CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, January 7, 2003

The Great Depression II pay grab


"I worked very hard. I earned it," said state Rep. Marie Parente, D-Milford. "Anyone who feels they don't deserve it, shouldn't take it." ...

Two years ago, lawmakers received an 8 percent pay raise. This year, Gov. Mitt Romney relied on income estimates provided by the U.S. Census Bureau to settle on an increase of 6.5 percent.

The Legislature's 200 state representatives and senators, who earn a base salary of $50,123, can collect an extra $3,250 this year from the raise....

Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said Romney relied on hazy income estimates to set the raises. She said they should be frozen until the "real numbers" for the state's median household income are known, sometime in fall....

"I don't think legislators should be taking the raises under any circumstances," she said, citing the Legislature's recent freezing of the state's income-tax rollback. "If this was a company, they would be fired, not getting a raise."

The MetroWest Daily News
Jan. 7, 2003
Legislators get 6.5 percent pay raise


House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini insisted the 6.5 percent pay raise is "modest," but acknowledged the symbolic stickiness of taking extra money amid the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression....

The pay hikes come at a time when state programs for the poor have been eviscerated to help plug a deficit exceeding $2 billion.

Meanwhile, private companies continue shedding jobs by the hundreds and thousands, as the economy remains stagnant.

"It says that the Legislature is a special, privileged class that gets raises when the rest of us don't," said Citizens for Limited Taxation chief Barbara Anderson.

The Boston Herald
Jan. 7, 2003
Pay hike spreads jitters among Bay State lawmakers


The raise, which translates to 3.25 percent annually for the two-year period, would cost $650,000....

[Barbara] Anderson said her group is urging Finneran to reverse the automatic pay raise, and said legislators do not deserve pay raises based on their performance.

"They shouldn't take it at all until they show themselves responsible enough to put the state on solid financial footing, our tax cuts have all been done and initiative petitions have all been obeyed," said Anderson. "If they don't do what the voters tell them to do, you don't get a pay raise." 

The Boston Globe
Jan. 7, 2003
Legislators mull tricky issue of accepting increase in pay


You probably didn't realize it, but one of the first things you need in the year 2003 is to be saved from yourself. But that, you see, is because you are vulnerable to manipulation.

This favor comes courtesy of state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, yet another in a long line of selfless legislators willing to put themselves on the line, to stand up, to fight for us, the hapless, helpless, clueless average voters of Massachusetts.

Rosenberg has filed a bill that would make it much more difficult to file citizens' initiative petitions to create or amend laws....

So, senator, which is it? Are we smart or stupid? If we're smart, then there is no need to "tweak" the initiative petition process to save us from manipulation. If we're stupid, then maybe your own election results need to be tweaked. Maybe you shouldn't even be in office, if you were placed there by people too dumb to know any better.

The Eagle-Tribune
Jan. 5, 2003
Voters too wise to fall for this bill 
By Taylor Armerding


"(Romney) was talking about downsizing government. He may as well have been speaking some foreign language for all Trav understood." So said Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation about "gang" member and new Senate President Robert Travaglini. "He's so much a part of the culture."

Then there's "gang" leader House Speaker Thomas Finneran. He "absolutely thinks he's God's gift to Massachusetts," Anderson went on....

Barbara Anderson, meanwhile, envisions an intriguing scenario where Finneran actually helps Romney "because (Finneran's) afraid of being found out. Everyone says we're in the worst fiscal crisis since the Depression. (Finneran's) the guy who by his own admission was in charge of the world when the state went down the tubes, who talked a good game about controlling spending but couldn't.... He's counting on Romney to pull this off," she said, so he, the wily knave, can take full credit, "for turning the state around."

The Boston Herald
Jan. 5, 2003
Gov. seems to be going gangbusters
by Margery Eagan


The honeymoon's over on Beacon Hill, and Gov. Mitt Romney is about to find himself besieged by conflicting demands from deficit-panicked advocates, ornery lawmakers, unrepentant tax-hikers and downtrodden businesses looking for a friendly ear....

Romney's determination to balance the budget without new taxes is on a collision course with communities' duties to protect education progress and promote affordable housing, Menino said....

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center [formerly TEAM, "Tax Everything And More"], a liberal think tank, is backing a package of 10 bills that have been filed to crack down on corporate tax evasion and repeal special tax breaks granted to companies like Raytheon and Fidelity over the last decade.

