Chip Ford's CLT Commentary
False choices. "Would you rather be skinned
alive, or boiled alive?" A false choice. I want to undergo
neither treatment and don't intend to. I refuse to make the best
selection between two bad choices, and don't need to. The choices
offered are merely misdirection and distraction, like a magician's
sleight-of-hand trick to keep our eyes off
the real act: Someone's being positioned, set up with false choices.
This, or that, like there are no other options to pick from.
"Would you rather be skinned alive, or boiled alive?"
Neither -- I'd rather squash you before you can impose either. Ah
hah, another choice!
But that's what we taxpayers are being presented
with: a classic false choice. Either stratospheric new
highway taxes or casino gambling, to save our crumbling highways and
neglected bridges and our lives, to provide Governor Patrick with a
means of perhaps keeping his vague campaign promise to "provide property
tax relief." We're expected to blindly pick the lesser of two
"I'd rather squash you before you can impose either.
Ah hah, another choice!"
Gambling casinos and their potential new revenue have
nothing to do with decades of highway neglect. The Legislature's
institutional neglect of highways and bridges proves that a gas tax hike
or other burdens on motorists provides no assurance that this
infrastructure won't continue to crumble, bridges won't collapse and
kill somebody else -- that "dedicated highway funds" won't again be
diverted elsewhere to all the "needs" and wants of society, which
politicians providing them use to get themselves reelected.
This is Massachusetts, after all. The record
here is clear. Can you honestly expect anything more?
Let's reject the premise that more revenue is needed,
at least at first. Let's figure out how much it's actually going
to cost taxpayers to make up for years of misguided neglect and
misappropriation of highway funds. Let's just -- as they say --
The Transportation Finance Commission driving this
debate has suggested 22 reforms. Let the Legislature finally get
off its "full-time" collective duff and enact them, now. Get rid
of police details at last. Honestly reform pensions and health
insurance and perks for public employees, now. Complete the list
of recommended reforms, then come back and tell us taxpayers what is
then the bottom line to keep us alive on our roads.
Is it still $20 billion, or has this figure dropped
to $17 billion, $15 billion, or $12 billion over the next twenty years?
First do the reforms, then let us know the bottom
line -- what we need to further spend keep our collective roads, bridges and turnpike
from killing us. Is this too much to ask?
With reforms accomplished finally, how much will it cost
us taxpayers to straighten out years of government mismanagement and mis-
if not malfeasance? Hey, unfortunately we elected them. A
majority of voters empowered them to screw us over the decades.
The pols don't know any better, nor should they care; they keep getting
reelected, returned to do it to us all over again.
$17 billion? $15 billion? $12 billion?
How much will it cost us again to keep our roads from killing us?
Give me a number -- after the reforms have been instituted.
Then -- and only then -- can we intelligently
discuss how to fund the past obvious neglect and move on toward finally
making our infrastructure safe. Whatever the source of revenue
Just don't consider me stupid. Don't treat me
like an idiot. And don't give me only false choices.
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Stem scams before tapping taxpayers
By Margery Eagan
Here’s a question we might ask before Massachusetts turns into one giant
Why should we believe casino money, as Gov. Patrick said yesterday, will
actually be used for property tax relief and crumbling roads and
The 1990 gas tax increase was supposed to be earmarked for crumbling
roads and bridges, too.
Here’s another question: Why should we all be expected to pay, as a
finance commission proposed yesterday, nearly $19 billion in new taxes
and tolls before the Legislature institutes any anti-scam reform -- not
Here’s a little scam, but an enraging one, particularly to those
struggling to pay health care costs.
Mike Levine, briefly, was principal of King Philip Regional High School
in Wrentham, where he negotiated a health-care-for-life deal (health
care for life is de rigueur around here). But his deal was sweeter:
taxpayers must continue paying 75 percent of his $15,000 annual policy
even though Levine left the school and now works as principal of East
Greenwich High in Rhode Island, $112,500 a year, said enraged Wrentham
tax watchdog Keith Billian yesterday.
If Levine lives for another 20 years, that’s $225,000 in today’s
dollars, Billian says. When Levine dies, by the way, the benefit
transfers to his wife. Should she die before him -- “God forbid,” says
Billian -- and he marries some Rhode Islander 20 years younger,
taxpayers “will pay her health care costs for life too. And how exactly
does this benefit the students of King Philip?”
I called Mike Levine in Rhode Island to ask him that. He had no comment.
Here’s three big-time scams.
Police details on state road and bridge projects, almost unique to
Massachusetts, cost about $100 million a year, says the commission that
wants to get rid of them. But that will never happen because Beacon Hill
is scared to death of police unions.
Cities and towns could save another $100 million in health insurance in
2009 alone if they join the state’s insurance program. Patrick has
signed a law allowing them to do that. But yesterday, Dolores Mitchell,
who runs the state’s group insurance commission, said only 20
communities have shown much interest in joining. It’s unclear how many
of those towns are also begging for Prop. 2˝ overrides.
