CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Saturday, September 18, 2004

$429M more spending approved
Gov. vetoed $76M


SUNDAY TALK: It's all about elections this week on the WB's Keller At Large. Host Jon Keller brings in Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix, Cosmo Macero Jr. from the Boston Herald and Citizens for Limited Taxation's Barbara Anderson. The group will recap last week's primary results and look ahead to Nov. 2 battles in the Legislature. (Sunday, 8:30 am, WB-Channel 56)

State House News Service
Advances
Friday, September 17, 2004


Governor Mitt Romney vetoed $76 million yesterday from an election season spending bill, including $32 million in retroactive pay hikes for 13,000 higher education workers and $5 million intended to help public school teachers secure first-home mortgages, prompting Democrats and labor unions to assail him for putting politics over policy....

After his vetoes, Romney signed the $439 million supplemental spending bill, which earmarks millions of dollars for beach and park projects, money for lawyers to represent indigent clients, and millions for charter school construction projects....

Michael Widmer -- who heads the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed government watchdog group -- criticized the spending.

"This is clearly spending that the state can't afford and will only aggravate our long-term fiscal problems," Widmer said.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Governor vetoes $76m in spending
Retroactive pay for campus workers axed


Among the items he eliminated was $32 million earmarked for retroactive pay raises for public higher education employees, which upset union leaders waiting outside the press conference.

"Shame on Governor Romney for breaking the state's promise to these educators, administrators and support staff," said Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. "The contracts were bargained in good faith and agreed to by both sides."

But Romney said it was unfair to grant raises to higher education staff and not give a tax cut to all Massachusetts residents.

"I will not sign pay for funding retroactive raises," Romney said. "The Legislature did not appropriate the funds in the relevant years, and now to go back and say we didn't appropriate it in the past but now we're going to fund it in the past, I believe is a mistake, particularly when we're not going to our taxpayers and saying, yeah you voted a 5 percent tax rate we're not going to get you your tax rate. We're certainly not going to give it to you retroactively."

State House News Service
Friday, September 17, 2004
New aid for cities and towns,
parks and beaches approved in budget bill


Gov. Mitt Romney flubbed the first volley of the fall legislative races, handing the serve to Democratic incumbents. It's a good thing the governor says he'd be happy with picking up just one legislative seat out of the 134 ballot contests the Republican Party is waging this year. If he doesn't stiffen his fiscal spine, that may be all he'll win....

If the main difference on fiscal issues between Republicans and Democrats boils down to "how better to spend the taxpayers' money," it's game, set, match for two-party balance in the Legislature.

A Boston Herald editorial
Saturday, September18, 2004
Romney's spending hurts GOP chances


Romney will also be tested locally where he has vowed to get more Republican lawmakers elected this fall....

Unlike 1990, there are no statewide races or initiative petitions on the ballot to stir the electorate and further influence turnout. Also, the Democrat-controlled Legislature raised taxes in 2002, but has resisted further tax hikes since Romney took office.

State House News Service
[Excerpt] Advances -- Week of Sept. 20, 2004


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Set your alarm clocks for 8:30 tomorrow (Sunday) morning then catch Barbara on Jon Keller's TV-56 political affairs program, Keller At Large. She had hoped the discussion would focus more on local legislative races instead of the presidential campaign.


Michael Widmer, president of the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, again is shocked, shocked! Our money was on the table and the Legislature spent it, again. I wonder if he'll ever get a clue, ever realize that so long as the money's there, they'll spend it every time.

And the teachers union is outraged again, angry that Governor Romney vetoed a special interest mortgage program just for teachers that would have let them buy a house with no down payment. "Catherine A. Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said in an interview that Romney was 'gunning' for the unions," the Boston Globe reported. The poor abused teachers union; then the governor vetoed a retroactive to 2001 pay raise for higher education employees.

As Gov. Romney pointed out:

"I will not sign pay for funding retroactive raises. The Legislature did not appropriate the funds in the relevant years, and now to go back and say we didn't appropriate it in the past but now we're going to fund it in the past, I believe is a mistake, particularly when we're not going to our taxpayers and saying, yeah you voted a 5 percent tax rate we're not going to get you your tax rate. We're certainly not going to give it to you retroactively."

