and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June 2003 #4

Voters' hopes now rest with Romney veto pen

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News 
Friday, June 30, 2003

Enough with the raindrops on roses already. And whiskers are not my favorite parts of a kitten.

Bright copper kettles are great, but who has time to polish? And for a few months, at least, nobody needs warm woolen mittens.

When I'm listing "my favorite things," like in the song, I think of governors who veto my least favorite things. My least favorite thing is too much power in the hands of legislative leaders. One of my favorite things is a major Beacon Hill battle between the Forces of Light and the Dark Side. 

No, not Romney vs. Bulger. That's a fascinating confrontation, but I get confused when Atty. Gen. Tom Reilly jumps in against Bulger, making it light and dark against dark.

The battle to which I refer is the coming confrontation between Romney and Finneran on the pay raise bill, which gives the Speaker the ability to arbitrarily add to House committee bonus pay.

In a democratic House, every legislator would have a chance to persuade other legislators to support a particular bill. In a leadership-controlled House, an individual representative has only as much chance as the Speaker and his leadership team allow.

This new bill allows the Speaker to create a much bigger team, and give it pay raises, without gubernatorial oversight. Once he has the potential to reward two-thirds of the House with extra pay, he has the ability to override any gubernatorial veto. The public's tendency to elect a governor from the other party for balance is obviated. For that matter, so, too, is our desire to have our very own representative on Beacon Hill, instead of another member of Finneran's Favorites or someone whose presence doesn't count.

I sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, with my state representative, Doug Petersen, D-Marblehead. But at least I can call and talk with him.

Have you tried debating Speaker Finneran lately?

I want my town, and all cities and towns, to have the same representation as the people in leadership districts have. Rep. Petersen is standing up to the leadership on this bill. Is your state legislator on the light or the dark side?

The smaller Senate, which already has extra-pay positions without much concern about loyalty to the leadership, seems to be going along with this as a professional courtesy to the House Speaker. Better its members should be professionally courteous to its constituents and support the balance of power concept. Absolute power in the House controls the Senate's issues too.

Last week, both branches decided by standing vote to put an emergency preamble on this power-grab. But when they vote on overriding the governor's veto, a roll call is required. All legislators will be recorded in favor of democracy, or in favor of "Finneran Rules."

Another of my favorite things is a veto of tax increases.

We anticipate a veto on the Overlay exclusion from Proposition 2, which would increase property taxes in all communities by the amount in their abatement accounts -- on average, 1.7 percent of the levy. It makes Prop 2, on average, Prop 4.2. 

It's times like these I am really glad to have a governor who pledged during his campaign not to raise taxes. If cities and towns need more money, they can address the teacher absentee issue that was covered in "Marked Absent," the Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co's series that has caught the state's attention this month. Ending sick leave abuse would go a long way toward addressing local revenue concerns.

The investigative media has always been one of our favorite things.

Tax increases, however, are not. We are concerned about a provision in the budget that turns a fee on gas prices into a tax. We would have been paying an extra two cents a gallon to clean up hazardous waste around gas stations; the new budget puts that money into the general fund. That makes it a tax, which should be vetoed until the money goes where it belongs.

Incredibly, the prescription drug tax is back, after having been shot down by the courts earlier this month. Somehow a revised -- yet retroactive -- version made its way into the new budget during the conference committee phase, which is technically not allowed. I hope the governor will veto this on a variety of grounds -- bad tax, bad process, bad idea.

We've all heard the governor say he will veto the proposed local option taxes because there is no provision for local voters to make the decision. And he will almost certainly support the decision of statewide voters last year to end bilingual education. 

I'm with Gov. Romney. Respect for the voters is definitely one of my favorite things.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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