CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Thursday, February 10, 2005

Government's constant expansion of itself


The decade-long conservative leaning of the House appears to have come to an end under the leadership of Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and it's a change that's not being embraced by some Greater Lowell lawmakers.

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is in charge of most committees....

DeLeo told the Statehouse News Service that he does not support an income-tax rollback in the state's current fiscal condition.

In 2000, voters statewide decided overwhelmingly to roll back the income tax from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. The Legislature, however, has frozen the decrease at 5.3 percent, against Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's wishes.

Barbara Anderson, of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said the liberal slant won't be a big factor in resolving the income-tax issue. The prospect of the Legislature taking any action is remote, she said.

"The speaker picks the chairs who agree with him," Anderson said.

The Lowell Sun
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
House shift raises fears
Some say move to left may bring more spending


In the last few weeks, pay raises have been a focal point of conversation and legislation on Beacon Hill.

For elected officials, that is.

All 200 lawmakers received a 4.1 percent boost in their base salary Jan. 1, due to a constitutional amendment that ties their pay to fluctuations in median household income. And more than half got a second boost this week when they were appointed to leadership positions with retroactive annual pay increases of between $7,500 and $15,000.

Late last week, Gov. Mitt Romney proposed legislation that would give raises to the state treasurer, auditor, secretary of state, attorney general and the eight members of the Governor's Council. Romney recommended the raise last Friday afternoon, saying their last raise was in 2000.

And there's a push brewing to raise the pay of legislative staff....

As of January, the base pay for lawmakers is $55,569. Stanley's bill would entitle the legislative aide of each House member to "compensation of not less than 65 percent of the base pay for members of the General Court." If the bill is approved this year, 160 aides would be eligible for a raise of up to $6,600 each, elevating their total base salary to $36,119. The raise would cost the state just over $1 million....

In the Upper Chamber, Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) said he plans to include money in the fiscal 2006 budget to give all Senate staff a pay hike.

"They have been asked to forego any raise for the last few years," he said. "We haven't restored any of the cutbacks we made in the Senate, but we've started talking about it, and with the governor talking about revenues coming in and a brighter economic picture, I think it's time." ...

In addition to lawmakers and constitutional officers, the state's judges have also pushed for a pay raise. In January, reports surfaced that 370 state judges were seeking a 30 percent pay hike this year that would have cost the state $13 million for the first year.

State House News Service
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Legislative aides may be the next in line
for raises on Beacon Hill


Barbara Anderson's CLT  Commentary

For those concerned about the new House leadership and wondering if we were better off with Finneran, a reminder from Barbara follows:

Finneran's lifetime rating was the same as DeMasi's (average for Finneran, 24 percent; for DiMasi, 26 percent). Members of the leadership teams, then Finneranís, now DiMasiís, voted to kill the rollback and keep it dead, create a pharmacy tax and nursing home tax, oppose highway department mergers, deal with the Gov's accusations of patronage in the Boston courts by doing more of it, increase the capital gains tax (going back on the capital gains tax agreement with the business community from which in return they got their 55 percent legislative pay raise in 1994). Finneran quickly created a deceptive constitutional amendment for regular legislative pay raises that he sold as a way to prevent legislators from even again voting for their own; when it passed they didn't ever again need to. Of course, thanks to the Gov., Finneran didn't get away with a later provision letting him give his supporters new chairmen and extra pay whenever the Speaker wanted; DiMasi still had to go the regular route past the governor for his new positions and raises.

Those who disagreed with Finneran on the rollback, like Harriet Stanley, lost their chairmanship. But Finneran's reputation allowed him to get away with it, and with threatening Prop 2Ĺ, and sneaking through legislation to make overrides easier on a voice vote during informal sessions, etc. Now we all know what we are dealing with. It will no longer be, "CLT, you must be wrong, because that great fiscal conservative Tom Finneran, says you are, and we all know he is a great fiscal conservative because he says so." Admittedly, it could sound convincing -- because he probably believed it!

Don't confuse opposition to gay marriage with concern for taxpayers -- and don't forget that the leadership team is completely irrelevant. Liberals or just pols, they do what they're told by either Finneran or DiMasi or whoever's in charge. Did I mention that Speaker DiMasi had the same lifetime rating with CLT as Finneran?

I am not concerned that the new team is unabashed liberals. I think the real liberal agenda is unpopular, even in Massachusetts. This is why they now call themselves ďprogressives,Ē to hide what they are. So now itís out there, maybe we can get some votes for opponents in a future election. Also, we should note that we owe some Massachusetts liberals for the fact that George Bush and not John Kerry is our president.

The only thing that matters here is a Governor with a veto. Iím more concerned about the recent Boston Globe poll which showed that voters, though they like Romney, want ďa change.Ē What is that about?


