CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Monday, September 13, 2004

The Boston Globe's "fiscal fantasies"


The requirement by most cities in Massachusetts that police officers, rather than civilian flaggers, man details at road construction sites has been called the third rail of politics here.

After a Globe investigation this week showed that hundreds of Boston police officers have been double-dipping on details, some government watchdogs again sounded a call for reform in Boston. But the mayor and city councilors, who have the power to change the city's law requiring details at every road construction site, decline to touch the issue....

"It's built into lawmakers' DNA now," complained Barbara Anderson, who runs Citizens for Limited Taxation. "They've built up this fear. These details are silly, and police officers look silly doing them. It's time for this to stop. It seems to me a legislator could say, 'Look, I support the police, but these police details are ridiculous.' But I don't think it's going to happen." ...

Some advocates said the latest revelations of abuses should spur new efforts at reform.

In 1998, the Globe showed that hundreds of officers were calling in sick on the same days they worked details, collecting both sick pay and detail pay. In 2000, a Spotlight Team report revealed that 20 officers had skipped out on court dates and worked private details, resulting in the dismissal of criminal cases. This week, the Globe found 724 occasions during a 2-year period when police officers were paid to work details in two places at once. Three hundred and ninety six officers were paid for the overlapping shifts....

Anderson remembers, more than a decade ago, attending a public hearing on Weld's bill. Anderson said the whole State House was filled with uniformed police officers.

"They looked very intimidating," she said. "You just saw this solid blue line."

And no one wanted to cross it, Anderson recalled. The next time a police detail bill came up for a hearing, she said, the officers were back, but she couldn't see any legislators anywhere.

"The police show up at the State House, and the bill dies," Anderson said.

The Boston Globe
Friday, September 10, 2004
Politicians unlikely to alter police details


Now Kerry's very, very concerned about the lack of funds for welfare programs. He said so just this week. Yet here in Massachusetts, we have an option on our state income taxes. Thanks to the anti-tax group Citizens for Limited Taxation, you have an opportunity to pay income taxes not at the current rate of 5.3 percent, but at the old, Dukakis-era rate of 5.85 percent.

Does Liveshot pay his state income taxes at the higher rate? He does not. Even though his elderly second wife is worth a billion dollars, he can't bring himself to pay his "fair share."

Shouldn't he do it "for the children?" I know - of the 3,133,565 filers in Massachusetts this year, only 1,460 paid at the higher rate. But isn't John Kerry better than the rest of us?

The Boston Herald
Friday, September 10, 2004
Kerry's $300, 32-year-old anti-war debt
By Howie Carr


After spending weeks waiting for the $649 million supplemental budget to hit their desks, lawmakers had the bill to Gov. Mitt Romney by 8 pm Thursday - less than three hours after it was released, chocked full of earmarks for local projects and policy changes important to their districts, and their reelection efforts.

And with 183 outside sections and a $75 million local aid distribution, it's likely lawmakers won't be afraid to let the voters know how much better off they'll be thanks to the budget bill's passage. The one-time local aid boost, especially, will play high in an election year where local officials, teachers, police and fire personnel are anxious to add back what was taken away during the last three years of budget cuts.

Lawmakers throughout the week said they couldn't talk about the bill because it hadn't been agreed to, but in the days and hours before its release they couldn't resist touting the local aid hike. Senate leaders gave members an extra day to spread the good local aid news to their districts, and the local media.

Republicans were ready and waiting to give their stamp of approval to the bill, pronouncing early in the week that they were backing the agreement - even before there was an agreement. The day after returning from a long Labor Day weekend, Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees called the package "very positive" and signaled that there would be good news for cities and towns. Lees had promised earlier in the year to push for inclusion of an income tax cut in the bill, but this week said that will have to wait 'til next year.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee followed suit the next day, saying he was prepared to support the bill "because it has additional money for cities and towns," said Sen. Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield)....

The strangest thing about the bill was the way it was advertised. For weeks, lawmakers insisted the bill would be a simple and boring bill-paying exercise. And even when the bill's details were finally unveiled, lawmakers barely acknowledged what was plain to see - scores of projects that government critics sometimes call pork. Lawmakers passed on an opportunity to talk about the importance of those projects. Somehow, though, they may find a way to let voters know about the "bacon" before the election.

