and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

A CLT Exercise in Futility

In good years there is rarely a systematic effort to evaluate programs from top to bottom to decide which make sense and which don't.

Instead, spending increases the way a fir tree grows: small, but noticeable expansions of each offshoot each spring. Last year's increase becomes part of this year's base, while this year's increase blends seamlessly into next year's base, with little real cost/benefit analysis.

That may not seem fiscally logical, but it makes eminent political sense. When there are no real consequences to spending more, but a constituency ready to holler at cuts, pruning simply isn't worth the political bother.

Excerpt from --
The silver lining in the fiscal cloud
By Scot Lehigh
The Boston Globe, Jan. 25, 2002


Whenever a taxpayer wants to keep some of his own money instead of handing it over to government to spend as it sees fit, he or she is asked “Where would you cut?” — as if we taxpayers must surrender it all unless in our spare time while not working to earn it we demonstrate that we can manage the government’s budget better than our “full time” Legislature does.  You may have noticed that the government is never concerned about where we taxpayers are going to cut in our own budgets when it takes more of our money.

We do not consider this a valid question and for many years have resisted, on principle, responding to it.  Lately we have referred to the analogy created by Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh about “the little fir tree that grew” (above), which is the simplest, yet best explanation for insatiable Big Government we’ve found.

As long as it is understood that we dispute our alleged responsibility to tell the government or our opponents where to cut before we can have a tax cut or stop a tax hike, we are happy to provide some ideas.

You will find this growing site chockfull of evident, even obvious, places to cut as we inform readers about waste, inefficiency, mismanagement, patronage, abuse of power and corruption — what at our office we accumulate in state, local and federal “WIMPAC” files.

But for the purpose of consolidation, CLT is providing this “Where would you cut?” section.  Here we will reproduce newspaper reports and columns, refer to studies, and otherwise provide obvious answers to that question.  They will provide simple, easy solutions that can immediately reduce government's profligate overspending, bloated budgets, and self-imposed “deficits.”

And when told that the total doesn’t add up to a particular tax cut, our response will continue to be:  “Get these done, then we’ll give you some more!”

(See footnote below.)

Available savings to date (2005), estimated total:

$2,304,808,000 ±

* estimated savings (below) is not added to the above running total.
** smaller amount is used to compute the above running total.
*** saving obvious but unknown


Click on the dates below for the full reports

Jun. 16, 2004

The Massachusetts court system has just hired 130 new court officers to beef up security around the state.... If people think this is a good move, they don't know anything about how the patronage system works in Massachusetts.

$5.2 million
Dec. 21, 2004

With some court buildings around the state crumbling, the Commonwealth is spending $150 million or more to reconstruct the Old Suffolk County Courthouse, with lavish quarters for the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court, including all new furnishings amid marble, mahogany, and meticulously restored millwork.

$110 million
Jan. 4, 2005

Massachusetts cities and towns often establish bank services agreements without written contracts, leaving them with higher fees and without protections afforded to larger customers, according to the results of a survey conducted by the state inspector general.

* Multi-millions
Jan. 14, 2005

"Why don't they finish that process before they come back to the taxpayers?" said Barbara Anderson, who heads Citizens for Limited Taxation in Marblehead. "Harvard degrees can't figure out the direction the economy's headed, but the Legislature does. They're going to pick the winners and losers in technology. It's hilarious. The only thing you can do is laugh."

** $100 million-plus
Feb. 14, 2005

Despite years of reform attempts, the study indicates, some courts have as little as 60 percent of the assistant clerks, secretaries, and other support staff they need, while others -- including some of the most politically connected -- are overstaffed by nearly 50 percent.... "It's a major breakthrough," said retired Dorchester District Court Judge James Dolan, who coauthored a 2002 study that indicated that the courts spent more than $50 million on unnecessary patronage hires over a four-year period.

** $50 million-plus
Mar. 14, 2005

Not only are taxpayers and riders paying the full cost of health insurance for a number of healthy [MBTA] retirees, but we’re likely to continue doing so for a very long time, since many of them are in their 40s. If the T could charge retirees a reasonable 15 percent co-pay, it would save $4.9 million – nearly a third of this year’s budget deficit and about half of next year’s proposed shortfall.... Active MBTA employees don’t have it so bad either. Union workers only pay a 15 percent health insurance co-pay. State (as opposed to authority) employees pay on a sliding scale ranging from 15-25 percent depending on salary level. The 25 percent co-pay that is standard in the private sector would save the T $4.8 million.

