The Boston Herald
Tuesday, December 28, 1999
Cellucci, Senate prez reignite bitter war of words
by Cosmo Macero Jr.
Breaking a month-long truce, Gov. Paul Cellucci and Senate President
Thomas F. Birmingham restarted their bitter political feud yesterday as Birmingham called
the governor's tax-cut crusade "reckless" and Cellucci dubbed the senate
president the leader of the "liberals' last stand."
The bruising battle over education spending also rose to the fore, as
Cellucci explained why he intends to blow off the Legislature en masse as part of his
strategy for the year 2000.
"This is the liberals' last stand," Cellucci said,
ridiculing lawmakers as the "do-nothing Legislature." "They're pushing for
more money ... and they frame the issue in motherhood and apple pie. 'If you vote against
this, you'll hurt the kids.'"
Cellucci was responding to a suggestion from Birmingham that
Massachusetts taxpayers be ready to spend between $200 million and $250 million on
education next year. And he was countering the Senate president's charge that a ballot
petition Cellucci is leading to roll the state's income tax back to 5 percent is
"reckless" and "not the most noble course to pursue."
"The last time, (Birmingham) was talking about $100
million" for education, Cellucci said, adding that his budget for fiscal 2001 will
include about that much. "His solution to everything is to spend a lot more
But Birmingham said the governor, who is planning to reach out
directly to voters next year in a populist revival of his administration, hasn't been
listening to the pulse of the electorate.
"It's very healthy to go (outside the State House) and see
what's working and ... what's not working," Birmingham said. "I dare say had the
governor been doing this sort of thing this year, he'd have thought twice about vetoing
$94 million to fully fund public schools."
That veto was unanimously overridden in an embarrassing rebuke of
Cellucci, and it helped touch off a firestorm between the governor and Birmingham --
sinking both men low enough to challenge each other to lie detector tests over a dispute
of what was said in a private meeting.
The two buried the hatchet after Thanksgiving, but the stinging
rhetoric returned yesterday.
Birmingham said $100 million is merely the "bare minimum"
that Bay State schools need to build on the seven-year commitment of education reform. And
he called Cellucci's pitch for the tax cut "dishonest," saying the state can't
slash $1.5 billion in revenue and still adequately fund education, health care and other
"From my journeys around the state I hear very little demand for
a tax cut as aggressive as the governor proposes," said Birmingham, who is weighing a
gubernatorial run himself.
Still, as Cellucci prepares to plug himself in to a more direct vibe
with citizens, it appears the tax cut has strong voter approval.
Polls have shown that both the governor -- and a tax cut -- enjoy
high favorability ratings among voters.
Cellucci, meanwhile, suggested Birmingham hasn't been paying
attention since he and former Gov. William F. Weld first took office in 1991.
"This is what the liberals say all the time. They say you can't
set priorities and cut taxes at the same time," Cellucci said. "We've done it.
The liberals are pushing back. This is their last stand, and we're going to fight them all
Cellucci accused Birmingham of trying to score "political
points" by trumping the governor's office and the House on education spending, health
care and other initiatives.
"He basically threw money at education, and a lot of it won't be
spent on education," Cellucci said, defending the $94 million veto, which even his
fellow Republicans in the Legislature rejected. "People can see right through
While the governor's slap at the Legislature hit hardest against
Birmingham, Cellucci gave House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran a noticeable pass from his
harshest criticism, at one point praising the powerful House leader for his fiscal
"He's like the little boy with his thumb in the dike, trying to
hold (excessive spending) back," Cellucci said of Finneran.
Finneran responded in kind, calling Cellucci "a very popular
figure," praising his "good political judgment" in reaching "outside
Beacon Hill," and suggesting Birmingham went too far in calling the tax cut reckless.
"In theory it's very hard to quarrel with the governor's notion
of the lowest possible tax rate," Finneran said, cautioning that he prefers a
phased-in approach versus Cellucci's one-time reduction to 5 percent. "That's a goal
I share with the governor. Reckless might be a word that I wouldn't use. It's maybe a
little bit strong."
Still, the governor said both Finneran and Birmingham must share the
blame for a four-month budget delay which halted any meaningful legislative business.
"It's a do-nothing Legislature," Cellucci said, explaining
his year 2000 plans to push for a new Logan Airport runway and other priorities.
"While they are paralyzed I'm going to keep pushing my agenda."
Tuesday, December 28, 1999
Bay State awash in $$ for a rainy day
By Martin Finucane
BOSTON (AP) Just like the average person who sees an increase in his
or her paycheck, the state has been spending more and socking more away for a rainy day.