State House News Service
Friday, September 10, 2004
[Excerpt] Weekly Roundup: Week of Sept. 6, 2004


The Legislature's approval of substantial new spending Thursday night signals that lawmakers consider the recession over and are ready to use part of a $725 million budget surplus to revive important programs and start new projects. Governor Rommey, as he examines the bill for possible line-item vetoes, needs to preserve the best of the bill and excise pork-barrel and special-interest items....

... But the governor will need to determine whether it is really necessary to build a $2 million boat house in Brighton for the private nonprofit Community Rowing and whether Dilboy Field in Somerville deserves an $8 million facelift instead of less expensive repairs.

A Boston Globe editorial
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Budget largesse


"... But good government requires a significant amount of money. Romney, a successful businessman, ought to know that you get what you pay for."

A Boston Globe editorial
September 9, 2004
Romney's fiscal fantasies


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

"Republicans were ready and waiting to give their stamp of approval to the bill, pronouncing early in the week that they were backing the agreement - even before there was an agreement....  [Senate Minority Leader Brian] Lees had promised earlier in the year to push for inclusion of an income tax cut in the bill, but this week said that will have to wait 'til next year."

Once again Minority Leader Brian Lees and his Republican cronies in the Senate have given the Beacon Hill Salute (middle finger extended) to taxpayers and the voters. [See CLT News Release, May 19, 2004: "CLT calls for new Senate Minority Leader."] We now know as a certainty who the "loyal opposition" among Republican legislators is loyal to -- and it isn't their constituents or taxpayers.

The tax rollback "will have to wait 'til next year" because Senate Republicans made it so, and next year will be new excuses. Count on it, unless we elect enough new ones to oust Lees as Minority Leader and replace him with someone who'll lead in the right direction for a change.

"The Legislature's approval of substantial new spending Thursday night signals that lawmakers consider the recession over and are ready to use part of a $725 million budget surplus to revive important programs and start new projects," the Boston Globe's editorial on Saturday extols. An admission that the recession is considered over works for the Globe -- when it comes to spending more on "important programs" and starting "new projects." It doesn't only when it comes to respecting the voters' mandate to complete the tax rollback.

File this under "The Boston Globe's Fiscal Fantasies"!

"... But good government requires a significant amount of money. Romney, a successful businessman, ought to know that you get what you pay for," the Globe pontificated just two days before, in the midst of its own ongoing exposÚ over double-dipping police details and other wasteful spending boondoggles. The Boston Globe has run similar exposÚs in 1998 and again in 2000 -- and caused nothing to change. This latest one in 2004 will have the same effect no doubt, lots of buzz while it's in the headlines, then buried again for another few years -- when the Globe revisits it and again causes no change.

Reminds me of its ally in the tax-and-spend lobby, the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Year after year MTF issues its "reports" and "studies" calling for all kinds of spending and government reforms, decrying the "structural imbalance" in the budget, opposing the voters' rollback and any other tax relief for average taxpayers while advocating them for its Fat Cat Big Business members. Year after year all they ever accomplish is enabling more spending, bigger budgets, more borrowing, tax relief for businesses, and helping to block tax cuts for average taxpayers.

Governor Romney got it right earlier last week when he observed: "The Legislature is adding programs and is adding spending. If the money is there, they will spend it."

The Boston Herald got it right earlier last week when it opined: "The best way to curb government growth is to curb spending, and the only way to do that is to take money completely off the table by returning it to the taxpayers. (As we've learned, rainy day funds can get spent pretty quickly, too.)"

Who else besides the Boston Globe within the span of two days can shamelessly call it still a recession when it comes to tax cuts; but not a recession when it comes to spending more, more, more?

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Friday, September 10, 2004

Politicians unlikely to alter police details
By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff


In 1992, Governor William F. Weld learned his lesson when he tried to change policy at the Massachusetts Highway Department so civilians could serve as flaggers at construction sites. He abruptly dropped the issue after roughly 800 police officers flooded the State House and accused him of taking food from the mouths of their children.

In 1995, James P. Jajuga, then a state senator, came to the same realization after dozens of nasty phone calls from police officers and their families, some characterizing him as "despicable" for trying to pass a state law limiting the hours officers could work on police details each week.

Representatives Paul Demakis and Jay Kaufman, freshly elected, also tried to rein in details that year with a bill that would have sharply cut the number of construction sites where police details would be required and capped police detail pay. But they were immediately beaten back by powerful police unions.