** $9.7-million-plus
Mar. 25, 2005

Across the state, an untold number of workers are eligible to use part-time elected offices to sweeten their retirement pensions. The state does not calculate how many people are eligible for such benefits or how much it costs the state, but each year taxpayers cover shortfalls to the retirement system - this year to the tune of $1.2 billion.

Up to $1.2 billion
Mar. 26, 2005

Governor Mitt Romney and state lawmakers quietly approved a budget amendment last fall that saved a politically connected former state employee from having to pay $250,000 in damages for retaliating against a whistleblower.... In a little-noticed provision included in a supplemental spending bill and mentioning Smith by name, Romney and the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature provided that the state cover Smith's portion of the damages and his legal expenses, up to $1 million.

$250,000 - $1million
Mar. 26, 2005

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini recently proposed that Massachusetts spend $100 million to support embryonic stem cell research. This follows his introduction of a bill that explicitly legalizes such research in the Commonwealth. The legalization bill makes perfect sense; it ensures that everyone knows the rules regarding stem cell research. The spending bill, however, is bad policy.

$100 million
Mar. 31, 2005

The state plans to investigate billions worth of school building construction across the state for budgets far beyond the amounts the state originally approved and extravagant spending on routine items.... The state plans to audit more than 600 school projects that have been in line for money since 1989. State officials don't have a dollar amount for the construction projects, but said those audited will be from a list of nearly 1,200 projects in the state worth at least $9.2 billion.... Besides looking at current projects, the authority also wants to scrutinize 728 completed projects, still due $5 billion from the state.

* $ millions - $billions
Apr. 2, 2005

Back Bay business leaders urged a state commission to keep the Hynes Convention Center open, arguing that the high-end shopping district around the facility could lose millions of dollars if the meeting center were sold.... The Hynes makes about $9.6 million in bookings revenues each year, forcing it to rely on about $6 million in state subsidies.... The authority soaks up about $17 million in state aid to operate the Hynes and the new South Boston facility ...

** $6 - $17 million
Apr. 3, 2005

It was another short day for [Angelo R. Buonopane, the state's director of the Department of Labor], the highly paid, highly connected appointee of Governor Mitt Romney. Buonopane's work days average two hours and 51 minutes, according to Globe reporters who observed him over a series of days during February and March. On many days he does not come in at all.... But the $108,000-a-year post has no obvious duties. Buonopane seldom comes to work for more than a few hours, and takes frequent vacations -- seven-and-a-half weeks last year, and three-and-a-half weeks in the first three months of this year.

Apr. 4, 2005

More than 300 top court managers had their pay boosted by millions of dollars under a job reclassification ... The director of the National Association of Government Employees, in tough contract negotiations with state court managers, charges the ... approach is a classic example of a patronage-heavy management system that looks out for its own.... In all, the hikes will cost about $4.5 million and lead to an average 14.5 percent pay increase over three years for top managers, the court said.... Those numbers don't include possible hikes next year.

** $4.5 - $5 million
May 1, 2005

But with teachers in at least 50 Greater Boston communities grabbing the benefit since the late 1990s and many of them stitching the extra dollars onto their state-subsidized pensions, the Commonwealth has been left -- to paraphrase a popular song -- trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup.... For fiscal watchdogs, asking state taxpayers to pay for bonuses they were not a party to at the local negotiating table is like sticking Joe Schmoe with a bill for a plasma TV that he didn't order. "Can we all do that -- party A and party B agree that party C will pay for whatever we want?" says Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.... Both school and union leaders note that the teachers pay into their own retirement fund, so the Retirement Board shouldn't have a squawk. But the Retirement Board says the teachers pension fund is not self-sufficient. Indeed, according to a retirement official, the state this year has contributed $682 million to the teachers fund

Does not apply to the total
but helps explain it

See Mar. 25, 2005
May 10, 2005

Beacon Hill Democrats are looking to steer up to $6 million to a new nonprofit organization to boost international tourism in the Bay State, even though Massachusetts already has an official state agency to lure visitors.