The Boston Herald
Jan. 5, 2003
Clamoring starts for Romney's ear


The next two months will tell us everything we need to know about Gov. Mitt Romney and, more important, whether he will succeed or fail as a leader. The key thing the only thing is the state budget; everything flows from that and if Romney can succeed in getting that under control, all else is possible.

A Brockton Enterprise editorial
Jan. 4, 2003
A road map for new governor


Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation opposes the Romney plan on both practical and conceptual grounds. She says it would be difficult to fine-tune the scale each year to keep it genuinely revenue-neutral. Beyond that, she sees it as a case of "Big Mama government telling us how to live our lives." "It annoys me especially when rich people who can afford to have more than one car tell me who can only afford one car what I should have," she said.

A Boston Globe editorial
Jan. 6, 2003
Curbing gas guzzlers


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Oh yeah, 2003 has started off with a bang! We're less than a week into it and I can barely keep up the news coming off Beacon Hill ... but I'm going to keep trying, so bear with me.

Recall the "Halloween Pay Raise"? Remember the "Midnight Pay Raise"? Then there was the "Post-Election 55% Pay Raise." Welcome to "The Great Depression II Pay Grab"!

"Modest" is the adopted mantra this time around. "For the Children" doesn't work, nor does "Working Families." "Temporary" sure won't be revisited, nor will "freeze." They needed a new mantra to roll out in unison and keep regurgitating. "Reasonable" and "Common Sense" didn't quite fit either, so Finneran launched "Modest, modest, modest pay raise!"

Notice how often the phrase "voter-approved pay raise" is trotted out, as if voter approval of a ballot question is suddenly sacred, untouchable? Sure, only when convenient.

Notice also how frequently the noble concept of public service is cavalierly abandoned in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts, replaced by an institutional notion of entitlement, of being owed a comfortable income for allegedly "doing the people's business full-time" - even when failing miserably and going home in July, even when trampling other voter-approved mandates like the income tax rollback, the charitable deduction, the Clean Elections law ... and probably the bilingual education reform law in the months ahead.

"With no signs of economic improvement in sight, Finneran predicted that lawmakers could face an actual pay cut in two years. 'It's not a constantly rising escalator, nor should it be,' Finneran said," the Boston Herald reported. Right. Believe that and I'll give you a deal on both a bridge and some good swampland!

Trust me: It certainly IS a "constantly rising escalator" for them, one way or another. They really are convinced that the public is stupid. If they won't freeze a pay raise during "the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression," their salaries will always just keep climbing, bet on it.

And please, folks, spare me the suggestions about how we should "change the law," how we should "do a petition drive" to repeal the pay raise amendment. It can't be done without going through the Legislature and, like Term Limits and the Defense of Marriage constitutional amendments proposed by the people after collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, the Legislature will simply ignore it and it will die a silent, futile death.

Even the state Supreme Judicial Court has demonstrated time and again -- as recently as last month -- that it is either unwilling or unable to enforce the constitutional mandate requiring a vote if outlaw legislators or a retreating governor refuse to honor their oaths of office.

We warned back in 1998 when the pols put it on the ballot that if it passed it would be *FOREVER*. "Confused" voters passed it nonetheless, and it is forever. (See CLT's radio ad against the legislative pay raise constitutional amendment, Question 1, from October 1998.)

Meanwhile, now that they got what they wanted from those voters Finneran called "confused" when they also adopted Clean Elections in 1998, their effort to kill the citizens' initiative petition process is quietly moving along ... well, maybe not so quietly any more. Eagle-Tribune columnist Taylor Armerding asked the right question of the death warrant's sponsor in his Sunday column: "Are we smart or stupid?"

So have at it, troops. The Beacon Hill Cabal is more out of control than ever; we've got a very challenging year ahead.

Chip Ford


The MetroWest Daily News
Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Legislators get 6.5 percent pay raise
By Michael Kunzelman

Lawmakers like Framingham state Rep. Deborah Blumer say it doesn't seem appropriate to accept a $3,000 pay raise while the state is mired in a budget crisis.

"I would consider giving it to charity so I can direct where the money goes," said Blumer, a Democrat. "If I can contribute in some way to softening the blow, I will do that."

Other legislators aren't so reluctant.

"I worked very hard. I earned it," said state Rep. Marie Parente, D-Milford. "Anyone who feels they don't deserve it, shouldn't take it."

In 1998, voters approved a constitutional amendment that calls for the governor to set the rate of legislative pay raises based on the state's median household income.

