CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Friday, January 14, 2005

"Massachusetts is back"
but still the Gimme Lobby wants more


We could not make this stuff up. Sen. Brian Joyce (D-Milton) has filed a bill for a $25 tax credit for people who vote in statewide general elections, along with a mechanism for communities to reward local voting.

Paying voters to vote is not a new idea. In past eras it was called "walking around money." Legalizing the practice, to the tune of $30 million a year, is as malodorous as passing out wads of cash. As Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government, said, "Do you want people you have to bribe voting?"

We're surprised Joyce didn't propose fining citizens for not voting instead, as his office says some 20 countries do. Given the cast of characters voters are asked to choose among these days in many state and local races, such a plan would be an ever-growing revenue source for cash-short Beacon Hill.

A Boston Herald editorial
Friday, January 14, 2005
A twist on buying votes


Governor Mitt Romney, citing a turnaround in the state's finances and major government reforms, declared in his 2005 State of the Commonwealth address that the state is "strong and growing stronger" and that "Massachusetts is back." ...

Saying that the budget he submits later this month will be structurally balanced without drawing on reserves or relying on one-time funds, Romney said there will still be room to lower the income tax from 5.3 to 5 percent consistent with the will of the voters.

"Let's continue to fuel the recovery by giving the people of Massachusetts the tax rollback they voted for," Romney said. "It's good for working families. It's good for small business. It's a powerful stimulus for the economy. And, it's our job to listen to the people."

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department
January 13, 2005
Romney Delivers 2005 State of the Commonwealth Address


Massachusetts Teachers Association President Catherine Boudreau (statement): "As Governor Romney said, our schools are indeed among the best in the country, but we still have a long way to go. The state not only has a 'contract' with its students, it has a constitutional obligation to provide them with a high-quality education. We would be happy to work with the governor, the Legislature and other stakeholders to develop a plan that would truly narrow the achievement gap and benefit all students. Unfortunately, the plan outlined by Governor Romney tonight falls short of these goals."

Health Care For All Executive Director John McDonough (statement): "We applaud the Governor for focusing attention on the growing problem of the uninsured in Massachusetts, and the high cost of health care. The Governor is right when he says that the people of Massachusetts should not accept almost half a million people with no health coverage. In his speech tonight, the Governor said "I have proposed a plan" to cover the uninsured. We have seen no plan. An op-ed column is not a plan. A broad coalition of consumers, community groups, labor unions, doctors, hospitals, health centers, and others has proposed a plan. Our proposal was introduced as legislation by Senator Richard Moore and Representative Deborah Blumer."

State House News Service
Thursday, January 13, 2005
State of the State reaction:
for many, Governor hit the right notes [Excerpts]


Gov. Mitt Romney was certainly not short on ideas on where to lead Massachusetts, now that it's "back," as he put it, in his State of the State address. His focus on education, tax and toll relief, welfare and auto insurance reform were right on target.

A Boston Herald editorial
Friday, January 14, 2005
Romney reaches out on his 2005 agenda


Halfway through his first term in office, Governor Romney is already starting to think about his legacy.

That is one way to explain his surprisingly ambitious agenda, detailed in his State of the State address last night. A small-government reformer who came into office pledging to bring cold-eyed management to the public sector, Romney last night sounded at times like a New Deal Democrat in a business suit....

Of course, Romney is not the first Republican reform governor to learn that it is better to reconcile with the Legislature than to battle it. And despite all Romney's new proposals, the flinty businessman was still visible. He reiterated his determination to cut the income tax and pledged to impose tougher work requirements for welfare recipients....

Although Romney claimed that "Massachusetts is back" last night, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation pegs the state's ongoing structural deficit at more than $600 million.

A Boston Globe editorial
Friday, January 14, 2005
A new Romney


This year Romney framed his agenda in the terminology of a moral mandate, saying that he and the Legislature have an obligation to work in a bipartisan way to improve student performance in underperforming districts....

Teachers union leaders, who generally support Democratic candidates, said last night that lofty verbiage could not conceal what they called a lack of substance in Romney's blueprint for education reform.

The Boston Globe
Friday, January 14, 2005
Longer school day, science exam urged


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Last evening Governor Romney gave his annual State of the Commonwealth address, announcing that "Massachusetts is back." He then went on about all the plans and programs he intends to propose, again including our income tax rollback in his annual budget, due out soon.