The requirement by most cities in Massachusetts that police officers, rather than civilian flaggers, man details at road construction sites has been called the third rail of politics here.

After a Globe investigation this week showed that hundreds of Boston police officers have been double-dipping on details, some government watchdogs again sounded a call for reform in Boston. But the mayor and city councilors, who have the power to change the city's law requiring details at every road construction site, decline to touch the issue.

"Any attempts to change the city law would amount to union-busting, and I would oppose it," City Council President Michael Flaherty said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, asked if he would consider changing the law to allow civilian flaggers to take the place of police, retorted that police alone should work details.

"I've supported details throughout the city ever since I was elected as mayor," said Menino, who is seeking to improve relations with the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association after a bitter contract dispute that lasted more than a year.

It appears any push for reform will meet the same fate as earlier efforts.

Some advocates for reform support establishing a state law that would supercede municipal laws and require local police chiefs and commissioners to decide which construction sites truly need a uniformed police officer posted there for public safety.

However, they say elected officials are afraid of considering any change because they don't want to be perceived as denigrating a profession whose members risk their lives to protect the public, and because of police unions' long reach at election time.

"It's built into lawmakers' DNA now," complained Barbara Anderson, who runs Citizens for Limited Taxation. "They've built up this fear. These details are silly, and police officers look silly doing them. It's time for this to stop. It seems to me a legislator could say, 'Look, I support the police, but these police details are ridiculous.' But I don't think it's going to happen."

State law does not require police officers at road construction sites, but the city laws give police a virtual monopoly on the work. In Boston, the statute requires at least one uniformed officer be present during any roadwork.

Some advocates said the latest revelations of abuses should spur new efforts at reform.

In 1998, the Globe showed that hundreds of officers were calling in sick on the same days they worked details, collecting both sick pay and detail pay. In 2000, a Spotlight Team report revealed that 20 officers had skipped out on court dates and worked private details, resulting in the dismissal of criminal cases. This week, the Globe found 724 occasions during a 2-year period when police officers were paid to work details in two places at once. Three hundred and ninety six officers were paid for the overlapping shifts.

"Clearly, we need to get back on the soapbox," said Samuel Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a business funded city government watchdog. "There ought to be a change in the ordinance to allow the [police] commissioner to determine whether a job would be safe with a civilian flagman rather than a police detail officer."

The city requirement costs taxpayers millions of dollars, Tyler said, when civilians could be hired at half the price. The Boston Police Department paid officers $26.3 million for 129,909 details in 2003. Many officers supplement their salaries by as much as $40,000 a year.

The department bills the utility companies, construction businesses and government agencies, including the Big Dig, which are required to hire the officers for the work.

But in the end, taxpayers foot the bill when companies and government entities hiring details pass the cost on to consumers, Tyler said. "Taxpayers are paying for this," he said.

Still, he and other advocates say they are not optimistic about the prospect for change. Anderson remembers, more than a decade ago, attending a public hearing on Weld's bill. Anderson said the whole State House was filled with uniformed police officers.

"They looked very intimidating," she said. "You just saw this solid blue line."

And no one wanted to cross it, Anderson recalled. The next time a police detail bill came up for a hearing, she said, the officers were back, but she couldn't see any legislators anywhere.

"The police show up at the State House, and the bill dies," Anderson said.

Officials at the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, which has lobbied against efforts to change detail requirements, say detail officers have made road construction sites in Massachusetts some of the safest in the country. And they say lobbying efforts will continue.

"I have a right and a duty as a police union representative to present my case, and I think we've done that very effectively over the last 10, 12 years," said James Barry, legislative liaison for the union. "This is America, and there is a right to free speech and free expression."

Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole said details allow her to have as many as 400 more uniformed officers on the street without having to pay them directly from the city budget.

"If we didn't have paid details I'd have to mitigate the loss of those uniformed officers out in the field every day," O'Toole said.

Meanwhile, some cities in other states that have long allowed the use of civilian flagmen to direct traffic at construction sites are considering police details, said John E. Zuccaro, who administers detail payroll for the Boston Police Department. The department has received inquiries from New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and Montreal, he said.

"They're trying to figure out a way to put more officers on the street," Zuccaro said.