Two years ago, lawmakers received an 8 percent pay raise. This year, Gov. Mitt Romney relied on income estimates provided by the U.S. Census Bureau to settle on an increase of 6.5 percent.

The Legislature's 200 state representatives and senators, who earn a base salary of $50,123, can collect an extra $3,250 this year from the raise.

"It's a mechanical action," said Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman. "Mitt Romney has no discretion. Now it's up to the Legislature."

Lawmakers can accept the raise, defer it a year or forfeit it, said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's communications director.

"Forfeiting your pay is a very personal decision," he said. "The governor would not inject himself in that decision-making process."

Romney met yesterday with House Speaker Thomas Finneran and Senate President Robert Travaglini to discuss the raises.

Finneran and Travaglini both said they would consider donating their raises to charity, according to the State House News Service.

"I'll discuss it with my colleagues and we'll have a full position of the Senate (today)," Travaglini said. "(Until then) I'm not ready to establish a position on it."

Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said Romney relied on hazy income estimates to set the raises. She said they should be frozen until the "real numbers" for the state's median household income are known, sometime in fall.

"I wouldn't give them anything on credit," she said. "I would make sure I have actual numbers."

Anderson said lawmakers drafted the 1998 constitutional amendment in an attempt to "trick voters into thinking it would prevent them from voting on their own pay raises."

"I don't think legislators should be taking the raises under any circumstances," she said, citing the Legislature's recent freezing of the state's income-tax rollback. "If this was a company, they would be fired, not getting a raise."

Some lawmakers said they haven't decided what to do.

"I'm prepared to live with it or without it," said state Rep. Stephen LeDuc, D-Marlborough.

State Rep. Paul Loscocco, R-Holliston, expressed concern that the salary increases will sap "precious resources in a tight fiscal year." But he said a raise shouldn't be out of the question, given that lawmakers work long hours for relatively low pay.

"When you add up all the hours, you start to approach minimum wage, if not below it," Loscocco said.

Last year, in a show of solidarity with other state employees, many House members took a voluntary eight-day salary furlough.

"I'm not a stranger to making personal sacrifices to help the commonwealth make ends meet," said LeDuc, who, unlike many legislators, doesn't add to his legislative salary with a second job.

Last week, Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey announced that they will not accept their salaries and instead use the money to pay for raises to senior-level members of their staffs.

"If it's wrong to take an increase during this fiscal year, then why did the governor set the pace?" Parente asked. "I admire those who are able to give it away or not take it, but I'm not in that category. I'm not a wealthy legislator."

State Sen. Pamela Resor, D-Acton, said she won't accept the raise.

"I don't know if we can put it back in the budget," she said. "My first choice would be to put it off and not take the raise this time around."

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The Boston Herald
Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Pay hike spreads jitters among Bay State lawmakers
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

Gov. Mitt Romney offered state lawmakers a $3,258 recession-era pay hike yesterday - but legislative leaders, wary of instant controversy, are casting around for ways to avoid the handout.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini insisted the 6.5 percent pay raise is "modest," but acknowledged the symbolic stickiness of taking extra money amid the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.

"It's very awkward," said Finneran, who now makes $85,000 per year. "A fair number of my colleagues have indicated that they will probably make some type of charitable donation."

Retroactive to Jan. 1, the raise will drive lawmakers' base pay up to $53,380, adding a combined $650,000 to the state's bottom line. Chairmen and other legislative leaders make between $7,500 and $25,000 in added stipends.

The pay hikes come at a time when state programs for the poor have been eviscerated to help plug a deficit exceeding $2 billion.

Meanwhile, private companies continue shedding jobs by the hundreds and thousands, as the economy remains stagnant.

"It says that the Legislature is a special, privileged class that gets raises when the rest of us don't," said Citizens for Limited Taxation chief Barbara Anderson.

The stark contrast between private austerity and perceived public excess prompted some lawmakers to immediately refuse the extra money.

Sen. Susan Tucker said she couldn't bring herself to grab the cash after more than 5,800 state workers and "my neighbors in the private sector" lost their jobs over the last 18 months. "There's a lot of economic pain out there, and I think we should share in it," Tucker (D-Andover) said.

News of the looming pay raise sent most politicians scurrying for cover - including Romney, who made the announcement via press release but refused to appear publicly to discuss it.

Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman insisted Romney merely fulfilled his "mandate" under a 1998 voter-approved constitutional amendment to analyze median household income data and recommend salary adjustments.