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Of course one of if not the first orders of business-as-usual in the Legislature's 2005 session agenda is fattening their wallets and those of their brethren in state employ at taxpayers' expense. As I noted back in December, the scheme goes like this:

Any pay raise for any public sector group is "good." It creates a higher base from which all other government salaries are compared. Each sector supports the other's financial advancement, knowing the bar has then been lifted and their anticipated benefit is only a matter of time.

In my Updates commentary of Dec. 7, 2004 ("On Bacon Hill it's called 'income equity'") I wrote:

And look at the state employees' union gearing up for their usual strategy:

"Everywhere I know of, the administration is putting zeroes on the table for pay hikes," said David Holway, president of the National Association of Government Employees, SEIU Local 5000. He said his union nonetheless supports the pay hike for lawmakers.

Of course the union does. Once lawmakers get theirs, the unions will be storming the State House demanding mere income equity -- and how do you suppose The Best Legislature Money Can Buy will respond to their campaign benefactors? Hey, it's not their money.

When 30 percent judicial pay hikes were proposed, the Boston Globe reported on Jan. 3:

Representative Eugene O'Flaherty, the House chairman of the joint judiciary committee and a cosponsor of the [judicial] pay-raise bill, said he recognizes that he will have a tough task of winning its approval in the face of the budget problems. He also concedes that if his colleagues approve the raise, many would then feel huge pressure to raise other state workers' salaries. "It would open a whole can of worms," said a top aide to a legislative leader. 

Recall Charles D. Chieppo's column in the Boston Herald on Jan. 24, "When unions fail children," in which he noted:

About 90 percent of Massachusetts state employees are unionized, compared to 35 percent of state employees across the country....

From 2000, the last year before the most recent recession, to 2003, total private sector wages in Massachusetts actually decreased. But state and local government employees had a very different experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that their wages grew by nearly 12 percent, and a 2003 BLS report found that public employee wages in eastern Massachusetts were also 12 percent higher than those of private employees doing comparable jobs.

This is simply how it works up on Bacon Hill, a good part of how the state budget constantly creeps upward. It's how municipal budgets enlarge as well, why property taxes are skyrocketing. This is the public sector compensation cycle, until everybody's "gets theirs." Then it begins anew.

It's why the state allegedly "can't afford" to honor the voters' decision and roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent as they mandated in their 59-41 percent vote.

More  Is  Never  Enough -- M-I-N-E.

The government's got more of our money than it needs and the Legislature is not going to part with it without a fight. To give it back is to lose all that free cash and political capital to toss around.

Chip Ford


The Lowell Sun
Wednesday, February 9, 2005

House shift raises fears
Some say move to left may bring more spending
By Jennifer Fenn, Sun Statehouse Bureau

The decade-long conservative leaning of the House appears to have come to an end under the leadership of Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and it's a change that's not being embraced by some Greater Lowell lawmakers.

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is in charge of most committees.

House members said they knew the change was coming -- they just hope it won't spell bad news for taxpayers, who have grown accustomed to the frugal spending of former House Speaker Thomas Finneran.

"I think the House will take a turn to the left, and some of us will have to do something about that," said Rep. William Greene, D-Billerica.

Greene was among a handful of conservative Democrats who lost chairmanships in DiMasi's leadership shakeup.

Some legislators, however, are looking forward to the change. They said a shift in priorities -- one that will mean more financial resources for education, the elderly and public health -- will do the state good.

Others said the House agenda is simply becoming more representative of its 160 members, something that wasn't the case under Finneran.

"Tom Finneran was very conservative socially and fiscally, and I think the body is not that conservative and is more moderate, and I hope that will change," said Rep. James Eldridge, D-Acton. 

Rep. James Miceli, D-Wilmington, said there has never been a question that DiMasi is more liberal than Finneran. The House will likely reflect that difference, he said.

Miceli said when he and DiMasi served together on the Ways and Means Committee years ago, DiMasi often sought more money for the elderly. 

"I would've liked Finneran to be a little more liberal when it comes to more support in the areas of home care and health care and elderly affairs," Miceli said. "Tom Finneran probably has a stack of memos from me that said more should be done. Under this leadership, you're going to see that."

Miceli said if DiMasi had a choice between stashing money in a rainy-day fund or spending it on the elderly, he'd likely pick the latter.

It was Finneran's disciplined financial stewardship that helped build the state's reserve funds to nearly $3 billion just as the recession hit in 2001. The money was used to soften the economic downturn.

Not only is DiMasi less conservative than Finneran, but his leadership team reflects it. While many so-called progressive lawmakers were banished to low-level committees during Finneran's tenure, DiMasi appointed several to lead committees. 

DiMasi chose Rep. Robert DeLeo of Winthrop to serve as his top budget writer as chairman of Ways and Means.

DeLeo has said his legislative priorities include the mentally retarded, senior citizens and education. He said those issues remain crucial concerns.