The usual cast of characters -- especially the teachers union -- lined up to demand more. The Massachusetts Teachers Association in its release called the governor's plan "a good first step," but then went on to attack: "it does not make up for the budget cuts that have affected students in recent years." More Is Never Enough (MINE) and never will be. They're counting on the state Supreme Judicial Court stepping in within the next month or two and ordering taxpayers to pay even more yet for "education reform" than the billions more we've already ponied up.

"Affected students"? Aw c'mon, when's the last time that union honestly gave a hoot about doing anything just "for the children"? Nobody's buying that worn-out dirge any more, the one they conveniently toss out whenever the smell of our money's in the air. We've seen where "the children's" money goes time after time. The MTA and its members need only look in their pockets and union treasury to find it, even as senior citizens are forced to sell their lifelong homesteads just to fund the teachers union's insatiable greed.

If the teachers unions really care about the children, they will sign on to the reforms he mentioned in his speech, especially:

1.  Step out of union pay scales to "pay more to attract excellent math and science teachers. Ninety-three percent of our nation's middle school science teachers didn't major or minor in science. No wonder our kids don't go into the sciences when their teachers didn't either."

2.  Did you know that science isnít a graduation requirement? "Today, the MCAS tests math and English: I will move for science to be the third MCAS discipline and make science a graduation requirement as soon as possible."

3.  'Shocking' proposal to remove bad teachers. "We need to improve teacher training and mentoring. And we have to make it easier to remove those few teachers who consistently fail our children."

4.  More choice for parents. "We should lift the cap on our charter schools."

It's long past time to fish or cut bait.

Chip Ford


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Department

January 13, 2005

Romney Delivers 2005 State of the Commonwealth Address
Focusing on education, calls for more accountability,
help in troubled urban districts


Governor Mitt Romney, citing a turnaround in the state's finances and major government reforms, declared in his 2005 State of the Commonwealth address [requires Adobe PDF reader] that the state is "strong and growing stronger" and that "Massachusetts is back."

"In the last two years, we've saved the taxpayers millions of dollars through consolidations and efficiencies," Romney said, speaking in the historic chamber of the House of Representatives. "We've modernized outmoded systems that hadn't been touched in decades. We reformed transportation, reformed public construction, reformed school building assistance to speed new schools. We launched landmark housing policies, created merit-based college scholarships and restructured departments and agencies. And we achieved these goals without raising taxes."

Romney vowed to work with the Legislature in a bipartisan effort to enact the Education Reform Act of 2005, building on the significant progress made in our schools over the past decade by now turning the focus to accountability and helping lower-performing urban schools.

"Kids in our urban schools, most of them minorities, are not succeeding at anywhere near the rate of their counterparts in the suburbs," Romney said. "And let me be clear: The failure of our urban schools to prepare our children today for the challenges of tomorrow is the civil rights issue of our generation."

In the 20-minute live televised address, Romney laid out his agenda for 2005, which includes extending health care coverage to more people, introducing stricter welfare to work requirements, moving to the next stage of auto insurance reform, leading the way for greater control over our ocean resources and merging the Turnpike Authority in a way that provides substantial and meaningful toll relief.

"For the last two years, I have asked for the Turnpike Authority to be merged into the state Highway Department," Romney said. "You know I don't give up easy. So, it's coming again, but with a big difference: This year, I will propose that all the savings from the merger go toward toll relief. The toll burden on the people of Western and Central Massachusetts is simply unfair and we all know it."

Merger savings that will be redirected to toll relief are estimated at $170 million in the first year and $20 million every year thereafter.

Saying that the budget he submits later this month will be structurally balanced without drawing on reserves or relying on one-time funds, Romney said there will still be room to lower the income tax from 5.3 to 5 percent consistent with the will of the voters.

"Let's continue to fuel the recovery by giving the people of Massachusetts the tax rollback they voted for," Romney said. "It's good for working families. It's good for small business. It's a powerful stimulus for the economy. And, it's our job to listen to the people."

Romney lauded the progress that has been made in creating new jobs and said he would propose to further stimulate job growth by filing a jobs bill in February. Among its features will be the expansion to other industries of the measure approved in 2003 that provides medical product manufacturers with a payment equal to one half the income taxes paid by new workers.

He also called for reducing by thousands the waiting list of adult immigrants who have been denied a seat in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, beefing up the state's sales force to bring more jobs here and lowering unemployment insurance costs by bringing benefits in line with the rest of the nation.

"Our state program is so far out of line, it makes California's seem inexpensive," said Romney. At $586 per employee, Massachusetts currently has one of the most expensive unemployment insurance costs in the nation. California's unemployment insurance rate per employee is $343.