$439 million was spent yesterday, but the State House News Service reported: "The governor said that after approving the spending and vetoing $76 million from the bill, $135 million from the fiscal 2004 budget's $724 million surplus will be placed in the state rainy day fund. Legislative leaders insisted late Friday their bill steered $336 million from the surplus into the rainy day reserve fund."

The governor said $135 million went into the "rainy day fund" --  Legislature said $336 million was transferred there. Does anybody know where that misplaced $201 million is? This minor discrepancy would be a good down payment toward our tax rollback, if someone can find it.

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Saturday, September 18, 2004

Governor vetoes $76m in spending
Retroactive pay for campus workers axed
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff


Governor Mitt Romney vetoed $76 million yesterday from an election season spending bill, including $32 million in retroactive pay hikes for 13,000 higher education workers and $5 million intended to help public school teachers secure first-home mortgages, prompting Democrats and labor unions to assail him for putting politics over policy.

Romney also vetoed a section of the bill that would have allowed students to opt out of dissecting animals in biology classes, and he vetoed a six-month delay in a new policy that will force uninsured patients to get their primary care at community health centers instead of hospitals.

After his vetoes, Romney signed the $439 million supplemental spending bill, which earmarks millions of dollars for beach and park projects, money for lawyers to represent indigent clients, and millions for charter school construction projects.

The vetoes were made days after Romney said he would highlight in this year's legislative campaign his effort to restrain the power of teacher unions and to lower income tax rates. Though a union spokesman called on the Legislature to reconvene to override Romney's vetoes, a leading Democrat said that it was unlikely that lawmakers would revisit the vetoed spending items until early January.

Speaking at a State House press conference, Romney said he could not tolerate paying retroactive pay raises to state employees while the Legislature refuses to honor a 2000 ballot initiative that called on lawmakers to reduce the income tax rate to 5 percent. It now stands at 5.3 percent.

"I know there will be people who will say, 'But we had a contract that told us we should be paid at a higher level,'" Romney said. "But we've all been around this state a long time and we recognize that contracts are subject to appropriation, and the Legislature did not appropriate the funds in the relevant years."

The $32 million would have gone to campus workers, most of whom occupy clerical positions, who were expecting raises going back to 2001 as part of collective bargaining. In the case of 400 UMass-Boston employees, the Romney administration has argued that the state could not afford the raises and did not submit a recently approved contract to the Legislature for approval earlier this year.

As for the mortgage program, which would have offered teachers a chance to buy a house with no down payment, Romney said the $5 million plan duplicates another plan offered by MassHousing, a quasi-public agency that offers house-buying incentives to municipal employees.

Catherine A. Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said in an interview that Romney was "gunning" for the unions, which the governor views as the biggest impediment to the growing charter school movement and to his desire to empower principals to hire and fire educators.

Sarah Nolan -- policy director at SEIU Local 888, which represents 2,000 higher education employees at four campuses of UMass -- said that Romney's decision not to fund the raises will fall hardest on some of the state's lowest-paid workers.

"They do the important work that keeps this a quality system, and they have shown up to work every day, despite the fact that this has been going on for a very long time," said Nolan.

But it's all doubtful that the Legislature, deep into its campaign season, will consider reconvening to override Romney's vetoes, said State Representative John H. Rogers of Norwood, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

He suggested that lawmakers will try to restore the higher education money when they return in formal session in January.

"January is right around the corner, and the Legislature is committed to paying its bills," Rogers said.

He also defended the teacher mortgage program, saying the Legislature's intention was to create another way to provide incentives for educators to move to Massachusetts, where spiraling housing costs pose large obstacles to recruiters.

"We want to augment what we have in Massachusetts, knowing it's tough to recruit and retain educators," Rogers said.

Romney also rejected a delay in a new policy that will halt payments to hospitals for primary care of uninsured patients if there is a community health center within 5 miles. Rather than starting the program in April, it will now start at the first of the year.

Romney reversed a decision announced a week ago by Paul J. Cote Jr., commissioner of the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, that agreed to a six-month delay to allow a smooth transition.

The governor's press secretary, Shawn Feddeman, explained the shift. The division "thought it would be prudent to delay implementation to April, but they have since told us that waiting to Jan. 1 is adequate," she said.

The new policy, voted last year by the Legislature, was originally slated to begin Oct. 1 and is estimated to affect nearly 15,000 patients.

Paul Wingle, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said doctors and patients need more time to ensure that care isn't disrupted.