DeLeo voted against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; supported legislation allowing slot machines at the state's four race tracks; opposed a moratorium on charter schools; and opposed a primary seat-belt law. DeLeo told the Statehouse News Service that he does not support an income-tax rollback in the state's current fiscal condition.

In 2000, voters statewide decided overwhelmingly to roll back the income tax from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. The Legislature, however, has frozen the decrease at 5.3 percent, against Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's wishes.

Barbara Anderson, of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said the liberal slant won't be a big factor in resolving the income-tax issue. The prospect of the Legislature taking any action is remote, she said.

"The speaker picks the chairs who agree with him," Anderson said.

DiMasi said he assigned lawmakers to positions based on expertise, geography and requests. He said he doesn't like labeling lawmakers based on ideology.

"They are accomplished, qualified people who I think can do a very good job in the subject matter of the committee I appointed them in," DiMasi said. "Whatever your leanings are, when you have a responsibility as a chair to make those kinds of decisions, I think you give people an opportunity to make those choices within a committee, not based on their ideology."

Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton, worries that a more liberal House will mean more spending and a more relaxed approach to social issues. He said it's a change that won't play out well in his part of the state, where three of his five communities voted for President Bush over Sen. John Kerry in November.

"My people are not prone to paying big taxes," Hargraves said. "Finneran kept a tight rein on fiscal policy and conservative values and it's going to be relaxed in both areas."

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State House News Service
Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Legislative aides may be the next in line
for raises on Beacon Hill
By Cyndi Roy


In the last few weeks, pay raises have been a focal point of conversation and legislation on Beacon Hill.

For elected officials, that is.

All 200 lawmakers received a 4.1 percent boost in their base salary Jan. 1, due to a constitutional amendment that ties their pay to fluctuations in median household income. And more than half got a second boost this week when they were appointed to leadership positions with retroactive annual pay increases of between $7,500 and $15,000.

Late last week, Gov. Mitt Romney proposed legislation that would give raises to the state treasurer, auditor, secretary of state, attorney general and the eight members of the Governor's Council. Romney recommended the raise last Friday afternoon, saying their last raise was in 2000.

And there's a push brewing to raise the pay of legislative staff.

Legislation pending in the House boosts the pay of legislative aides by 22 percent this year, and ties their salaries to the base pay for lawmakers. Rep. Harriett Stanley (D-West Newbury), the bill's sponsor, says House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi has assured her he is examining an overhaul of the current pay system.

"They haven't had a raise since July 2000, and we have had three or four since then," Stanley said. "If we can fund golf courses and swimming pools, then I think it's high time we turn some of those funds over to the people who do the work here."

As of January, the base pay for lawmakers is $55,569. Stanley's bill would entitle the legislative aide of each House member to "compensation of not less than 65 percent of the base pay for members of the General Court." If the bill is approved this year, 160 aides would be eligible for a raise of up to $6,600 each, elevating their total base salary to $36,119. The raise would cost the state just over $1 million.

Stanley's bill, which 82 lawmakers have signed onto as cosponsors, would not affect other House staffers, including committee researchers, administrative aides, clerks, or court officers. The pay of those staffers is being worked out by Speaker DiMasi this month, she said.

A spokeswoman for DiMasi confirmed he is examining staff pay levels, but could not say what he is considering or when he would announce a decision. "The speaker is aware that salaries for legislative aides have not been adjusted since 2000,"said Kimberly Haberlin. "He is looking into the issue but there is no set timetable for what course of action he might take to address it."

In his farewell speech to the House in September, former Speaker Thomas Finneran said he had been unable to give raises to aides since the economy entered a recession in 2001. With revenues improving in his final months of tenure, he urged DiMasi to reward the legislative staff.

"Sal if you don't do something about that real quick - shame on you," he said.

In the Upper Chamber, Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) said he plans to include money in the fiscal 2006 budget to give all Senate staff a pay hike.

"They have been asked to forego any raise for the last few years," he said. "We haven't restored any of the cutbacks we made in the Senate, but we've started talking about it, and with the governor talking about revenues coming in and a brighter economic picture, I think it's time."

Though he does not have a detailed plan, Moore said he will likely propose a 5 percent increase across the board, which he estimated would cost the state about $500,000. He proposed a similar amendment during budget negotiations last year, but withdrew it.

Sen. Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said it is too early to say whether such a request would be approved this year.

"Do they deserve a raise?" she said. "Yes, but that's not a question I can answer right now."

In addition to lawmakers and constitutional officers, the state's judges have also pushed for a pay raise. In January, reports surfaced that 370 state judges were seeking a 30 percent pay hike this year that would have cost the state $13 million for the first year.

"Everybody deserves a pay raise," Romney said in January, when asked about the proposed judicial pay raises. "The question is how much ... In my view, people who work in public service shouldn't get a better deal than people who work in the private sector. Nor should they get a worse deal."

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