Even in bad economic times, median household income almost always goes up - virtually guaranteeing legislative raises every two years.

"Gov. Romney has no discretion," Feddeman said. "It's a mechanical action." Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey have opted to forgo their government salaries - saving the state $1 million over four years.

That splashy bit of recent news had many rank-and-file lawmakers on the defensive yesterday, bristling that they're not rich.

Rep. Thomas J. O'Brien said his family faced a "very challenging" time last year, when he voluntarily took an eight-day, $1,800 furlough at Finneran's behest, to show solidarity with laid-off workers.

O'Brien (D-Kingston) said he hasn't decided what to do about the new pay raise. "If I were independently wealthy like the governor and lieutenant governor, the decision would be a little bit easier," O'Brien said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney had not - and would not - prevail on lawmakers to follow his lead and swear off their pay.

Some lawmakers said they'd gladly take the raise.

House Health Care Committee Chairman Harriett L. Stanley said she's paid $6,400 out of her own pocket over the last year to travel to emergency Medicaid conferences and to provide bonuses to her staff, whose salaries are frozen due to the fiscal crisis.

"I feel like I've more than done my part for the Health Care Committee and for the state," Stanley (D-West Newbury) said.

Romney aides said lawmakers could take the money now, opt to defer it until the economy improves, or forgo it entirely.

Finneran and Travaglini said they would consider donating their raises to charity - although Finneran cautioned he wanted to speak to his wife first.

Travaglini, confronting the first flap of his tenure as president, called a closed-door caucus last night to take senators' temperatures - but indicated the raise isn't a done deal.

"There's a lot to be said on the issue," Travaglini said. "I'll have the full position of the Senate (today)."

With no signs of economic improvement in sight, Finneran predicted that lawmakers could face an actual pay cut in two years. "It's not a constantly rising escalator, nor should it be," Finneran said.

The State House News Service contributed to this report.

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The Boston Globe
Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Legislators mull tricky issue
of accepting increase in pay

By Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff

Fresh from his own decision to work without pay, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday unveiled a 6.5 percent pay raise he calculated for legislators, then suggested they consider its fiscal impact and whether they should defer accepting it.

But legislative leaders, asserting the right to make their own decision, said they would meet privately with their members to see how they want to handle the politically-charged issue of whether to take the raise.

The 6.5 percent pay increase would boost rank-and-file members' salaries to $53,380. The state Constitution requires the governor to set the amount of the increase, based on the change in the median household income over the prior two years.

Lawmakers were in closed-door caucuses late yesterday deciding what to do. The decision is not easy, given the state's fiscal crunch, and the likelihood that other state workers will be laid off this year. The raise, which translates to 3.25 percent annually for the two-year period, would cost $650,000.

Legislators were considering several options late yesterday, including declining the raise altogether, delaying it to the next fiscal year in July, or leaving the decision to individual legislators. Senate President Robert Travaglini said he hoped senators would come to a consensus on whether to accept the raise - rather than letting members individually decide.

Travaglini and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran both said they would consult with their families about their personal decisions on a raise. Finneran also noted that members took unpaid furloughs to save the state money last year and predicted that legislators could lose money two years from now, if the median household income drops and their salary declines accordingly.

Some members, like Representative Michael Festa, a Melrose Democrat, said it was a politically unwise time for them to accept more pay.

"The membership is not of a sentiment to want to take a pay raise - not just for the political repercussions," said Festa. "This is just a gut sense that's out there. When we make decisions that are hurting people, it isn't appropriate to want to benefit ourselves."

Many legislators are feeling pressure from their constituents to decline the higher pay. And last week, Romney offered an inaugural address that called for drastic and immediate measures to stem the state's budget gap, suggesting that lawmakers had overspent during the boom of the 1990s. And Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, both millionaires, announced they will forgo their own state salaries.

Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney and Healey would not try to influence other people's personal financial decisions. But the governor appeared yesterday to be hoping the legislators would decide to defer the raise. After two meetings with legislative leaders yesterday, Romney held off on officially changing their compensation. Fehrnstrom repeatedly said that the decision was now "up to the Legislature."

The salary increases are intended to be automatic - ironically, the result of a 1998 Constitutional amendment enacted by voters to take the politics out of pay raises. Voters believed that routine pay increases, based on economic factors, would prevent legislators from quietly voting themselves unpopular large raises, said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

But this year, the pay raise has become a political hot potato, tossed first by former Acting Governor Jane Swift. She declined to take action on the pay raise before leaving office last week. On Friday, Romney determined the pay raise, but refused to reveal it publicly until he could meet with legislators. And yesterday, he and legislative leaders both stressed that they were not calling for the raises, but fulfilling their constitutional roles.