The Romney jobs program will also include measures to stimulate more housing, add new capital projects and streamline permitting for business expansion.

For our senior citizens, Romney said he supported providing property tax relief consistent with Proposition 2 1/2 and said he would propose maintaining the state's Prescription Advantage program to fill in gaps with the new federal Medicare prescription drug benefit once it takes effect in January 2006. This move will still allow Massachusetts to save money, while providing the state's seniors with one of the most generous prescription drug benefits in the nation.

For schools, Romney praised the success of the Education Reform Act of 1993 for pumping more money into public education and introducing testing as a standard for graduation. He proposed a new Education Reform Act of 2005 with some of the following key features:

o  Extending the school day in our most troubled districts with a provision for special help, study hall and sports;

o  Paying our best teachers more;

o  Providing financial incentives to attract math and science teachers to the teaching profession;

o  Making science part of the MCAS requirement, along with English and math;

o  Improving teacher training and mentoring;

o  Making it easier to fire teachers who are not qualified to be in the classroom;

o  Lifting the cap on charter schools;

o  Raising the bar for our institutes of higher education to better prepare the educators of tomorrow; and

o  Requiring parental preparation classes in our failing school districts.

"Education is the investment our generation makes in the future," Romney said. "And education reform is the job of the Legislature and the Executive. We are ready to do that job."

Romney closed his address with a special tribute to all the Massachusetts men and women who have answered the call to go to war, singling out two members of the Massachusetts National Guard who were seated in the family gallery with the Governor's wife, Ann.

Sergeant First Class Andrea Couture, of Sterling, a wife and a mother of two children, was deployed to Southern Iraq for 15 months beginning in March 2003, leaving her family behind.

Sergeant Peter Damon, a Brockton native, husband and father of two small children, was wounded while serving in Iraq in October 2003 when a tire he was changing on a Blackhawk helicopter exploded. As a result of the incident, Sergeant Damon lost his right arm above the elbow and his left hand and wrist.

After honoring Couture, Damon and all those who serve our nation, and pausing to remember the 15 Massachusetts men killed in Iraq in 2004, Romney said, "We are humbled by the sacrifice and inspired by the courage."

The evening program was kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by the Bergquist siblings of Norwell. Brittany, age 14, and her brother Robbie, age 13, founded "Cell Phones for Soldiers," a nonprofit organization that provides prepaid calling cards for soldiers deployed overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Their older sister, Courtney, age 18 and a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, helps out, too. Since its inception nine months ago, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided nearly $300,000 worth of calling cards and donations to soldiers serving overseas, an achievement that Romney wanted to recognize by inviting the youngsters to tonight's speech.

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Massachusetts Teachers Association

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau
on Governor Romney's State of the State Address
Jan. 13, 2005


"As Governor Romney said, our schools are indeed among the best in the country, but we still have a long way to go. The state not only has a 'contract' with its students, it has a constitutional obligation to provide them with a high-quality education. We would be happy to work with the governor, the Legislature and other stakeholders to develop a plan that would truly narrow the achievement gap and benefit all students. Unfortunately, the plan outlined by Governor Romney tonight falls short of these goals."

Below are Boudreau's responses to some of the governor's specific remarks and proposals.

On funding: "While the governor's previously released education spending plan is a good first step, it does not make up for the budget cuts that have affected students in recent years. If the governor's planned increase in Chapter 70 is approved, school funding will still be more than $200 million lower than it was in the peak year of fiscal year 2002, when adjusted for inflation and changes in enrollment. Once again this year, many school districts are anticipating having to make cuts in educational services if they do not receive significant new state aid. That is unfortunate, especially in light of Judge Margot Botsford's finding in the Hancock v. Driscoll case that the state is not currently providing schools with the resources they need."

On giving principals more power to fire teachers: "Certainly, failing teachers do not belong in the classroom. Principals already have the power to fire failing teachers, and those powers were strengthened under the 1993 Education Reform Act. All teachers must be evaluated based on seven principles of effective teaching. Those who fail to meet those standards are subject to dismissal, as they should be."

On merit pay: "We believe that teachers should be paid more for taking on additional responsibilities, such as developing curricula or mentoring new teachers. We do not support merit pay based on student test scores because we have yet to see a test-score-based system that is fair and has a positive impact on student learning. It is wrong to penalize teachers who have a disproportionate number of students with learning disabilities or other impairments that keep them from progressing at the same rate as their peers. In addition, merit pay creates divisiveness in a profession that requires teamwork and collaboration."

