Limited Taxation & Government
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CLT&G Update
Sunday, August 2, 1998

Another "dog-bites-man" story: the Legislature pulled another "suspend - the - rules - and - pass - the - pork - when - nobody's - looking - late - at - night" feeding frenzy. They've got our money, and they're spending it fast.

"Massachusetts Miracle II" is well underway.

If you remember, in the mid-'80s the economy was terrific, unemployment was low, property values were high, revenues were pouring in . . .

. . . and the pols were spending it on every hair-brained pork-barrel project they could think up, creating and expanding "programs" and payrolls, handing themselves pay raises. Times were good.

Then came the economic downturn quickly followed by the Dukakis fiscal meltdown crisis.

Still, all the new pork and new and expanded programs had to continue being funded in the style to which they'd become accustomed. So along came the "temporary" income tax rate increase to float the billion-dollar bonds needed to bail-out the state and carry it through hard times.

Today, the hard times are behind us -- they've never been better -- the crisis bonds have been paid off in full, but our tax over-payments continue, creating $1 billion-plus in excess tax revenue. And again:

"The pols are spending it on every hair-brained pork-barrel project they can think up, creating and expanding 'programs' and payrolls, handing themselves pay raises." Times are good once again:

"the economy is terrific, unemployment is low, property values are high, and revenues are pouring in."

We know what comes next (see above). Been there, done that. And when our taxes need to be raised to again bail out their mismanagement, this time "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy" will start raising our tax rate from the still-5.95 percent base.

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Chip Ford --

The Boston Herald
Saturday, August 1, 1998
Page One

State pols roll out pork barrel

As the final hours of the legislative session ticked away, Beacon Hill lawmakers last night went on a $395 million spending spree, spreading money around for pet projects from a Fall River battleship to an ice rink on trendy Nantucket Island.

The capital spending bill includes $500,000 to study lobsters in Boston Harbor, $2 million to build the Nantucket public ice rink, $1.3 million to fix up the Big E exhibition hall in Springfield and $10 million to restore the Battleship Massachusetts, berthed in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norton (D-Fall River.)

"All these projects have merit from the point of view of people in the community," said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

Rosenberg said that by paying up front for the projects, the state will avoid future borrowing costs. "Since we have some cash, it seems a good way to spend the cash," he said.

Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci -- who has been chided by his GOP rival Joseph D. Malone for "Mike Dukakis-style" splurging -- vowed to veto many of the projects, calling them wasteful and declaring more money should be returned to taxpayers.

"The Legislature has spent too much and it's gotten out of control," Cellucci said. "It's not the government's money, it's the taxpayers' money."

Last night's legislative spending frenzy included $2.2 million for an Amherst community center, $500,000 for a weed harvester for the city of Springfield, $200,000 for a bathhouse in Nahant, $190,000 for a bacterial colony counter at the Sen. Willam X. Wall Experiment Station in Lawrence, $180,000 for a playground in Revere, $40,000 to restore the Saugus Town Hall mural and $25,000 for lighting and staging at the Cape Cod Symphony in Barnstable.

Cellucci has 10 days to decide which capital projects to cut.

While legislators agreed to fund the more than 50 capital projects, they failed to reach consensus on a key consumer measure: a bill imposing state oversight over health maintenance organizations.

Legislative leaders announced about 9 p.m. they could not iron out differences between the tougher Senate bill, which would have permitted patients to appeal HMO care decisions, and a weaker House bill.

The leaders pledged to continue meeting on the bill through the summer, but advocates feared HMO reform is dead for this year.

"It's not going anywhere," said state Sen. Lois Pines (D-Newton), who said HMOs and insurance companies aggressively lobbied legislators to stall the bill.

Cellucci had pledged to sign an HMO reform bill.

Late last night, lawmakers were quickly overriding more than half of the $100 million in spending Cellucci vetoed in the $19.5 billion budget for next year. The spending legislators restored included $40 million in health insurance costs for state workers and $9 million in worker retraining programs.

As the midnight deadline neared, legislators also passed a $50 million tax cut for Massachusetts-based insurance companies.