"Governor Romney today met his constitutional mandate and ascertained the median household income for the previous two years," Romney's press secretary, Shawn Feddeman, said repeatedly. "It's a mechanical action. Governor Romney has no discretion."

One challenge for Romney is that the Constitution requires him to set the pay based on data that do not yet exist for 2002. The US Census Bureau estimates the change of household income in the fall. Romney used data from the US Census Bureau to determine the 2001 increase at 5.8 percent, and based the projection for the year that just ended on the average growth during a similar period of economic hardship, between 1989 and 1992. During that time, the median income grew just .7 percent, according to the data.

Anderson said her group is urging Finneran to reverse the automatic pay raise, and said legislators do not deserve pay raises based on their performance.

"They shouldn't take it at all until they show themselves responsible enough to put the state on solid financial footing, our tax cuts have all been done and initiative petitions have all been obeyed," said Anderson. "If they don't do what the voters tell them to do, you don't get a pay raise."

Two years ago, under then-Governor Paul Cellucci, lawmakers received a 7 percent pay hike.

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The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, January 5, 2003

Voters too wise to fall for this bill 
By Taylor Armerding 
Staff Writer

You probably didn't realize it, but one of the first things you need in the year 2003 is to be saved from yourself. But that, you see, is because you are vulnerable to manipulation.

This favor comes courtesy of state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg, D-Amherst, yet another in a long line of selfless legislators willing to put themselves on the line, to stand up, to fight for us, the hapless, helpless, clueless average voters of Massachusetts.

Rosenberg has filed a bill that would make it much more difficult to file citizens' initiative petitions to create or amend laws. Instead of requiring 72,000 certified signatures of registered voters to put a question on the ballot, his bill would require 100,000 -- nearly 50 percent more.

We, in our clueless state, might think the good senator is actually making this portion of the democratic process more difficult but hey, sometimes the serfs must suffer a little pain so that, in the words of the Boss to Cool Hand Luke so many years ago, we can "get our minds right."

We are apparently under the delusion that voters should occasionally have a direct hand in passing laws, especially when legislators won't pay any attention to them. We are under the delusion that the barriers to initiative petitions should not be insurmountable.

Of course, if you listen to Sen. Rosenberg, you will be reassured that this is not an attempt to disenfranchise those who seek to pass laws by popular vote. This is all because of a national study that has concluded that initiative petitions are open to manipulation by wealthy special interest groups.

Horrifying, isn't it. Who knew?

But, having observed things like this for several decades, I suspect Sen. Rosenberg's bill has less to do with us being manipulated, and more to do with the fact that, in last November's election, initiative petitions ordered drastic reforms in a bloated bilingual education program that has been a colossal failure, and came uncomfortably close to dumping the entire state income tax. I suspect it has more to do with "the people" wielding something more than symbolic power.

It also makes me wonder if he has ever attended a Town Meeting, or even a hearing at the Statehouse.

News bulletin to Sen. Rosenberg: EVERYTHING in politics is open to manipulation. That's why the Statehouse is crawling with lobbyists, and not just those representing the straw man of "wealthy" special interests. There are plenty there in behalf of labor unions and tree huggers as well. That's why you see poor kids in wheelchairs dragged to hearings on human services budgets.

Initiative petitions are no more manipulative than any political campaign, including the most recent one that resulted in Sen. Rosenberg's re-election. Every campaign is an effort to limit and control the information voters receive. Every campaign seeks simple slogans to define complicated issues. When it is done in his behalf, I suspect Rosenberg would call it "good political strategy," or simple "educating the voters."

Ultimately, this is yet more political doublespeak on the intelligence of voters. When politicians win, they are filled with effusive praise for the wisdom of voters, who were "too smart to be fooled" by the campaign of the other guy.

So, senator, which is it? Are we smart or stupid? If we're smart, then there is no need to "tweak" the initiative petition process to save us from manipulation. If we're stupid, then maybe your own election results need to be tweaked. Maybe you shouldn't even be in office, if you were placed there by people too dumb to know any better.