In addition to $439 million in spending, the budget included $150 million in school building assistance funds and $137 million for the state's rainy day fund.

The money for the so-called supplemental budget came from surpluses from the fiscal year that ended June 30, so most of the money approved will become immediately available for the programs that were spared Romney's veto pen.

The largest spending items, which were not vetoed by Romney include:

$75 million in additional local aid to the state's 351 cities and towns.

$34.2 million for a wide array of improvements to the state's parks and beaches.

$21.6 million to implement a new funding formula for the state's charter schools.

$16.7 million for a $7.50-per-hour pay raise for public bar advocates.

Michael Widmer -- who heads the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed government watchdog group -- criticized the spending.

"This is clearly spending that the state can't afford and will only aggravate our long-term fiscal problems," Widmer said.

In signing the spending bill yesterday, Romney also sought to end a controversy over how to provide $4 million in state-funded health coverage to legal immigrants, a proposal he had twice vetoed to a hail of criticism from advocates for immigrants.

Romney offered an amendment to the Legislature's blanket coverage for the immigrants, saying his plan would instead sanction state funding of coverage when the aliens' sponsors had died or become unable to pay for their health care costs.

Alice Dembner of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Elise Castelli contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

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State House News Service
Friday, September 17, 2004

New aid for cities and towns,
parks and beaches approved in budget bill
By Cyndi Roy


Gov. Mitt Romney signed a spending bill Friday that gives cities and towns $75 million in new aid, includes funding for improve parks and beaches, and denies negotiated, retroactive pay raises to 13,000 public higher education employees.

The governor said that after approving the spending and vetoing $76 million from the bill, $135 million from the fiscal 2004 budget's $724 million surplus will be placed in the state rainy day fund. Legislative leaders insisted late Friday their bill steered $336 million from the surplus into the rainy day reserve fund.

The new budget law includes $21.6 million to implement a new funding formula for reimbursements to charter schools. The funds are intended to ease tension over finances between charter schools and traditional public schools.

The budget also includes $34.2 million for improvements to state parks and beaches and $11.9 million for substance abuse treatment programs.

Romney said the new spending was made possible by the improving economy. State tax revenues have been eclipsing conservative projections for more than a year now, though the employment picture in Massachusetts is still shaky. State officials reported Friday that 4,300 more jobs were lost during August.

Other items included in the bill are:

$16.7 million for a $7.50 hourly rate increase for public defenders;
$12 million to leverage fundraising at public colleges and universities;
$3.2 million to implement new science and history MCAS tests;
$12.3 million for road and bridge repairs and construction; and
$20 million for workforce training

House Ways and Means chairman John Rogers said Friday that the Legislature approved $336 million for the rainy day, or Stabilization Fund. "These guys just don't know how the states finances work," he said. "$336 million is definitely going into the stabilization account. It's a mathematical fact. It's the truth."

Romney's vetoes included a number of the 183 outside sections the Legislature attached to the bill.

Among the items he eliminated was $32 million earmarked for retroactive pay raises for public higher education employees, which upset union leaders waiting outside the press conference.

"Shame on Governor Romney for breaking the state's promise to these educators, administrators and support staff," said Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. "The contracts were bargained in good faith and agreed to by both sides."

But Romney said it was unfair to grant raises to higher education staff and not give a tax cut to all Massachusetts residents.

"I will not sign pay for funding retroactive raises," Romney said. "The Legislature did not appropriate the funds in the relevant years, and now to go back and say we didn't appropriate it in the past but now we're going to fund it in the past, I believe is a mistake, particularly when we're not going to our taxpayers and saying, yeah you voted a 5 percent tax rate we're not going to get you your tax rate. We're certainly not going to give it to you retroactively."

Romney also vetoed:

$15 million in Medicaid reimbursement;
language that would have allowed students a choice in dissection methods;
$2 million for fire safety training grants;
$5 million for a program to help teachers who are first-time homebuyers;
$5.7 million for Peabody to repair flood damage; and
$5.73 million for economic development grants

Among the amendments Romney added is one that reduces the Legislature's proposed Medicaid funding for 3,000 legal immigrants from $4 million to $2 million. The governor said he amended this section because immigrants included in the program were supposed to have their coverage paid for by private sponsors for their first five years in the country. Romney said his amendment would make them uphold that commitment except in cases where the sponsor has passed away or does not have the financial resources to cover the costs.

