CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION  &  GOVERNMENT

 

CLT Update
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

The revolution is begun


Lawmakers crying poverty as they slash budgets are quietly sitting on $22 million in extra cash stowed in private accounts for pols' travel, supplies, interns and office renovations, documents show.

The little-known budgetary cushion, above and beyond $58 million in annual House and Senate office spending, belies assertions from leaders that their accounts would be hit as hard as other programs facing deep cuts....

In the budget passed Thanksgiving eve, lawmakers signed off on $11.9 million extra in House accounts, $6.4 million for the Senate and another $3.6 million in joint legislative spending, documents show.

The Boston Herald
Nov. 28, 2001
Pols awash in rainy day $$ despite dry well for budget


The Legislature's most self-serving act was to leave intact a $720,000 sweetener in the legislators' expense accounts. The accounts had been doubled last year in a move House leaders said was needed to pay for constituent services legislators had been paying for out of their campaign accounts. Incumbents running under the rules of the Clean Elections Law couldn't use campaign money for such expenses, the rationale went, so they would need the extra cash....

For all practical purposes, it was a pay raise worth $300 a month for each legislator, peddled as compensation for the hardships posed by campaign finance reform. This year, the lawmakers kept the pay raise -- and killed campaign finance reform.

A MetroWest Daily News editorial
Nov. 28, 2001
Take back the legislators' backdoor raise


Swift's options for improving on Finneran and Birmingham's sorry piece of work include cutting back on the relatively high amount ... it sets aside for the unfunded pension liability fund. She could also dip more deeply into the state's rainy day reserve or -- belatedly -- agree to a delay in the state's scheduled income tax cut....

A Boston Globe Editorial
Nov. 28, 2001
Callous budget


We have a new "Outrage of the Day," courtesy of The Best Legislature Money Can Buy.

$22 million stashed away in a personal legislative slush fund. Imagine that?

It appears we'll be treated to daily Greed-Grab reports now that their budget is at last being analyzed and understood, despite it being adopted in a few hours last week by clueless legislators.

"Even representatives and senators who voted for it still don't know what's in it," observed today's MetroWest Daily News editorial.

They weren't completely in the dark when it came to feathering their own nests, though. Senate President Tom Birmingham yesterday reminded us that the Greed-Grab "passed because of the 'political reality' that so many lawmakers wanted extra expense money."

And that's just what they got caught at yesterday.

Today's a new day, folks, and a new Greed-Grab is exposed.

We knew they've stashed away our tax overpayments in all sorts of slush funds over the years, but this one's incredible even for The Best Legislature Money Can Buy.

In the immortal words of Common Cause's Ken White: "It's becoming almost a game to see what new outrage the Legislature can perpetrate without being stopped. The Legislature seems to be daring someone to stop them."

They hope to get away with tossing out the voters' mandate for the Clean Election Law. If they get away with that, our income tax rollback is next, bet on it.

If they get away with that too, how long will take for the potentates of Beacon Hill to decide elections are a joke, the will of the voters be damned?

Our rulers -- the Bacon Hill Cabal -- are completely out of control because they've been able to get away with it for too long. They are incorrigible and must be replaced ... while we still have some little chance at a democracy.

Taking them out is our only salvation. They must be replaced -- thrown out of office -- or in the Cradle of Liberty we will be further inflicted with despotism.

While CLT fights to defend our Tax Rollback, this critical goal of installing a legitimate Legislature will be actively, obsessively, pursued through CLT's Prop 2 PAC beginning right now and throughout the coming year and beyond.

CLT's Prop 2 PAC is now raising funds to support pro-taxpayer candidates and announced challengers with a maximum contribution ($500) in this calendar year, ending Dec. 31. It can again make the maximum contribution to qualified candidates next year.

Time is running out in Massachusetts, in more ways than one.

The revolution has begun. Will you join it?

If you will help toss out the arrogant, greedy bums and replace them with a legitimate Legislature, if you will help restore at least a semblance of democracy to Massachusetts, call Chip Faulkner immediately at 508-384-0100, or e-mail him.

Chip Ford


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Pols awash in rainy day $$ despite dry well for budget 
by David R. Guarino

Lawmakers crying poverty as they slash budgets are quietly sitting on $22 million in extra cash stowed in private accounts for pols' travel, supplies, interns and office renovations, documents show.

The little-known budgetary cushion, above and beyond $58 million in annual House and Senate office spending, belies assertions from leaders that their accounts would be hit as hard as other programs facing deep cuts.

The private rainy day fund for the Legislature could easily pay for dozens of accounts -- from social services to programs for local communities -- diced last week, officials said.

"While human service workers, clean elections advocates and local officials are huddling under one parasol, the Legislature has covered itself with an enormous airtight tent," a Swift administration official said. "That's simply unfair."

One lawmaker's office dismissed the budgetary maneuvering as merely an accounting tool that doesn't affect the state's bottom line.

Meanwhile at the State House, protesters said cuts to the Department of Mental Health alone would mean 1,000 layoffs and force thousands of clients onto waiting lists for services.

"We obviously don't know all that's going on in the budget but we know there are things that can be done," said Michael Weekes, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers.

The $22 million follows longstanding tradition in the Legislature and governor's office of carrying unspent money forward at year's end, officials said. Most agencies send any surplus back to the state's general operating fund.

