Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Monday, October 18, 1999


The Best Legislature Money Can Buy is again exposed for the fraud it is, plying its scams on weary taxpayers while as usual feathering its own nest.

What more can I possibly add today?

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Chip Ford

Had enough yet?

If you haven't requested your petition package yet, you've got only 30 days left before the absolute deadline! Click below while you still have time to save yourself from rapacious greed and limitless self-interest -- or you have nobody to blame but yourself!

Get your petition package -- while there is still time!

As always, thanks to those of you already with us who are out there practicing the only means of political self-defense remaining, collecting signatures for the initiative petition process.


The Boston Sunday Globe
October 17, 1999


Lawmakers' Pay Raises Going Strong

The infamous 1994 deal between the Democratic legislative leadership and then-Governor William F. Weld that guaranteed the lawmakers a better than 50 percent pay raise is broken. But no one is demanding a legislative paycut. Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran agreed last week on a $20.8 billion budget plan that includes a freeze on the capital gains tax phaseout. Back in late 1994, during a lameduck legislative session, Weld cut a secret deal with House and Senate leaders in which he would sign the payhike package if they sent him a capital gains tax cut bill to sign. By the time the deal became clear, Weld, then-Senate President William Bulger, and then-Speaker Charles Flaherty had flown on a junket to Ireland. They denied there was a direct quid pro quo -- but sources have confirmed that there was indeed a wink and nod.

The Boston Globe
Monday, October 18, 1999

Our year-round, do-nothing Legislature
By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist

It was worth the wait, worth double the wait, worth triple the wait.

- House Speaker Thomas Finneran,
on his budget deal with Senate President Thomas Birmingham

By the time the Massachusetts Legislature passes a budget for fiscal year 2000, fiscal year 2000 -- which began on July 1 -- will be one-third over. The governor submitted a budget proposal in January; that gave the House and Senate more than six months to finalize a spending bill before the old year ran out. In the real world, people get fired for blowing off important deadlines and letting crucial assignments go undone. In the State House, they don't even get embarrassed.

And they certainly don't get worried. The Legislature's 200 senators and representatives know that they have absolutely nothing to fear. Their paychecks aren't going to be docked. They aren't  going to lose their expenses and per diems. Their "leadership" bonuses aren't going to be withheld. Most of them aren't even going to be challenged when they run for reelection.

Pay your taxes four months late, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will smack you with penalties, interest, and some pretty dire threats. Ignore the deadlines set by your mortgage company, and your credit rating will go down the drain. But if you sit in the Massachusetts General Court and the budget is 110 days overdue, nothing in the least will befall you.

In 49 states of the union, fiscal 2000 budgets have been signed and sealed. Only in Massachusetts is the Legislature incapable of doing its most significant job. For months Thomas Finneran and Thomas Birmingham -- the House speaker and Senate president -- put on a show of meeting daily on a State House balcony to reconcile the differences between the bloated budget passed by the Senate and the bloated budget passed by the House. And in the end they reconciled nothing. They simply agreed to include everything.

Tommy One wanted another pile of money for education "reform;" he got it. Tommy Two wanted a new way of financing the MBTA; he got it. A new trust fund to hoard the state's share of the tobacco settlement? That's in there. A slush fund to reward schools whose students flunk the MCAS? That's in there, too. About the only thing that's not in there is meaningful tax relief. he two Tommys agreed to slo-o-owly lower the state income tax rate by a whopping two-tenths of 1 percent. Such munificence! When fully phased in, this tax cut will save a typical family of four less than $5 a month.

This, Finneran has the effrontery to declare, "was worth the wait." And the farce isn't over yet. A final budget still hasn't been reduced to writing or voted on by the House and Senate. But Finneran and Birmingham have accomplished one thing. They have made it clear beyond cavil that no one in the Legislature, save the two of them, has the slightest influence or authority over anything state government does. While the House speaker and the Senate president were performing their balcony act, the other 39 senators and 159 representatives sat around doing nothing. The dirty little secret of the Massachusetts Legislature is that two men make every decision. Everyone else is for show, extras to impress the tourists.

And it's a show that never closes. In the great majority of states, legislatures convene for only a few months out of the year -- in some states, for only a few months every other year. In only a very few states, Massachusetts prominent among them, does the legislature stay in session year-round. And what do we get from our full-time solons? One of the highest tax burdens in the United States, budgets that grow more obese by the year, a contemptuous disrespect for grassroots reformers, and a reelection-at-all-costs mindset that has made it all but impossible to defeat an incumbent at the polls.

In more than 25 states, lawmakers sit for no more than 90 days a year. In those states, most of them better governed than this one, budget negotiations don't drag on for months without end. Legislators don't succumb to the delusion that their presence is required year-round. They convene, debate, vote, and go home. It might astonish Beacon Hill to know that in those states, the sun continues to rise in the East and set in the West even after the legislature has adjourned.

It has taken longer to agree on a spending document for the coming fiscal year than it took the delegates to the Philadelphia convention in 1787 to draft the US Constitution. The message sent by Finneran and Birmingham is not that the budget is so important to them that they are taking pains to get it exactly right, but that it is so unimportant that they couldn't be bothered to get it done on time.

In the private sphere, failure to perform comes with a price. If it came with a price in the legislative sphere -- if, for example, each member of the General Court were fined $50 for every day a budget was delayed -- budgets would never be delayed. But the House and Senate -- which is to say, the House speaker and Senate president -- will never consent to live by the same standards we mortals must adhere to. They will continue in their arrogance. And we will go on thinking them incompetent.

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His e-mail address is

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