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The Boston Herald
Sunday, January 5, 2003

Gov. seems to be going gangbusters
by Margery Eagan

We'll see what happens. But already our new governor is backtracking, sidling up to the Axis of Evil, the Gang of Two - minus Shannon O'Brien, of course - who stood beside him on Inauguration Day.

"(Romney) was talking about downsizing government. He may as well have been speaking some foreign language for all Trav understood." So said Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation about "gang" member and new Senate President Robert Travaglini. "He's so much a part of the culture."

Then there's "gang" leader House Speaker Thomas Finneran. He "absolutely thinks he's God's gift to Massachusetts," Anderson went on. Like he's got Tourette's syndrome or something, he also seems to feel compelled to butt in on everyone else's moment in the sun.

How old are your children? he asked Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in the midst of her swearing-in. "Enjoy them," he told her, as if this original gem could not hold a minute or two.

At the risk of seeming obsessed with gene pools, let me obsess about gene pools. On one side of the stage Thursday we had Sir Galahad, our governor, who seems to walk, lightbulb-like, bathed in his own iridescence. Above him in the balcony we had Ann, his very own Lady of the Lake - the body of water, as all true Ann/Mitt aficionados know, which separated the lovers' private schools way back when Ann was a blond equestrienne and Mitt a taut-bellied water skiing phenom.

Did you catch Ann in the glistening Carolina Herrera number at the inaugural ball? Where the Pops played "The Nearness of You" and Mr. and Mrs. Romney gazed longingly into each other's eyes in a manner not seen since the Reagans whirled about White House parquet?

"He's worth every dime we're not paying him," quipped Democratic consultant Michael Goldman about Romney, who's taking no salary. Well, Michael, here's what I'd like to be when I grow up: somebody who doesn't need my salary, either, because I'm rich, rich, RICH! Somebody who can rise gracefully above the fray because, at the end of the day, I can buy and sell these pesky peons a million times over.

Now let's compare Sir Galahad and Lady of the Lake, paragons of all that is fine and pure, calm and even humble (that Mormon thing again) with what the scowling "Trav" and the glad-handing "Mr. Speakah" have come to represent. That is, a grasping, greedy, conniving, and ever-desperate band of grifters who do their best work, like things that crawl in the night, somewhere in the slippery dark underbelly of this den of rogues and scam artists.

And then there's Jane, poor Jane, who wore the wrong-size suit for her final walk down the State House steps. Couldn't her husband intervene? Her mother? Not a single one of her girlfriends? Now the clerks of the House and Senate must decide: will she even be listed as a former governor in the General Court's official manual, or is she but an asterisk?

Yet as we said last spring when the inevitability of the Romney ascension became clear, there's no disgrace to being driven out of town by the patriarch of a family filled with Harvard degrees, to-die-for tennis serves, chiseled Taggs and beauteous Jens, Joshes and Matts. Jane was totally outclassed, out brained, out accomplished, out housed, spoused, clothed, coiffed and shod.

Now we'll see what happens when Harvard Business School tangles with Suffolk Law, when high cheekbones meet low blows. Conventional wisdom says Dudley Do-Right either plays ball with the Prince of Darkness, or takes his bully pulpit to the suburbs and blames Finneran for everything.

That does beg the question, though, what's Romney's superiority worth? Ex-contender George Bachrach advises Romney to beware of seeming too "disdainful of people in the Legislature and the political process." Michael Dukakis, too, came into office, mistakenly "thinking that being smart, honest and right actually count."

Barbara Anderson, meanwhile, envisions an intriguing scenario where Finneran actually helps Romney "because (Finneran's) afraid of being found out. Everyone says we're in the worst fiscal crisis since the Depression. (Finneran's) the guy who by his own admission was in charge of the world when the state went down the tubes, who talked a good game about controlling spending but couldn't.... He's counting on Romney to pull this off," she said, so he, the wily knave, can take full credit, "for turning the state around."

Margery Eagan's radio show airs noon to 1 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays on 96.9 FM-Talk.

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The Boston Herald
Sunday, January 5, 2003

Clamoring starts for Romney's ear
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

The honeymoon's over on Beacon Hill, and Gov. Mitt Romney is about to find himself besieged by conflicting demands from deficit-panicked advocates, ornery lawmakers, unrepentant tax-hikers and downtrodden businesses looking for a friendly ear.

There's nothing unusual about such political clamor - only about the way Romney intends to react.

"Mitt Romney doesn't owe anybody anything," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. "He's his own person."

With the state facing the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, most of the demands will boil down to dollars and cents.