Lawmakers were set to approve a number of measures that Cellucci has pledged to sign, including:

  • A bill making it more difficult for 16-and 17-year-olds to obtain drivers' licenses and further restricting the hours they can drive.

  • A bill designed to redevelop "brownfields" or polluted industrial sites by providing $50 million in financial incentives to private businesses.

  • A bill to strengthen the state's sex offender registry, by providing money for staff and computer tracking of sexual predators. The bill also permits district attorneys to exempt sex offenders convicted of minor charges from the registration requirements.

  • A proposal to put $60 million into attracting and keeping top-notch teachers by offering them bonuses from $5,000 to $20,000.

  • A $200 million income tax giveback for tax year 1998, which will save the average person $50.

The fate of other bills appeared uncertain, including a compromise measure designed to regulate HMOs and a minimum wage increase.

Others bills approved by the Senate were declared dead due to opposition from House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, including a ban on banks' ATM surcharges and the creation of 25-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics.

Cellucci yesterday defended his support for $7,500 and $15,000 legislative pay increases for Finneran's top lieutenants. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, a Democrat running for governor, has said Cellucci should block the pay hikes.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, August 1, 1998
Metro | Region

State legislators restore over $60 million in Cellucci vetoes
By Tina Cassidy and Adrian Walker
Globe Staff

Republicans and Democrats joined forces last night and raced to override Acting Governor Paul Cellucci's vetoes of dozens of pet projects. By their midnight deadline, the Legislature restored more than $60 million of the $100 million Cellucci had cut the previous day.

The House and Senate last night:

  • Overrode Cellucci's veto that would have increased state workers' share of health premiums from 15 percent to 25 percent of the total. The override restored $39 million in funding, keeping workers' share of premiums to the lower figure. This was the single largest line item Cellucci vetoed.

  • Also overrode Cellucci's second-largest line item cut -- a $9 million worker-training program.

  • Restored $6 million in funding to help those moving off welfare.

  • Restored a $585,482 appropriation for Metropolitan District Commission parks.

  • Restored $2.6 million to fund an expansion of the juvenile courts and overwhelmingly gave back more $2.9 million to community corrections programs.

  • Restored $337,000 in funding for Salem State College.

  • Restored $640,000 for the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

  • Restored $500,000 in business development and non-profit grants.

  • Restored $104,00 in emergency assistance for family shelters.

  • Restored $106,271 in funding for the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

Cellucci vetoed $100 million in legislative appropriations from the state's record $19.5 billion budget. He cut more than 200 items, including 40 studies and a range of earmarked government programs.

Cellucci also pledged to find another $290 million to slice from a capital spending plan heading his way.

But last night, the Legislature restored more than half of the spending he cut, with the rest of Cellucci's line-item reductions going into the state's rainy day fund -- not back to taxpayers as the acting governor had hoped.

Because lawmakers actually deliberated past midnight last night, Cellucci could technically challenge the legality of some of the vetos, legislators said.

The Boston Sunday Herald
August 2, 1998

Politics Inside Out
By Wayne Woodlief
Cellucci cuts in on Malone's act

Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci must be feeling Joe Malone's footsteps, even as Cellucci tries to pretend his challenger for the Republican nomination doesn't even exist. . . .

[ . . . ]

Malone will continue to "expose" Cellucci as part of a cynical "Beacon Hill party" of wheeler-dealers and big spenders -- not a true Republican.

Indeed, Cellucci's enemies hinted darkly that Cellucci struck a deal with House Speaker Tom Finneran and Senate President Tom Birmingham, both Democrats, on those line-item vetos.

This was the alleged deal:   Finneran gets $7,500 pay raises for his top aides and Birmingham gets his cockamamie $20,000 signing bonuses for new teachers, both without a veto. And the Democratic majority allows Cellucci to keep $60 million worth of his vetoes "as a fig leaf for looking tough," said an insider. The other $40 million, for insurance for state employees, would be overridden.

But, in fact, the Legislature overrode an additional $20 million. And, it approved $395 million in pork-barrel projects in a separate capitol budget. ...

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