On longer school day: "A longer school day is especially important for students who are struggling to meet state standards. It is unfortunate that the governor presided over significant cuts in MCAS remediation funding, since those funds were used to extend the school day and school year for students through after-school and summer school programs. If the governor wants to lengthen the school day, we are interested in learning the specifics of his plan and where the state would find the resources."

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Health Care for All

Health Care for All asks Governor Romney:
"Where's the plan?"

January 13, 2005

We applaud the Governor for focusing attention on the growing problem of the uninsured in Massachusetts, and the high cost of health care. The Governor is right when he says that the people of Massachusetts should not accept almost half a million people with no health coverage.

In his speech tonight, the Governor said "I have proposed a plan" to cover the uninsured. We have seen no plan. An op-ed column is not a plan.

A broad coalition of consumers, community groups, labor unions, doctors, hospitals, health centers, and others has proposed a p1an. Our proposal was introduced as legislation by Senator Richard Moore and Representative Deborah Blumer.

We welcome the Governor's invitation to work cooperatively to figure out how to set more people covered. The next step is for the Governor to put a plan on the table, so the people of Massachusetts can have a real discussion about the real choices on how to cover the uninsured.

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The Boston Herald
Friday, January 14, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
Romney reaches out on his 2005 agenda

Gov. Mitt Romney was certainly not short on ideas on where to lead Massachusetts, now that it's "back," as he put it, in his State of the State address. His focus on education, tax and toll relief, welfare and auto insurance reform were right on target.

Better yet, it was a markedly more pragmatic politician who took the rostrum last night in the House chamber. Romney figuratively left his partisan suit jacket behind in the corner office and strode to the podium sleeves rolled up and hand outstretched.

"I am confident that in large measure, we share a common vision," he said of legislative leaders.

"These dreams, this vision is within our reach if we can reach across the aisle, find common ground and turn a deaf ear to the special interests," he added.

And as the governor noted, there is much to do, and he needs the help of the Democratic Legislature to do it.

On education reform, the centerpiece of the governor's 2005 agenda, Romney was particularly gracious. "Many of you sitting in this chamber were responsible for passage of the historic Education Reform Act of 1993 that is behind so much of the progress that has been made. Thank you for the foresight and wisdom you showed a decade ago," he said.

Romney was clear, though, about where he stands in the debate over spending vs. accountability. Teacher quality and school choice are the right emphasis. And we've no doubt Romney will need equal parts honey and vinegar to attract legislative leaders to his proposed Education Reform Act of 2005.

Romney has staked out firm ground in the health care debate, too. Staunch opposition to employer mandates and new taxes will help move the debate from pie-in-the-sky idealism to a realistic solution to the state's uninsured. Here too Romney noted it will require "a team effort" with legislators, Sen. Ted Kennedy and health care professionals.

That attitude has Romney off and running, and this time he won't be running alone.

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The Boston Globe
Friday, January 14, 2005

A Boston Globe editorial
A new Romney


Halfway through his first term in office, Governor Romney is already starting to think about his legacy.

That is one way to explain his surprisingly ambitious agenda, detailed in his State of the State address last night. A small-government reformer who came into office pledging to bring cold-eyed management to the public sector, Romney last night sounded at times like a New Deal Democrat in a business suit.

He said he wanted Massachusetts to be the first state in the nation to offer universal health care and proposed a sweeping new phase of education reform, including a longer school day and raises for the best teachers. He pledged to eliminate the racial gap in school achievement, to expand work force training, and to eliminate waiting lists for classes in English as a second language.

And Romney reached out to the Democratic leadership to help him achieve these goals. After two years of antagonizing the Legislature and mounting a starkly unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democrats in last fall's election, Romney last night embraced the new House speaker, Sal DiMasi, and the relatively new Senate president, Robert Travaglini, saying "we share a common vision."

Of course, Romney is not the first Republican reform governor to learn that it is better to reconcile with the Legislature than to battle it. And despite all Romney's new proposals, the flinty businessman was still visible. He reiterated his determination to cut the income tax and pledged to impose tougher work requirements for welfare recipients.

Romney may be looking to rack up accomplishments, but he'd be the first to agree he can't rest yet. For one thing, the state is not out of fiscal danger. Although Romney claimed that "Massachusetts is back" last night, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation pegs the state's ongoing structural deficit at more than $600 million. New cost pressures include an anticipated Supreme Judicial Court mandate to upgrade education in poor communities and threatened lawsuits to force the state to deliver on mass transit improvements negotiated as part of the Big Dig.