In prior years, the carry-over by lawmakers has been as high as $57 million but last year dipped to $30 million. In the budget passed Thanksgiving eve, lawmakers signed off on $11.9 million extra in House accounts, $6.4 million for the Senate and another $3.6 million in joint legislative spending, documents show.

Among the padding:

  • Nearly $340,000 extra for travel costs to reps and senators beyond the $1.5 million allocated.

  • Some $1.5 million in extra cash for House supplies above $631,000 budgeted.

  • An extra $1.1 million for the $1 million House counsel's office.

  • And an additional $527,000 to the fund to broadcast coverage of Senate meetings, already at $240,000 for next year.

Other extras in accounts include intern programs, funding for renovations and automation of offices and a special carry-over in a House "performance oversight account."

While the governor's office has likewise carried huge surpluses forward in prior years -- topping $1.2 million in 1998, aides say the entire $379,000 surplus will be handed back this year.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Ways and Means Chairman John H. Rogers didn't return phone calls.

But Alison Franklin, spokeswoman for Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, said the Senate is carrying only $5.3 million forward. She said the Senate is following a longstanding policy of spending down the prior year's surplus and hasn't boosted its $18 million budget in six years.

"It seems to be largely an accounting issue as to whether the funds revert and are reappropriated or whether the prior year funds are continued," Franklin said. "There is no financial impact whatsoever."

Franklin said the Senate plans cuts to administrative accounts, including interns and planned renovations to Senate offices.

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The MetroWest Daily News
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

A MetroWest editorial
Take back the legislators' backdoor raise

Acting Gov. Jane Swift is preparing what promises to be a long list of budget vetoes. She should start with the accounts of the Legislature that dropped this mess on her desk the night before Thanksgiving.

Leaders of the Legislature called this budget grim and painful, but they didn't take any of the pain on themselves. They left their administrative accounts untouched while slashing away at literacy programs, higher education, homeless shelters and the mentally ill.

The Legislature's most self-serving act was to leave intact a $720,000 sweetener in the legislators' expense accounts. The accounts had been doubled last year in a move House leaders said was needed to pay for constituent services legislators had been paying for out of their campaign accounts. Incumbents running under the rules of the Clean Elections Law couldn't use campaign money for such expenses, the rationale went, so they would need the extra cash.

But the extra expense money wasn't limited to Clean Elections candidates, nor was it restricted to office expenses or monitored in any way. For all practical purposes, it was a pay raise worth $300 a month for each legislator, peddled as compensation for the hardships posed by campaign finance reform. This year, the lawmakers kept the pay raise -- and killed campaign finance reform.

They didn't go so easy on the agencies that keep an eye on public officials. The Inspector General's budget was cut by 21 percent, the Ethics Commission by 4 percent. Given the recent behavior of the state's top elected officials, now is not the time to be starving the watchdogs.

This budget was written in secret meetings and arrived five months late. Even representatives and senators who voted for it still don't know what's in it. Swift says she has already found major problems with it, including money deleted from the budget after it has already been spent, violations of federal policies and legally-mandated spending cut from the budget.

Swift has until the end of this week to sort through this mess and veto spending she deems excessive. Vetoing the Legislature's backdoor pay raise may result in small savings, but it would make a big point.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

A Boston Globe editorial
Callous budget

IT IS ONE thing to pass a state budget calling for severe cuts in many accounts before the July 1 start of the fiscal year, when administrators at least have a chance to spread the pain over 12 months. It is another to pass a budget with painful cuts in many human services five months after the document is due, thus sharpening the impact of the losses.

This is just one count against the $22.6 billion spending plan thrown together at the last moment last week by House Speaker Tom Finneran, Senate President Tom Birmingham, and their respective Ways and Means chairmen -- a plan that, despite having to deal with worsening revenues, is deeply irresponsible. The budget, including a provision maintaining a doubling of legislative expense accounts, was then rubberstamped by the House and Senate.

Acting Governor Jane Swift yesterday called it a "flawed product" that is more than $100 million out of balance, a verdict upheld by Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation head Michael Widmer. Swift said it fails to account for fully $457 million in spending required under entitlement laws, contracts, or consent decrees. She can -- and should -- make judicious vetoes not just to bring this budget in balance but to provide enough money for supplemental appropriations in callously underfunded human services.

One of the Finneran-Birmingham budget's few good features is its provision easing the burden on hospitals for the uncompensated care that they provide. Otherwise, it strikes squarely at the state's ability to provide community facilities for mentally retarded adults, residential beds for mentally ill children (11 percent of such placements will be wiped out), wards for the mentally ill in hospitals, shelter facilities for homeless mentally ill adults, and the full range of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services that have made Massachusetts a national leader in reducing AIDS mortality rates. If the budget stands, the state Department of Mental Health will have to lay off 12 percent of its staff.

Other services that are cut include tutorial programs for at-risk youths, adult basic education, and child care. The latter two are crucial to efforts to reduce welfare dependency and assimilate immigrants. Because the cuts come so late, Bob Coard, head of the Boston antipoverty agency ABCD, fears some programs might have to be dropped altogether.

Swift's options for improving on Finneran and Birmingham's sorry piece of work include cutting back on the relatively high amount ($134 million above the figure in her revised budget) it sets aside for the unfunded pension liability fund. She could also dip more deeply into the state's rainy day reserve or -- belatedly -- agree to a delay in the state's scheduled income tax cut. It has fallen to her to rectify a budget that has systematically singled out for pain those who can least fight back.

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