Their Worthless Words Exposed

"If our word is not good in this building, then what is?"

House Ways and Means Vice Chair
Harriett L. Stanley (D-West Newbury)

"Activists cry foul over state budget"
The Boston Globe
Apr. 8, 2000

She has got to be joking ... doesn't she? Is she just fooling herself? Can she possibly be that stupid? Does she possibly think we are?

I hope she read yesterday's Eagle-Tribune editorial [below]; it might wake her up, at least inform her that she can't fool all the people all the time!

The anti-smoking zealots are miffed because they're only going to get $45 million for "tobacco-control efforts" and most of that money comes from sources other than tobacco-settlement revenue. (Last year, the state cigarette tax alone raked in $284 million.)

We taxpayers will be getting not one cent of our supposed "taxpayer reimbursement for past Medicaid costs" ... and the zealots are complaining that they can't squander millions more of it on advertising that "smoking is bad for you"!

The greedy hand of the teachers union is reaching into our pockets again. The Massachusetts Teachers Association is back pushing for its early retirement scheme. The State House News Service reports [below]: "Teachers-union lobbyists have been in the State House almost every day for the last week or so, and the scuttlebutt holds that the package will be taken up in the House this week, either in the form of legislation or via amendment to the budget."

The selfish teachers union no doubt is only doing it "for the children."

The State House News Service reports that the feeding frenzy on Bacon Hill is in high gear and smoking. Every special interest has its hand out and reaching for our tax rollback dollars before they can be returned. If the pols can crank up the spending fast enough, then they'll cry poor-mouth and insist the state "can't afford" to roll back the tax rate.

Naturally, they'll leave out the part about doubling state spending over just the past dozen years and squandering our over-taxation surplus year after year ... as they raise fees and taxes ever higher for the latest inevitable "unexpected new crisis."

There's even a proposal to change the automatic tax cut trigger (even after the pols have raised the ceiling of the rainy day fund twice in recent years to avoid that trigger, which increases the personal exemption!) to "give tax officials more discretion in determining if a tax cut was affordable."

They have proved that as long as our money is on their table, they simply cannot resist spending every cent of it. That is just their nature.

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

The Eagle-Tribune

Lawrence, Mass.
Friday, April 7, 2000

Forked tongues speak on Beacon Hill


Why does a "temporary" tax last longer than
a "lifetime" auto registration?

Massachusetts legislators should be the ones taking the MCAS tests next week, not fourth-graders.

The lawmakers don't know the meaning of such fourth-grade-level words as "lifetime" and "temporary."

To them, "lifetime" means "here today, gone tomorrow."

"Temporary" means "as long as we can get away with it."

At least those are their definitions judging from the latest scheme to let you keep less of your money and the state keep more.

With Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's tacit blessing, lawmakers are quickly moving to do away with the "lifetime" auto registrations that were supposed to save the state's drivers millions of dollars in fees.

They said they had to do it to raise money to pay for a cost "overrun" on the "Big Dig" project that now appears likely to exceed $2 billion. (Statehouse definition of "overrun: "The part we weren't telling you about.")

This is the project, incidentally, that Gov. Cellucci says has been "well-managed." ("Close enough for government work.")

Meanwhile, these same lawmakers have their jaws clamped like pit bulls on your wallet, gnashing their teeth over an attempt to roll back a "temporary" state income tax hike.

The income tax rate was raised from 5 percent to 5.95 percent as a short-term response to a "budget crisis" ("spending binge").

When it was first enacted in 1989, we were told the temporary hike would last 18 months. The blessed event turns 11 this year.

A citizens group has mounted an initiative petition campaign to finally repeal the temporary increase.

History is repeating itself here. The state imposed a "temporary" tax hike in 1975 to solve an earlier "crisis." It took 11 years and another petition campaign to kill it.

You can be sure that state lawmakers will decry the latest tax-cut effort as "risky."

Just remember, these people have trouble with the meaning of simple words. They think "lifetime" auto registrations should expire before "temporary" tax hikes.

They need to brush up on their vocabulary, starting with the word "honesty."

State House News Service
ADVANCES (Week of April 10, 2000)

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON: Despite all the bad news about the Big Dig, it may be that an abundance of good news is creating just as many problems for state government....

On the eve of legislative debate over a $21.7 billion budget, all sides are readying for battle over whether it is more prudent to use excess dollars to cut taxes or to pay for capital projects like the Dig -- and whether it makes sense to grow the state budget by another billion dollars.

While House leaders this week will try to convince their colleagues to hold the line on any additions to the budget crafted by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth), those representatives have already shown signs they are in a spending mood.

Last week, they filed 1,433 amendments to the budget that will be debated on the House floor beginning at 10 am Monday. In addition to the 'good times' reflected in the economy, this is an election year. Even if they know most amendments will go nowhere, members like to show constituents back home that they have their interests at heart, whether it's a financial boost for the local hospital, a new library or a neighborhood bike path.

