and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

A swift kick is what they really deserve
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, July 9, 2009

Have you hugged your state legislator today?

I should have said something before the Fourth of July weekend, when you might have run into him or her around town. But I didn't think of it until I read the request in the Saturday Globe from the House Ways & Means chairman, Rep. Charles Murphy, D-Burlington: "Feel free to pat us on the back, for the love of God," he said, because the Legislature passed the state budget before the July 1 deadline.

Like, wow! They did their job! They did what they get paid to do!

It's never too late. Pat them on the back for getting the fiscal year 2010 budget passed in time for the beginning of fiscal year 2010. Then pat your mail delivery person on the back for putting your mail in the mailbox. Pat your bank teller for depositing your paycheck and handing you the requested cash. Pat the trash collector for picking up your trash on trash pickup day. Pat the pilot next time you land safely. Pat the grocer for stocking bread and milk. Pat the cat, pat the bunny. Go Pats.

I suppose they also want a pat on the back for passing "reforms" that put an end to only the most egregious pension abuses, finally address some of the decades-old transportation system excesses, and give in to public pressure to stop some major ethics abuses all in order to get the governor to sign off on the second largest tax increase in state history. Pat-pat-pattycake.

Having patted, can we now kick them in the pants for the years they refused to address these abuses, while leaving so many intact? For continuing to exclude themselves from audits, wiretaps and the open meeting law? For spending the state into yet another fiscal crisis? For ignoring infrastructure maintenance?

Can we kick them for betraying supporters of the state health care bill by adding more expensive benefits, while cutting coverage, because there's not enough money? For fearing the AARP more than they deplore the deaths and injuries that elderly drivers cause? For fearing the public employee unions, period?

They wanted a pat for "not having increased the sales tax in over 30 years," as if it doesn't increase every time prices go up. How about a big kick for increasing the sales-tax rate now, including the meals-tax rate, while still ignoring the voters' order to cut the income-tax rate? For making us all pay more for less? For getting a pay raise in the middle of their employers' recession?

Now we don't want to get physical with our politicians. No real pats on the back or even on the head ("good dog, you used the newspaper"), and, of course, no real kicking. The only allowed and useful kick is the booting from office.

There is only one way to get control of our commonwealth, and that is to defeat the incumbents who have been part of the commonwealth's problems.

Back in the early '90s, there was a popular petition drive for term limits. Activists collected sufficient signatures, but this constitutional amendment also required 25 percent of the Legislature to vote for it in order for it to get on the ballot.

So a majority of the Legislature simply refused to vote, arguing that "we already have term limits they're called elections."

Fine. Let's limit lots of them in 2010.

Some activists are talking about doing another petition drive on the subject.

I suspect that this project is being encouraged behind the scenes by some politicians who do not want angry 2010 voters to do the "term limit election" thing.

They want activists to squander money, time and other resources on a petition drive that will distract voters and diffuse their anger through the coming election cycle, after which the re-elected incumbents will kill the petition again.

Oh yes, the Legislature enthusiastically supported a 1998 constitutional amendment to give it automatic pay raises. And it supported the 1978 proposal from the League of Women Voters to cut the size of the House.

Voters, told the latter would save money, foolishly changed the Constitution and concentrated legislative power in the House leadership (it was already concentrated in the smaller Senate).

If I thought there were a chance to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, I'd try to reverse this decision and make our Legislature as large as New Hampshire's, with a requirement that legislators go home to their real jobs after six months in session.

But I wouldn't do it now. Before citizens spend time working on ballot questions, they must remind legislators who's their boss, and who can fire them.

By the way, mine was a perfect Fourth of July.

As usual, I drove down the Pike with friends to the traditional Independence Day party held at the home of my former boss, Don Feder, one of the founders of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Invited center-right activists discuss, debate, and dine well each year before reading the Declaration of Independence aloud.

Meanwhile, a few blocks from the Esplanade celebration in Boston, hundreds of patriotic activists held another Tea Party on Boston Common to protest government bailouts, nationalized health care, a new energy tax and the growing national debt.

Here's a pat for those patriots.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.