They are also looking for extra revenue, Zuccaro said. The city of Boston made $2.1 million in fees last year for administrating police details; it collects 10 percent of detail fees charged to private companies.

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The Boston Herald
Friday, September 10, 2004

Kerry's $300, 32-year-old anti-war debt
By Howie Carr


What was the first thing John F. Kerry did after he was discharged from active Navy duty in that "barbaric war"?

The self-described war criminal filed to get his $300 Vietnam war bonus from the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I guess Kerry wanted to grab the dough before he repressed that "filthy obscene memory" of a war he regarded with a "very, very deep sense of revulsion" and that he hoped, nay, prayed, "a merciful God will wipe away (from) our memories."

But not, apparently, until the check from the state cleared.

He was discharged on Oct. 13, 1969. Two weeks later, he filed for the bonus. His check arrived on Dec. 17, 1969, just in time for Christmas, a Christmas that was no doubt seared, seared into his memory, just like the previous one, which he spent in, or at least semi-near, Cambodia.

This check is still in the files of the state treasurer of Massachusetts. What isn't in the files is Kerry's own $300 check which three years later he publicly pledged to write, and then apparently never did.

So, first he wanted the Vietnam bonus money, before he didn't want the Vietnam bonus money. Then he planned to return the money, before he decided not to return the money.

Does all this sound vaguely familiar?

"We have no record of any check from him returning the bonus," said a spokesman for the state treasurer. "It was a long time ago."

But not long enough for everyone to forget. According to a story the Lowell Sun ran last week, Kerry appeared before the Lowell City Council back in 1972 to ask the council to pass a resolution condemning the war. Asked about his medals and the bonus check, he said, "I returned my medals to make a point. I will now do the same with the bonus money."

For 32 years, apparently, the check has been in the mail.

A call was placed to the Kerry campaign, asking them whether in fact Kerry now claims to have returned the $300 bonus. The call was not returned.

The odd thing is, a lot of Vietnam veterans, for whatever reason, never collected their bonus. Others waited years - the state has issued 1,185 of the checks since 1989. But Kerry, who so despised the conflict, couldn't get his hands on that money fast enough.

"That $300 bonus didn't just end up in your mailbox magically," one Vietnam vet e-mailed me. "You had to fill out a form and mail the state your original DD214 (discharge papers). So Kerry actively sought what according to him must have been blood money. At the same time he's stabbing his comrades in the back, he's grabbing all he can."

It's a pattern. Do as he says, not as he does.

Now Kerry's very, very concerned about the lack of funds for welfare programs. He said so just this week. Yet here in Massachusetts, we have an option on our state income taxes. Thanks to the anti-tax group Citizens for Limited Taxation, you have an opportunity to pay income taxes not at the current rate of 5.3 percent, but at the old, Dukakis-era rate of 5.85 percent.

Does Liveshot pay his state income taxes at the higher rate? He does not. Even though his elderly second wife is worth a billion dollars, he can't bring himself to pay his "fair share."

Shouldn't he do it "for the children?" I know - of the 3,133,565 filers in Massachusetts this year, only 1,460 paid at the higher rate. But isn't John Kerry better than the rest of us?

Let me guess. He's planning to pay the extra money. The check is in the mail, and it'll arrive at the State House the same day that $300 refund of his Vietnam bonus check shows up

Howie Carr's radio show can be heard weekday afternoons on WRKO AM 680, WHYN AM 560, WGAN AM 560, WEIM AM 1280, and WXTK 95.1 FM.

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State House News Service
Friday, September 10, 2004

[Excerpt] Weekly Roundup: Week of Sept. 6, 2004
By Amy Lambiaso


In an election year, every penny counts. 

After spending weeks waiting for the $649 million supplemental budget to hit their desks, lawmakers had the bill to Gov. Mitt Romney by 8 pm Thursday - less than three hours after it was released, chocked full of earmarks for local projects and policy changes important to their districts, and their reelection efforts.

And with 183 outside sections and a $75 million local aid distribution, it's likely lawmakers won't be afraid to let the voters know how much better off they'll be thanks to the budget bill's passage. The one-time local aid boost, especially, will play high in an election year where local officials, teachers, police and fire personnel are anxious to add back what was taken away during the last three years of budget cuts.