$6 million
May 13, 2005

State troopers working traffic details got a $5-an-hour raise last week - the cost of which will filter down to state taxpayers and utility customers.... The price of having a statie watching over a roadside work project jumped from $32 to $37 an hour effective May 1.... Most states allow civilian flaggers to handle traffic directing duties at construction sites, but business-backed efforts to get flaggers here have been beaten back by police unions. The nonprofit think tank Beacon Hill Institute calculates local police details cost state residents $141 million a year in the form of higher utility rates and other expenses, and that doesn't include the cost of state police details.

** $141-plus million
May 23, 2005

An important, if incremental, reform adopted in the midst of the fiscal crisis increased, on a sliding scale, the contribution state employees make to their health insurance plans. The budget adopted by the House and being considered by the Senate today kills the modest change, costing taxpayers $30 million. Worse, the Legislature's wimp-out sends the signal to every special interest that it's back to business as usual at the State House.... Reform minded lawmakers ought to push for the 75/25 split proposed by the governor for a savings of $75 million or, at a minimum, retain the tiered system.

$75 million
May 25, 2005

Hard core criminals in our state prisons. You pay for their food, clothing and general medical care. Now, you may end up paying for their sex change surgery. I-Team reporter Joe Bergantino investigates what critics are calling a massive waste of taxpayer dollars....
Barbara Anderson, Citizens for Limited Taxation: "What bothers me about that? What doesn’t bother me about that? I can’t even imagine seriously considering this. Never mind doing this. Never mind paying for it." ...

Jul. 1, 2005

Five members of an obscure do-nothing state commission supposedly responsible for overseeing federal homeland security grants are demanding an unprecedented $7,500-a-year stipend although they can't point to a single accomplishment, the Herald has learned....
Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed the State Resilience Development and Anti-Terrorism Commission's $50,000 funding yesterday afternoon for the second time. Romney vetoed the commission's funding last year as well, but it was reversed by state lawmakers, who created the controversial panel....

Jul. 3, 2005

The average salary for Massachusetts teachers has been rising faster than the national average, setting off concerns that local school committees have given in too easily to teacher unions' demands and squandered limited money on salary increases....
Average salaries range widely in the Bay State, from a low of $34,504 in tiny Florida School District in North Adams to Boston's high of nearly $70,000.
[Teacher pay raises affect the teachers pensions, which are funded in part by the state.]

Oct. 3, 2005

The Department of Revenue collected nearly $2 billion from Massachusetts taxpayers in September, setting a new record and prompting Gov. Mitt Romney to re-issue his call for tax relief.
"It's pretty clear, Massachusetts is back and firing on all cylinders," Romney told reporters he called inside his office after learning about the revenue numbers....
To date, lawmakers have spent $178 million of the fiscal '05 surplus in supplemental appropriations to shore up accounts and fund union contracts. They have also transferred $827 million to the Rainy Day fund, and have an additional $270 million in a separate account to be spent later ...

$178 million-plus
Oct. 15, 2005

With tax revenues soaring again, state legislators yesterday unveiled a huge spending package that includes 15 percent pay raises for judges and money for pet projects around the state.
The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved $318 million bill that will be financed by surplus revenues from the last fiscal year....
The bill has $800,000 for the Chicopee Riverwalk and Bikeway project, $900,000 for another phase of improvements to East Street in Ludlow, $100,000 for renovating the closed Bing Theater in Springfield, $1 million for preventing pollution at a landfill in Heath, $100,000 apiece for the Partners for Community Corp. and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, both in Springfield, and $125,000 for Bernardston to repair roads damaged by flooding....
Barbara C. Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, complained legislators are spending the state into another fiscal crisis.
The bill approved yesterday includes $7 million for providing about 400 judges with a 15 percent pay hike starting Jan. 1....
Anderson questioned whether the 15 percent judicial raises are needed.
"Is there some kind of shortage of people in Massachusetts who want to be judges?" Anderson said. "If there is, I haven't heard about it."

$318 million

As with the CLT/CERF "Truth in Budgeting" study, we gave up with this "Where Would You Cut?" project, due to utter lack of interest from those who do the spending on Beacon Hill and our critics — the very ones who used to ask "So where would you cut?"

Spending more always, never cutting anything, is all that interests the majority of legislators and taxpayers' opponents.

We have provided above more than sufficient examples of wasteful and profligate spending.

If they need even more, we can and will provide it.

But first, they must show us it's worth our time!

Go to complete news reports