Advocates for programs for the poor, the sick and the elderly are cringing in dread as Romney prepares to roll out his plans for consolidating the sprawling health and human-services sector.

Fiscal watchdogs have cast doubt on Romney's ability to solve a nearly $3 billion deficit through government restructuring alone - and indeed, Romney has begun warning of the need for steep budget cuts.

"We fear that consolidation is simply a buzzword for reducing services," said Massachusetts Human Services Coalition Director Stephen Collins. "We certainly want to give Gov. Romney the full benefit of the doubt, but we have our doubts."

So does Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who said the state's mayors want Romney to "understand our plight" as he and lawmakers mull massive cuts in state aid to cities and towns.

Romney's determination to balance the budget without new taxes is on a collision course with communities' duties to protect education progress and promote affordable housing, Menino said.

"I question (whether) you can do it without raising revenues through taxation," Menino said.

Legislative leaders have vowed to avoid further tax hikes, but activists are already plotting to hit up the business community, which escaped largely unscathed from last year's $1.4 billion tax hike.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center [formerly TEAM, "Tax Everything And More"], a liberal think tank, is backing a package of 10 bills that have been filed to crack down on corporate tax evasion and repeal special tax breaks granted to companies like Raytheon and Fidelity over the last decade.

The emerging tax-hike coalition estimates the state could save as much as $500 million by closing corporate "tax loopholes."

"Mitt Romney has said that he really wants to root out waste, fraud and abuse in government," said the Center's policy analyst Jeff McLynch. "There's nothing more abusive, wasteful and fraudulent than a lot of these schemes corporations are engaged in."

But Romney's world view is shaped by his highly successful ventures as a businessman, leading many observers to suspect that corporate interests will have an edge at the bartering table.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts spokesman Brian Gilmore said there's "nothing wrong" with a business-friendly governor - especially with the economy in tatters.

But Gilmore said the corporate community doesn't have a "direct pipeline" to Romney.

Beyond the fiscal crisis, Romney faces tall tasks in fulfilling some of his less tangible campaign themes - for instance, kicking lobbyists to the curb and recruiting minorities to top posts.

Throughout the campaign and in the early days of his administration, Romney has raised a stink about lobbyists and their influence on public policy - even banning family members of his top officials from lobbying state government.

But veteran Beacon Hill lobbyists are shrugging off the rhetoric, noting that the real political power still lies with legislative leaders - who don't have a problem with lobbyists.

"This is everything changes, everything stays the same," said longtime human services lobbyist Judy Meredith. "We've still got Tommy Finneran and we've still got a more sympathetic, health-and-human-services Senate president."

Meredith added that she expects to make headway with Romney, notwithstanding his charged rhetoric - simply by presenting "doable, achievable solutions" to "sympathetic, compelling issues."

Romney also faces unrest from traditionally Democratic groups who have expressed open suspicion of his conservative social views.

During his inaugural speech, Romney appeared to try to reach out to women, gays and minorities, saying he would defend civil rights, "regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race."

But the remarks fell flat with minority observers, who pointed to the fact that Romney has only named one black person to a Cabinet position.

Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (D-Boston) said Romney is "way behind" all three of his Republican predecessors in naming minorities to top posts - an issue that she said won't merely "go away."

"Right now, it is not a diverse body," Wilkerson said. Fehrnstrom countered that Romney has only made a "handful" of appointments, and insisted the gubernatorial track record would eventually reflect Romney's drive, as Winter Olympics chief, to hire minorities into 10 percent of the 1,000 available jobs.

"I would caution people against a rush to judgment," Fehrnstrom said. "Mitt Romney has an entire administration to hire."

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The Brockton Enterprise
Saturday, January 4, 2003

Editorial
A road map for new governor

The next two months will tell us everything we need to know about Gov. Mitt Romney and, more important, whether he will succeed or fail as a leader. The key thing the only thing is the state budget; everything flows from that and if Romney can succeed in getting that under control, all else is possible.

Romney already has shown a great appreciation for the precarious economic state of affairs. This is in stark contrast to the Legislature, which is directly responsible for the bloated budget and failure to contain spending. But just as the Legislature spent like drunken sailors when it had money in the bank, it can now cut back. Romney must attack the budget from the expense side and the revenue side will take care of itself.