Did you know that MBTA workers get full pensions after a mere 23 years
of service, no matter how young they are? That MBTA retirees make no
contribution to their health care premiums, that “this incentive,”
reports the state Transportation Finance Commission, “combined with
generous pension benefits, makes it more attractive to retire than to
It was recently reported that two former MBTA officials are getting full
pensions plus six-figure salaries from other state agencies. Michael
Mulhern, 48, takes home a $225,000 state salary as well as a $130,00
James Rooney, 49, gets a $255,000 state salary and a $70,000 pension.
Meanwhile, the MBTA (which was supposed to be bailed out once before by
a sales tax hike) has raised fares three times in six years, and
yesterday’s proposal calls for raising them 10 percent every three
I could go on.
The point is: We’re getting mugged. Politicians do not fix the scams. We
just keep getting told the state’s broke. So pay up. And little old
ladies who can’t pay escalating property taxes are told, basically, to
Asked if she thought things might be different this time -- you know,
reforms first, tax hikes second -- anti-tax crusader Barbara Anderson
started laughing yesterday. “Obviously the clear and simple response is,
‘Let’s do the reforms first.’ There’s no possible excuse for them not
Here’s betting they’ll find one anyway.
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
A Boston Herald editorial
Gov shows hand, taxpayers may win
Let’s not kid ourselves. In the end, Gov. Deval Patrick was left with no
Since taking office, it seems this governor of caviar tastes couldn’t
speak into a microphone without announcing a new government program, one
that typically carried a billion-dollar price tag:
Stem cell research and other life sciences grants ($1 billion). Commuter
rail service to the South Coast ($1.4 billion). Free community college
for all (who knows how much). To say nothing of the campaign promise to
create 100,000 jobs -- and provide property tax relief to homeowners.
The trouble is, there weren’t nearly enough taxpayer dollars to achieve
any of that. And let’s be honest, even if the Legislature goes along
with his plan to auction off three state licenses for full-scale
resort-style casinos, the governor’s eyes are still far bigger than the
But at least we won’t have to endure the hypocrisy of a chief executive
who demands more and more from taxpayers -- but overlooks one of the
solutions that is staring him in the face, then hopping into its car and
driving to Connecticut.
And anyone who doubts the wisdom of the governor’s proposal should
decide whether they prefer an 11 cent hike in the gas tax -- and a “Big
Brother”-style system for tracking how far Bay State motorists drive,
then charging them by the mile. Coming on the same day, those proposals
by the Transportation Finance Commission should make this casino
proposal that much more attractive.
Patrick would dedicate half the revenue from the casinos to improving
the state’s roads and bridges, and the other half to tax relief for
about a million property owners. He’s talking in broad strokes now, so
we’ll be interested in a more robust discussion over those “earmarks.”
And there are still questions to be answered about the “nationally
unprecedented regulatory oversight” he has promised.
But the claim by critics, that casinos are a sucker’s bet, and somehow
the commonwealth will actually lose money on them, truly rings hollow.
And while no one wants tourists to shun the Freedom Trail in favor of a
climate-controlled gambling Mecca, fears that our state’s character is
going to be “destroyed” are wildly overblown. After all, visitors to New
Orleans don’t shun the French Quarter simply because there are slots.
There is no small obstacle to all this in the person of House Speaker
Sal DiMasi, an avowed casino opponent, who now holds the cards. The
House could choose to follow the leader and block Patrick’s proposal
But without the revenue from casino licenses -- and without a continuing
source of revenue from slots -- the governor’s pricey priorities come up
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Pick Your Poison
Deval: Gamble could pay off big
Touts relief for property tax, road work
By Jay Fitzgerald
Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday said his big gamble on three destination
casinos would pay off in statewide property tax relief, infrastructure
improvement and well-paying jobs.
Patrick, unveiling details of his much-anticipated casino proposal, said
the state could set aside about $50 million to help pay for new public
health initiatives, community mitigation and regulatory oversight
related to any new casinos built in Massachusetts.
But he said his proposal for three “destination resort casinos” - one in
Western Massaschusetts, one in Southeastern Massachusetts and one in
Greater Boston - would generate an additional $400 million to $450
million a year that could be split between property tax relief, via new
tax credits, and the state’s huge transportation needs.
In addition, Patrick said his plan would also generate “tens of
thousands” of construction jobs and about 20,000 permanent jobs at three
resorts that could have hotels, meeting halls, golf courses,
entertainment venues and other facilities that could attract visitors
from across the country and world.
“Casino gambling is neither a cure-all nor the end of civilization,”
said Patrick at a State House press conference. But if “done right,” he
said, the state can reap economic gains while managing social ills
associated with gambling.
Dan O’Connell, Patrick’s secretary of housing and economic development,
said putting the licenses out to bid early could raise an additional
$600 million to $1 billion, not counting revenue from annual state taxes
of at least 27 percent on each casino’s proceeds.
But Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal
Association, expressed concern that new casinos could hurt the revenue
stream of the state Lottery, which distributes more than $900 million a
year to local government.
