2004

Lawyers balk at state fee on prolonged civil cases
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff


Ordinarily, David W. White-Lief pays his bills on time, but the Boston personal injury lawyer owes the state about $2,000 on behalf of his clients, and he has no plans to pony up.

White-Lief is among thousands of lawyers for civil plaintiffs across Massachusetts who have received bills from the courts requiring them to pay fees of $90 to $120 on the one-year anniversary of filing suit and each year thereafter, until the case is resolved. And a number of lawyers, including White-Lief, are balking.

The fees went into effect Oct. 1 as a result of a law advocated by Governor Mitt Romney's chief counsel, Daniel B. Winslow. The goal was to unclog what Winslow called "one of the slowest and most expensive civil justice systems in the nation" and generate $6 million to $8 million in fiscal 2005 for the courts.

But compliance appears to be spotty at best. Michael J. Donovan, the civil clerk/magistrate of Suffolk Superior Court, has mailed bills to plaintiffs in 5,500 to 6,000 cases that were pending for more than a year as of the beginning of October. But fewer than one-fifth of them have paid, according to Donovan.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 18,500-member Massachusetts Bar Association voted unanimously Jan. 22 to file a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional, after White-Lief and others argued that the fees unfairly penalize plaintiffs in the type of cases that routinely take several years to be resolved.

"We are all mindful of the need of the courts to have adequate funding, but this is just wrong," White-Lief, 48, told fellow members of the association's house of delegates at their annual conference.

The Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, which represents some 1,300 lawyers who mostly practice personal injury law, intends to join in the suit, according to the president of the group, David Bikofsky, a Newton lawyer.

Winslow, who first suggested the fees in a paper that won a 1998 competition sponsored by the Pioneer Institute, said he was confident the new fee would pass constitutional muster.

"Every time the calendar flips over to another year is a bad thing, and it's high time that the judges and lawyers in Massachusetts recognized that fact," he said. "If it takes a relatively nominal fee to get their attention, then the mission to advance prompt and affordable civil justice has been accomplished."

The law establishing the anniversary fees requires civil plaintiffs in Superior Court to pay $120 every year that their case remains on the docket after it was filed. In District Court and Boston Municipal Court, the annual fee is $90.

Winslow, a former presiding judge in Wrentham District Court, said the rationale is simple: Lawsuits that take several years to wend through the courts cost the state more than those that take several months. The fee is intended to offset those costs.

Winslow said the state could have increased the fees for filing lawsuits. Such fees currently vary depending on the court.

Opponents of the anniversary fee say it flies in the face of time standards established by the Supreme Judicial Court for civil suits. The timetables, which went into effect in 1988, presume that complex cases, such as those alleging medical malpractice, will take about three years to go to trial.

"The litigants don't choose to have a three-year wait for claims in medical malpractice, which we specialize in," said Boston lawyer Andrew C. Meyer Jr., who specializes in such cases. He has sought to have the fee waived in several Superior Court cases. "It's a rule of the court."

Robert A. Mulligan, the state's chief justice for administration and management, agreed, adding that sometimes cases are delayed because judges and other court personnel are spread too thin.

Since July 2001, the state's trial courts have lost more than 1,200 employees through layoffs, attrition, and early retirement.

Donovan, president of the Superior Court Clerks Association, said his group thinks that having to collect the fee is an additional burden on clerk staffs.

Other critics argue that it's unfair to impose the fees only on plaintiffs.

"I see this [fee] as an attempt to raise money on the backs of those who can least afford to shoulder the burden," Bikofsky said.

Winslow sought to allay some concerns through an amendment in Romney's budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The amendment would exempt indigent litigants, state agencies, and municipalities from the fee, as well as plaintiffs involved in small claims cases, domestic violence cases, and landlord-tenant disputes, among others. The provision also specified that plaintiffs who win lawsuits could recover the fees.

But White-Lief said the proposed changes are not enough. "They're trying to salvage bad legislation with amendments that don't solve the real problem: the unconstitutionality of the fee," he said.

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NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


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