Explaining his vetoes to reporters at the State House, Romney said he did not have "sufficient information" on many of the line items, including earmarks for local public works projects, to feel comfortable approving them.

"You would think that with matters of this scale at hand there would be a line outside our door weeks before this legislation reaches our desk with people explaining the project, why we need to support it and perhaps written documentation," Romney said. "but we literally sat down with the bill saying anyone know what this is?"

Democratic lawmakers and labor union representatives immediately shot back, saying they were shut out by the administration - both during the administration's review of the budget and at Friday's press conference - and were never asked for additional details on their spending proposals. 

"Our door is open," said House Majority Whip Lida Harkins. "He has not been available to us."

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The Boston Herald
Saturday, September18, 2004

A Boston Herald editorial
Romney's spending hurts GOP chances


Gov. Mitt Romney flubbed the first volley of the fall legislative races, handing the serve to Democratic incumbents. It's a good thing the governor says he'd be happy with picking up just one legislative seat out of the 134 ballot contests the Republican Party is waging this year. If he doesn't stiffen his fiscal spine, that may be all he'll win.

Make no mistake. Romney's challenge to Democratic legislators began in earnest yesterday when he signed the supplemental budget, vetoing just $76 million out of some $456 million in new spending.

The Republican Party earlier in the week made much of a pre-planned campaign kickoff when Romney hit the streets with Republican candidates.

But we presume the governor knows that his personal appeal to attract support in local elections - and certain wedge issues like same-sex marriage and merging the Turnpike Authority into the state transportation office - will only get the candidates so far.

Republicans get elected in this state largely because voters figure they'll be a check on big-spending and higher-taxing Democrats. The mixed message sent by Romney's approving millions of dollars of new spending for parks, beaches, road projects and social services and complaining because the Legislature didn't approve some $61 million worth of his proposals is, frankly, mind-boggling.

Why didn't the governor veto every penny of pork projects funded in the bill? Why didn't he take the position that until the Legislature approves the promised state income tax rollback, he's not spending a penny of the surplus beyond meeting immediate emergency needs?

Why isn't he subjecting capital improvement projects to the rigorous prioritization process imposed by the state's cap on borrowing? Well, Romney claims the state is now on "the right track" so spending can be added to key priorities.

Ironically, his announcement came on the same day that the state announced a loss of 4,300 jobs during August.

If the main difference on fiscal issues between Republicans and Democrats boils down to "how better to spend the taxpayers' money," it's game, set, match for two-party balance in the Legislature.

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State House News Service
[Excerpt]
Advances -- Week of Sept. 20, 2004


Romney will also be tested locally where he has vowed to get more Republican lawmakers elected this fall. There were few clues last week as to whether there is enough voter dissatisfaction to fuel his mission and diminish the overwhelming Democratic hold on both the House and Senate. Three incumbent Democrats were ousted from the House, but by other Democrats rather than by Republicans. When Romney was elected in 2002, his coattails proved short as most Democrats in the Legislature retained their seats. This time around, the governor is hoping for the type of groundswell that propelled a large batch of Republican novices into office, along with GOP Gov. William Weld in 1990. In that election, legislative Democrats were swept aside in larger-than-usual numbers largely because the state was a fiscal mess and Beacon Hill had raised taxes and still had been unable to get its arms around myriad problems. This upcoming election is different in several respects.

Unlike 1990, there are no statewide races or initiative petitions on the ballot to stir the electorate and further influence turnout. Also, the Democrat-controlled Legislature raised taxes in 2002, but has resisted further tax hikes since Romney took office. And Democratic lawmakers, like Romney, this year are telling voters they have restored some semblance of balance to the state budget while adopting a series of reform and restructuring proposals along the way. So while Romney has a field of Republican legislative candidates that rivals the 1990 contingent, the dynamics are more like 1992, the mid-term election in which Democrats, having joined Weld in righting the state's finances, regained many seats and their complete control on the Hill. In 1992, Weld lost his crucial veto-proof block of Senate Republicans. Since then, none of the three Republican governors who preceded Romney were able to use their clout to loosen the Democrats' control in the Legislature. Now it's Romney's turn to try. He is expected to attend many fundraisers and host a series of public events and press conferences to deliver the Republicans' message. Voters will then decide whether his anti-tax, pro-reform message is convincing enough to get them to do something they rarely do in Massachusetts: throw Democrats out of the Legislature.

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