Patrick conceded the Lottery may take a hit in the future, but a casino
package can be structured in a way to offset any lost Lottery funds.
The governor’s casino plan got support yesterday from Boston Mayor
“It’s not a moral issue, it’s an issue of revenue and jobs,” Menino
said. He expressed hope that one of the new licenses could go to Suffolk
Downs in East Boston.
But Patrick made clear yesterday that the owners of Suffolk Downs,
Wonderland Racetrack in Revere and other racetracks would not be
considered if they don’t include massive “resort” investments at their
Patrick also made clear he believes the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe - which
is using its clout as a federally recognized Indian tribe to push for a
new casino in Middleboro - should be given “special” consideration when
the state issues licenses.
The Boston Globe
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Governor predicts a jackpot
Millions targeted for road, bridges, property tax relief
Proposal is hailed, faces turbulence on Beacon Hill
By Frank Phillips and Andrea Estes
Governor Deval Patrick, ending months of private study and public
speculation, invited the casino industry to come to Massachusetts
yesterday in a watershed proposal that he said will create 20,000 jobs
and generate $2 billion in economic activity from three resort-style
casinos in various regions of the state.
In unveiling his proposal, Patrick said the financial windfall would
outweigh the serious social ills associated with gambling. The hundreds
of millions of dollars in additional state revenues, he said, would be
directed toward rebuilding the state's crumbling roads and bridges and
providing property tax relief for beleaguered homeowners.
"Casino gambling is neither a cure-all nor the end of civilization,"
Patrick said at a State House press conference. "Under certain
conditions, I believe casinos can work well in and for the
Patrick's plan immediately encountered turbulence in key places on
Beacon Hill. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, a longtime gambling
opponent, responded coolly to the initiative, saying, "We in the House
"So far, our concerns for ushering in casino gambling have not been
eased," DiMasi said. "But we will hear the governor out, and we will be
asking the governor to explain the rationale behind his conclusions."
Patrick, who must win the support of the Legislature for his plan to
proceed, wants to license three casinos: in Southeastern Massachusetts,
Western Massachusetts, and the Boston metropolitan area. His plan would
encourage bidding by the Wampanoag Indian tribe, which has proposed a
casino resort in Middleborough, by including a provision that would give
special consideration to an Indian bid for one of the licenses.
The administration estimates that bidding for the 10-year licenses would
produce between $600 million and $900 million in upfront fees for the
state. The state would then receive 27 percent of gambling proceeds from
all three casinos each year. That would amount to $400 million a year,
after subtracting the costs of treating chronic gamblers, beefing up
police enforcement, and creating a regulatory branch of government.
"With that potential economic generator, we cannot reject the casino
industry out of hand," Patrick said. He presented the initiative as an
alternative to raising taxes.
His long-awaited decision was praised by advocates for casino gambling,
including the potential bidders for the licenses, the labor unions that
represent hotel and resort workers, trade unions, some municipal
officials, and the state's tourism officials.
"This is a way of helping Massachusetts' beleaguered cities and towns
without raising revenues through taxation," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino,
who supports a casino resort at Suffolk Downs race track in East Boston.
He called the facility "the only feasible site in Boston."
But Patrick's proposal is also creating strong opposition that cuts
across ideological lines. Some of his closest supporters denounced his
decision, as did social conservatives, including the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Boston and the state's leading group opposing same-sex
Scott Harshbarger, the former attorney general and a liberal Democrat
who was an early supporter of Patrick last year, said he was
disappointed in the decision. "This is bad public policy, and it would
be a huge mistake for Massachusetts to take this step in expanded
gambling," he said. "His campaign was not about casinos but real
economic development, on the merits and not on quick fixes."
The Massachusetts Family Institute, an anti-gambling group, called the
proposal a "short-sighted, dangerous approach to economic growth." Kris
Mineau, the group's president, said the institute and other opponents
are considering taking the issue to the state ballot for voters to
decide. The earliest it could appear before voters is 2010.
Under the governor's plans, the state's proceeds from the casinos would
be evenly divided between paying for road and bridge repairs and
bringing tax relief to an estimated 1 million property owners. He
proposed a property tax credit that would range from $150 to $400 a year
for qualified property owners and average about $215. Property owners
who pay 2.5 percent or more of their income on property taxes would
qualify for the credit. The average property tax bill in the state was
$3,962 in the last fiscal year.
The governor's proposal calls for the state lottery, which provides
about $950 million a year in aid to cities and towns, to receive
additional funds from the casino money to make up for the expected loss
because of the new gambling competition.
Patrick said 2.5 percent of gross casino proceeds would be placed in a
public health trust fund to pay for increased problem gambling
referrals. Another 2.5 percent would be set aside to help host towns and
adjacent towns with increased police, fire, and transportation costs.
A special gaming commission, paid for by the casino operators, would be
created to oversee the casinos. Patrick said the details of the
commission membership and other details are still being worked out. A
special unit would be created in the attorney general's office to
enforce gaming laws.
"We will regulate casinos vigilantly, professionally, and independent of
politics," Patrick said.
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