CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION  &  GOVERNMENT

 

CLT Update
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

It's time to boot the bums out


As the hastily completed Thanksgiving Eve budget was finally digested yesterday, accusations were flying as acting Gov. Jane M. Swift blasted lawmakers for cutting "legally unavoidable" items...

Swift said the $22.25 billion budget shortchanges $457 million in legally mandated programs...

The Boston Herald
Nov. 27, 2001
Gov, legislators trade shots over budget


Lawmakers decided to keep intact the $7,200 allotted to each of them for "office expenses" -- which can pay for anything from food for their staffs to supplementing rent on a district office. That allowance, which they doubled last summer, can either be spent or pocketed by senators and representatives, who do not have to disclose what they do with the money. Ironically, the raise was intended to ease legislators' adjustment to the Clean Elections system. Paul Haley, the former House Ways and Means chairman, said last year that the extra cash was needed because Clean Elections restrictions would force lawmakers to cut back on district expenses like mailings and office rent.

But House and Senate leaders have essentially killed Clean Elections by refusing to fund it in the budget. Still, they kept the extra money for themselves....

"It's becoming almost a game to see what new outrage the Legislature can perpetrate without being stopped," said Ken White, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. "The Legislature seems to be daring someone to stop them. It's as if they've tried to cram as many bad things as they could into this year, while doing virtually nothing good."

The Boston Globe
Nov. 27, 2001
Legislature's trims spare their expense accounts


Yesterday, Gov. Swift "blasted lawmakers for cutting 'legally unavoidable' items" in the Legislature's joke of a budget, the issue we highlighted in yesterday's Update.

State Senate President Tom ("I Wannabe Gov") Birmingham labeled her recovery budget "fiscal gimmickry" last week, and he certainly knows "fiscal gimmickry" when he sees it.

What does he have to say about the bait-and-switch scam the Legislators ran last year, when they doubled their "office expenses" accounts allegedly in exchange for funding the voter-mandated Clean Elections Law, which they just gutted in this budget?

The unscrupulous theft, according to the man who would be governor, "was passed because of the 'political reality' that so many lawmakers wanted extra expense money."

That surely is the "political reality" up on Beacon Hill, the primary motivation. When acknowledged greed is the senate president's best justification, it's clear just how truly bad the situation has become.

Common Cause's Ken White hit the nail on the head with his observation: "It's becoming almost a game to see what new outrage the Legislature can perpetrate without being stopped."

Would you like to help stop them? Here's your chance!

Chip Faulkner, director of CLT's Prop 2 PAC is about to send out a fund-raising mailing to past PAC contributors to raise money for pro-taxpayer legislative candidates. We've got to replace those arrogant thieves with people of integrity, and this is the time to begin.

If you want to be put on his list to receive the mailing and help us boot the bums out, either call him (508-384-0100), or e-mail him.

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Legislature's trims spare their expense accounts
Watchdog agencies hit by budget cuts

By Rick Klein
Globe Staff

State lawmakers are maintaining bigger expense accounts for themselves while slashing funds for government watchdog agencies like the Ethics Commission and the Inspector General's office, angering critics who call the move a poke in the eye to the public.

House and Senate leaders barely touched their administrative accounts when they pushed through approved cuts to the fiscal 2002 budget last week. They did, however, cut the Inspector General's funding by 21 percent and whack the Ethics Commission by 4 percent. Those cuts will save the state about $550,000 this year; the legislators' expense account boost, which was first approved last year, costs the state $720,000 annually.

"It's becoming almost a game to see what new outrage the Legislature can perpetrate without being stopped," said Ken White, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. "The Legislature seems to be daring someone to stop them. It's as if they've tried to cram as many bad things as they could into this year, while doing virtually nothing good."

Acting Governor Jane Swift said she may veto some of the money the Legislature has set aside for itself. The Legislature's $22.6 billion budget, she said, is more than $100 million out of balance and makes painful cuts to human services and aid to cities and towns, while not touching lawmakers' expense accounts. She said the budget did not account for $457 million worth of obligations -- including tens of millions of dollars that have already been spent. The Legislature built in only $325 million to pay for overruns or unanticipated expenses, she said. "The fact that the Legislature's budget seems to be held harmless when we had cuts to local aid -- to a lot of programs that would not have been cut, that I would have sought to implement -- is one of the things that we'll review," Swift said.