This will happen only if Romney is forceful and acts quickly. He cannot allow the discussions to be dominated by politicians who already have failed or by public employee unions which have a vested interest in ensuring that the budget keeps growing. The most important person, as usual, is House Speaker Thomas Finneran. If Finneran truly wants reform and wants to prove that he really is a fiscal conservative, he will work closely with Romney to cut expenses. If Finneran balks, Romney must take his case directly to the people, hitting city halls and town meetings and whipping up a firestorm of opposition to the Legislature.

There are many prongs to this approach. All of them will hurt, but none will hurt as much as inaction. The people who will have to be the most flexible public employees, including police, teachers and state workers are the ones who benefited the most over the past decade. Now that the bill for the state's inordinate largesse has come due, it is time for those who were rewarded to make sacrifices.

These sacrifices will have to include:

* Repealing the Pacheco Law, which has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars by discouraging privatization and ensuring that state workers will have good jobs at good wages until the end of time.

* Requiring these same state workers to pay more of their health insurance costs. Most private-industry workers pay 30 percent or more of their health insurance costs. State workers generally pay about half as much.

* Taking a good, hard look at spending on education. Billions of dollars have been spent on education reform and, while much of the money has been well-spent, much of it hasn't. It has led to a ridiculous situation in Brockton, where teachers are demanding a huge raise, not because they deserve it or need it, but because they perceive that the city has the money lying around.

* Dumping the Quinn Bill, which costs at least $75 million in educational and we use that term loosely incentives for police officers. The system of police details also needs to be drastically altered. If police want higher salaries and communities think they deserve them, let them be built into a contract; don't use bogus regulations that fool the public into thinking they are getting better police work for their money.

* Combining the Highway Department and Turnpike Authority and also streamlining dozens of other state agencies to get rid of dead wood, including the cousins, boyfriends and other assorted friends and relatives of politicians who have perfected patronage.

* Taking a good, hard look at how much aid is sent to local communities. This one will hurt good and innocent people the most, but if there are cuts, it will force efficiency and hard decisions on cities and towns that have not had to make tough choices in many years.

Examining everything from state pensions to judicial appointments, welfare spending to operating convention centers. Everything is now on the table; there are no sacred cows this time around. The cuts must be deep and the reversal of legislation must be dramatic. It is now or never for Massachusetts.

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The Boston Globe
Monday, January 6, 2003

A Boston Globe editorial
Curbing gas guzzlers

With so much attention being paid on Beacon Hill to bringing the state deficit under control, Governor Mitt Romney might be tempted to set aside policy initiatives that have no effect on the bottom line. But one that deserves a high priority while the new governor still has a store of political capital is his campaign promise to raise the auto excise tax on sport utility vehicles and other gas guzzlers while lowering it for low-emission cars.

Such a scaling of the excise tax, which would only affect vehicles produced from this year on, would be a small step the state could take to encourage the purchase of cars that are less damaging to the environment. The governor also backed a 10-year sales tax moratorium on hybrid gas-electric cars or other vehicles with low emissions. Until state revenues are in better balance with needs, a tax expenditure like this would be unwise, however desirable its environmental purpose.

Romney's excise tax proposal, though revenue-neutral, would still require the Legislature to amend Proposition 2, the 1980 tax-limiting law. That law's chief impact has always been on property taxes, but it also capped auto excise taxes at 2.5 percent of a vehicle's value.

From time to time the Legislature has seen fit to amend the law. A change in the excise tax to, for instance, a range from 1 percent for low-emission cars to 4 percent for the worst-polluting SUVs would be another amendment worth making.

Some SUVs are more fuel-efficient than the SUV average of 20.7 miles per gallon, and Ford this year will produce a hybrid version SUV. Small hybrids can get more than 40 miles per gallon. Presumably a scaled excise tax would rely on the Environmental Protection Agency's annual list of new models' fuel efficiency in determining how much above or below 2.5 percent an individual model's tax would be.

Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation opposes the Romney plan on both practical and conceptual grounds. She says it would be difficult to fine-tune the scale each year to keep it genuinely revenue-neutral. Beyond that, she sees it as a case of "Big Mama government telling us how to live our lives." "It annoys me especially when rich people who can afford to have more than one car tell me who can only afford one car what I should have," she said.

But the Romney tax shift does not prohibit ownership of heavily polluting cars; it simply forces their purchasers to pay more of their share of the health and environmental costs that such vehicles carry. With the federal government paralyzed on this issue by the influence of campaign contributions from the petroleum and auto industries, a state like Massachusetts should take every step it can to lead in reducing emissions that pollute the air and accelerate global warming.

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