With tax dollars gushing in to state coffers because of the booming
economy, the state has now piled up mountains of money in trust funds that are meant to
help the state if times turn bad.
The state now has:
$1.8 billion raised through the unemployment insurance tax to pay for
unemployment benefits for laid-off workers;
$1.4 billion raised through general taxes in the state's "rainy
day" fund; and
$131 million in reserve funds in case the welfare caseload grows.
And the state will soon be filling up another trust fund, with 70
percent of the money flowing in annually from the state's $8 billion share of the national
"Not only do we have balanced budgets now, not only do we
maintain fiscal discipline, we have built up reserves," said Republican Gov. Paul
Cellucci. "These are significant cushions should there be an economic downturn,
should there be a significant shortfall unexpectedly of federal revenues."
"That's something we've worked very hard on and we are
well-protected," he said.
Both the rainy day fund and the unemployment fund were empty when
former Gov. William F. Weld and then-Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci took office in 1991.
Cellucci administration officials point with pride to a national
study from earlier this year that said Massachusetts was one of only eight states in the
nation that could weather a recession of the same length and severity as the recession of
the early 1990s.
The report, "When it Rains, it Pours," was issued by the Center for
Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, a liberal budget think tank in Washington.
Governments are faced with tough problems in recessions because tax
receipts decline just as the demand for services such as welfare or unemployment checks
increases. Rainy day funds are designed to get the state through those times.
Cellucci administration officials say that, beside being handy for
tough times, the trust funds show Wall Street that the state is in good financial shape
and could help get the state better bond ratings.
To anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson,
the existence of the trust funds is just more evidence that the state's taxes need to be
"They've got more money than they
need so they're trying to stash it in places where it will be if they ever come up with a
bright idea to spend it," she said.
Cellucci has joined Anderson in the drive for a $1.4 billion tax cut
proposal on the November ballot.
But Jim St. George, executive director of the liberal Tax Equity
Alliance, said it's the wrong time to pass a tax cut.
Taxes have already been slashed last year and this year by a total of
more than $1.3 billion, he said.
He also doubted whether the unemployment insurance trust fund had
enough money in it.
"The last thing anybody wants is a situation where people are
losing their jobs through no fault of their own and there's no money in the trust fund to
pay their benefits with," he said.
The Boston Herald
Monday, December 27, 1999
Populist appeals: How to make them
A Boston Herald editorial
So Paul Cellucci, a fairly popular governor if the polls are right,
plans to reinvent himself and his administration on "populist" lines next year.
Well, good luck to the governor. But please, spare us a Clintonian
"permanent campaign" and the pit-bull politics of personal destruction so often
the tactic of reflex in the White House.
It'll be essential that the governor remember that his adversaries,
however crafty and misguided, are not the embodiment of evil, and that he target their
policies and deeds, not their personalities (the major adversaries are interesting people
and would be so even if they had jobs in the dreaded private sector).
They say the governor is going to try to appeal to the people over
the head of the Legislature. To do that you have to get the people's attention.
The rollback of the state income tax rate to 5 percent via a vote of
the people in an initiative campaign Cellucci will lead is a pretty good way to start.
That's because this issue honestly can be cast in stark black-and-white terms.
The Legislature promised that the increase from 5 percent to 5.95
percent a decade ago was "temporary" to get the state through a true fiscal
crisis. This year they rolled the rate back to 5.75 percent. Failure to provide for
rolling it all the way back is simply a breaking of a promise, no matter what technical
objections today's legislative leaders trot out, and everybody can understand breaking
But where does the governor go from there?
Many of the frustrations of his administration are not the result of
ignorance or frivolity on the part of lawmakers or their leaders, or somebody's ambition
to be governor, or a desire on the part of Democrats to make a Republican in the corner
office look ineffective (though that last item certainly plays a part).
These frustrations are simply what happens when institutions
embracing many people have concrete interests as well as the political muscle to make life
difficult for people who would enact measures that make life uncomfortable for them. The
teachers' unions are good example. Of course members don't want to submit to competency
tests. And there are teachers in every legislative district. And most of them are held in
high personal regard in the community.
It takes more than sound bites and public appearances to overcome
opposition like that. It takes a major shift in public opinion, and it takes reliable
votes in the Legislature.
Bill Weld swept 14 Republican state senators into office in 1990,
enough to uphold his vetoes. Everything Cellucci does ought to be done with a view toward
eventually restoring his party's Senate delegation, now a sickly seven votes, to that