Swift's remarks yesterday came as legislative leaders drew more criticism over a budget process that dragged out over nearly five months, shut out many rank-and-file members, and resulted in cuts to a range of agencies including human services.

Lawmakers decided to keep intact the $7,200 allotted to each of them for "office expenses" -- which can pay for anything from food for their staffs to supplementing rent on a district office. That allowance, which they doubled last summer, can either be spent or pocketed by senators and representatives, who do not have to disclose what they do with the money. Ironically, the raise was intended to ease legislators' adjustment to the Clean Elections system. Paul Haley, the former House Ways and Means chairman, said last year that the extra cash was needed because Clean Elections restrictions would force lawmakers to cut back on district expenses like mailings and office rent.

But House and Senate leaders have essentially killed Clean Elections by refusing to fund it in the budget. Still, they kept the extra money for themselves.

"It's part of the hypocrisy that abounds in this building," said gubernatorial candidate Warren E. Tolman, who is hoping the Supreme Judicial Court will order the Legislature to provide money for Clean Elections, so he can run under the system. "The Legislature just did as it wished."

Haley has since left the Legislature and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran declined comment yesterday. Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham did not vigorously defend the move, saying the doubled expense account "was the House's idea" that was passed because of the "political reality" that so many lawmakers wanted extra expense money.

Though he did not speak out against it at the time, Birmingham said yesterday he disagreed with House leaders who justified the increase in expense money as a way to prepare for Clean Elections. Many lawmakers said they needed the additional money so they could provide adequate services to their constituents, he said.

"I never embraced the House rationale," Birmingham said. "The argument was that it would help senators do their jobs better."

Birmingham noted that neither the House nor the Senate is increasing its budget. Although their total administrative budget is approximately the same as last year, they have shuffled where some of the money is headed. But some Beacon Hill observers fear the cuts to anticorruption agencies will significantly weaken the government watchdogs. The cuts at the inspector general's office will mean that 10 existing job vacancies will not be filled and another job or two may also be eliminated, said Greg Sullivan, the interim inspector general. He noted the now 33-person office is still conducting a full load of investigations.

The Ethics Commission will have to shed one of its six slots for lawyers, said Peter Sturges, the commission's executive director. Investigations should be be unaffected, he said.

While leaving its budget intact, the Legislature's spending plan trims $100,000 from funding for the executive budget, which covers salaries, supplies, and travel expenses for the governor's office. That $5.55 million provided for the governor is actually $150,000 more than Swift recommended last week. Swift will not announce what sections of the budget she will veto until later this week.

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The Boston Herald
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Gov, legislators trade shots over budget
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

As the hastily completed Thanksgiving Eve budget was finally digested yesterday, accusations were flying as acting Gov. Jane M. Swift blasted lawmakers for cutting "legally unavoidable" items, and Senate leaders tagged the administration as "incompetent."

Swift said the $22.25 billion budget shortchanges $457 million in legally mandated programs, and only includes $325 million in offsetting revenues.

That means the budget spends roughly $130 million more than the state can afford, Swift said. The state constitution requires the annual spending plan to be balanced.

"It is the responsibility and the right of the Legislature to make the laws," Swift said. "They cannot, however, break the laws."

The Legislature also cut programs for which money has already been spent, like $3.3 million for summer jobs programs, Swift said.

Senate President Thomas Birmingham said he doesn't believe the administration's math. He accused Swift of fiscal gimmickry in her recently proposed "recovery" budget, which came in at $22.8 billion. "The incompetence of the fiscal people in this administration is nothing short of breathtaking," he said. "This budget is balanced."

The deficiencies cited by Swift include $297 million in fixed Medicaid costs, $15 million in court-ordered mental retardation services, $59 million from the Department of Social Services, and $15 million from the Department of Correction.

In addition, Swift said lawmakers eliminated $40 million in programs, many welfare-related, that were federally reimbursable -- cutting services while saving nothing on the state's bottom line.

Swift's claim that the budget is $130 million out of balance is likely an indication of how much she will veto later this week.

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