Lawmakers throughout the week said they couldn't talk about the bill because it hadn't been agreed to, but in the days and hours before its release they couldn't resist touting the local aid hike. Senate leaders gave members an extra day to spread the good local aid news to their districts, and the local media.

Republicans were ready and waiting to give their stamp of approval to the bill, pronouncing early in the week that they were backing the agreement - even before there was an agreement. The day after returning from a long Labor Day weekend, Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees called the package "very positive" and signaled that there would be good news for cities and towns. Lees had promised earlier in the year to push for inclusion of an income tax cut in the bill, but this week said that will have to wait 'til next year.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee followed suit the next day, saying he was prepared to support the bill "because it has additional money for cities and towns," said Sen. Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield). Republicans also said the local aid boost was Gov. Mitt Romney's idea first.

"The governor had this first, with $100 million," said House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading). "But if anyone with a primary race wants to get a bang out of this - it's got to be done now."

Local leaders acknowledged the political angle to the policy of increasing local aid. Geoffrey Beckwith, a former legislator who now heads the Massachusetts Municipal Association, attributed both politics and policies to the decision to include the money.

The strangest thing about the bill was the way it was advertised. For weeks, lawmakers insisted the bill would be a simple and boring bill-paying exercise. And even when the bill's details were finally unveiled, lawmakers barely acknowledged what was plain to see - scores of projects that government critics sometimes call pork. Lawmakers passed on an opportunity to talk about the importance of those projects. Somehow, though, they may find a way to let voters know about the "bacon" before the election.

The supplemental spending package included much more than the $75 million in additional one-time unrestricted local aid. Other spending initiatives included:

- $11.9 million for substance abuse treatment spending;
- $32 million for higher education contractual obligations;
- $3.3 million to launch two additional MCAS exam this spring in science and history;
- $1 million for a GPS system to track sex offenders;
- $16.8 million to raise the hourly pay rates of court-appointed defense attorneys;
- $15 million to hospitals for Medicaid payments;
- $21.6 million for charter schools;
- $2 million for a State Police crime lab feasibility and cost study.


STORY OF THE WEEK: Lawmakers mired deep in a fiscal crisis two years ago breathe a sigh of relief when they return to districts next week able to brag about how they handled a budget surplus.

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The Boston Globe
Saturday, September 11, 2004

A Boston Globe editorial
Budget largesse


The Legislature's approval of substantial new spending Thursday night signals that lawmakers consider the recession over and are ready to use part of a $725 million budget surplus to revive important programs and start new projects. Governor Rommey, as he examines the bill for possible line-item vetoes, needs to preserve the best of the bill and excise pork-barrel and special-interest items.

These include an attempt to impose rules on the way biology is taught in high school.

The Legislature would force teachers to offer students who did not want to dissect frogs the option of a computer simulation. It might be appropriate for some students to use a simulation, but teachers should make that decision without the additional burden of a state mandate. Romney has vetoed an identical item in an earlier bill, and he should do so again.

However, he should approve an item he has previously vetoed that would restore Medicaid benefits for 3,000 immigrants. These people, living on little income, deserve to have their health needs covered by Medicaid, and the state has enough money to help them.

The Legislature also showed good sense when it agreed to finance long-deferred pay raises affecting employees of the higher education system. It also revived a program to offer matching grants for private donations to public higher education. The governor should endorse both items to help the system recover from devastating budget cuts.

Trying to get a handle on health care costs, a chronic budget problem, the Legislature would establish a commission to determine whether Medicaid payments are adequate and what can be done to assure an equitable source of revenue for these reimbursements.

As a down payment on future Medicaid increases, the Legislature would establish a $15 million special trust fund. Romney should support both items.

The Legislature would appropriate $70.86 million for projects under the control of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Most of this work is long overdue, such as the reconstruction of Quincy Shore Drive and the cleanup of Wollaston Beach. But the governor will need to determine whether it is really necessary to build a $2 million boat house in Brighton for the private nonprofit Community Rowing and whether Dilboy Field in Somerville deserves an $8 million facelift instead of less expensive repairs.

Even as the Legislature offers to improve DCR properties, the governor should resist its attempt to mandate staffing at regional offices. The department needs flexibility to administer its network of parks.

The Legislature also allotted a healthy $336 million of the surplus to the rainy day fund. The governor can provide even more money for this essential reserve by trimming items that show more extravagance than common sense.

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