Romney's by-now familiar line that improving education is the "civil rights issue of our generation" echoes President Bush, who says poor and minority students have been victimized by "the soft bigotry of low expectations." But closing the achievement gap will not be cost-free. Romney's plan to pay for his initiatives by closing corporate tax loopholes and taking over the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority doesn't begin to cover the tab. And the "giant steps" he claims on affordable housing are more like toes in the water.

Still, it is good to see Romney engaged in being governor. If he wishes to dispel the notion that he only has eyes for national office, the activist agenda he outlined last night is a good place to start.

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The Boston Globe
Friday, January 14, 2005

Longer school day, science exam urged
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff

Governor Mitt Romney unveiled last night his plan for an Education Reform Act of 2005 that would require underperforming districts to lengthen the school day "well into the afternoon," improve college-level teacher training, and make science a graduation requirement "as soon as possible."

While those ideas were new, much of the agenda Romney outlined in his annual address to the Legislature mirrored proposals introduced last year as his Legacy of Learning initiative, including a call to lift the cap on new charter schools, a plan for mandatory parent preparation courses, a proposal to give principals power to remove bad teachers, and another to offer incentives for recruiting math and science teachers.

While the Legislature did implement some of Romney's plan, many of the ideas the Republican governor revisited last night were roundly rejected last year by the House and Senate, which are dominated by Democrats.

This year Romney framed his agenda in the terminology of a moral mandate, saying that he and the Legislature have an obligation to work in a bipartisan way to improve student performance in underperforming districts.

"Kids in our urban schools, most of them minorities, are not succeeding at anywhere near the rate of their counterparts in the suburbs," Romney said in his annual State of the State address. "And let me be clear: The failure of our urban schools to prepare our children today for the challenges of tomorrow is the civil rights issue of our generation."

Teachers union leaders, who generally support Democratic candidates, said last night that lofty verbiage could not conceal what they called a lack of substance in Romney's blueprint for education reform.

"Unfortunately, the governor's proposals fall short," said Catherine A. Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. "They are recycled ideas that have not gone anyplace and are presented once again under the guise of major education reform."

Education spending is likely to dominate discourse on Beacon Hill this year because the Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule shortly on a case challenging the state's school funding formula as unconstitutional. The Hancock v. Commissioner of Education case, filed by several poorer districts, has hung over the State House like a sword of Damocles: If the SJC overturns the funding formula, it could force the state to spend millions more dollars for education.

But Romney made it clear he does not want the SJC determining how the state allocates its education dollars. "Education reform is the job of the Legislature and the executive," Romney said. "We are ready to do that job."

Still, Romney offered few specifics for his Education Reform Act, calling instead for a bipartisan effort to "give all our kids the opportunity to reach their dreams for tomorrow." If passed, Romney's bill would be the first comprehensive school overhaul law since 1993, when lawmakers established the MCAS test as a graduation requirement.

Currently, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests just English and Math. Eric Ferhnstrom, Romney's communications director, said the governor will appear before the state Board of Education on Jan. 25 to urge it to add a science section to the MCAS test and thus establish science as a graduation requirement. The board was already working to require both science and social studies for a diploma, but Romney said yesterday that should be done "as soon as possible."

With regard to lengthening school days at underperforming schools, Romney said only that he wants "a longer school day, with provision for special help, study hall, and sports.

"Learning should last well into the afternoon, not end at 2 o'clock," he said.

Kathleen Kelley, president of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, said her union is not opposed to such a plan, as long as it does not become an unfunded mandate that burdens teachers.

"We've always been willing to look at a longer day, because it makes some sense," Kelley said. "But unfortunately, we can't even pay for what we're doing now within the confines of the current school day. A longer day costs more money, and you have to pay people to be there."

Kelley said the governor would better serve underperforming schools by addressing the rapid turnover among the state's newest teachers, who she said lack the support necessary to foster longevity among classroom educators.

State Senator Robert A. Antonioni, Democrat of Leominster and cochairman of the Legislature's Joint Education Committee, said he liked much of what he heard in Romney's address, but expressed surprise that Romney laid out no specific plan to address inequities in school funding.

"I think Hancock is very much an issue, and we ignore it at our peril," Antononi said, referring to the funding lawsuit. "But Hancock is not just about new money, it's about additional accountability and the way we direct funding, particularly in our underperforming schools."

Antonioni and Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty, Democrat of Chelsea, have filed a bill that would allow school districts that rank lowest in MCAS scores to spend more on charter schools: 20 percent of their budgets, up from the current cap of 9 percent.

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