MAJOR BUDGET ISSUES: Even before House members start tacking more spending amendments, the bottom line of the Ways and Means budget is 7.5 percent higher than the post-veto-override fiscal 2000 appropriation. That rate of growth isn't as high as the double-digit increases of the 1980s, but it's faster than the spending growth of the 1990s -- a cause for some concern if past can be considered prologue, says Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer.

"It will be important not to add appreciably to the bottom line," he said. "Given the combination of Central Artery cost overruns, health cost pressures, a slowing economy and an uncertain stock market, it's important to resist the temptation to add expensive new programs to the operating budget."

Fiscal watchdogs are especially concerned about two policy initiatives expected to crop up this week -- early retirement for teachers and an expanded senior pharmacy program.

The teacher retirement piece very nearly made it through the budget process last year, and is back in the form of legislation this year. Teachers-union lobbyists have been in the State House almost every day for the last week or so, and the scuttlebutt holds that the package will be taken up in the House this week, either in the form of legislation or via amendment to the budget. [According to an Administration and Finance report, this legislation will cost the state $50 to $70 million annually to cover the cost of the enhanced retirement benefits and diminish much of the progress made in funding the unfunded pension liability of the Commonwealth.]

The senior pharmacy piece, which is being submitted in the form of an amendment, was just announced last week by Speaker Finneran and Senate President Birmingham. The House intends the program, which would encompass all 860,000 senior citizens in the state, as a replacement for last year's Senate-sponsored senior pharmacy initiatives. The Senate is sending strong signals that it sees the new program as a supplement. Either way, Widmer said both the senior pharmacy plan and the teacher retirement package involve "significant long-term cost issues that, if approved, are a cause of serious concern."

TOBACCO: Anti-tobacco activists are in a fizz about what they call a House Ways and Means "raid" on tobacco control money. Under last year's agreement on how to spend Massachusetts' $8.3 billion share of the 46-state master settlement with the tobacco industry, 70 percent of the yearly tobacco money installments will be placed into a trust fund and the other 30 percent will be available for immediate spending....

WELFARE: Welfare activists were surprised and pleased that the House budget contains two of what they thought were long-shot priorities -- a 10 percent cost of living adjustment for welfare recipients, and a provision allowing recipients to count 10 hours of education or training toward their 20 hour-per-week work requirements. But activists aren't totally satisfied....

ED AMENDMENTS: While special education is expected to garner the most debate, perhaps in the entire House budget process, look for a slew of education-related amendments. Floor proposals are floating around to boost overall Chapter 70 education reform funding, and to begin tinkering with the distribution formula, now that the original seven-year mechanism has expired. Suburban communities with booming enrollments, in particular, will be looking for more money....

HOUSING: Advocates for public housing dollars have three key amendments ready for this week. The first calls for a $35 million expenditure to rescue between 800 and 900 units of so-called "expiring use" housing. The privately owned but publicly subsidized housing is located in 53 cities and towns. The problem is that private landlords are paying off their federal mortgages early, then converting the affordable units to market rate rents. The second amendment adds $10 million for a pilot program under the Massachusetts Housing Partnership and the third would direct that $8 million in federal funds be used for homeless prevention....

TAXES: House Taxation Committee Chairman John Rogers (D-Norwood) will be offering amendments altering the implementation of the triggered tax cuts in the budget. The tax cuts are only supposed to go into effect if the economy is strong. But his staff has discovered that using the proposed standards, such tax cuts would have gone into effect in 1989 and 1990 -- just as legislators had to hike the income taxes to cover budget shortfalls. Rogers' amendments would give tax officials more discretion in determining if a tax cut was affordable by factoring unemployment data into the formula.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, April 8, 2000

Activists cry foul over state budget
By Michael Crowley, Globe Staff

In the latest skirmish over how Massachusetts should spend the money it is receiving from a huge tobacco lawsuit settlement, antitobacco activists are accusing House leaders of undercutting programs that warn people about the hazards of smoking.

The House budget plan, which will be debated next week, would divert $10 million in antismoking money to fund school nurses statewide. But activists say that money had been earmarked for other programs, such as public-service advertisements that seek to jolt current and would-be smokers by featuring gravely ill victims of smoking-related diseases.

More than 50 House members have signed on to an amendment to spend the $10 million on the antismoking campaign. They say the current plan breaks an agreement Beacon Hill leaders reached in November on how to allocate tobacco lawsuit funds. Massachusetts expects $8.2 billion over 25 years from the settlement of a multistate lawsuit against the tobacco industry....

[House Ways and Means Chairman Paul] Haley added that his budget spends a total of $45 million, not counting the school-nurse program, for tobacco-control efforts. Most of that money comes from sources other than tobacco-settlement revenue....

Legislators interviewed yesterday said they intended to fight hard for the amendment, which would preserve the funding for school nurses but require that it come from tobacco-settlement money not earmarked for antismoking programs.

"I will certainly be arguing pretty strenuously on its behalf," said House Ways and Means Vice Chair Harriett L. Stanley, Democrat of West Newbury. "And if our word is not good in this building, then what is?"

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