The first day of spring is one thing, and
the first spring day is another.
— Henry Van Dyke.
Never mind the chilly air. The winter of our
discontent comes to an end, so it's time for spring cleaning, and
revolution. Grab a broom and pitchfork and follow me.
Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're
the union bug. Wisconsin March winds were at the back of Republicans
who'd run on pledges to get the state budget under control. Gov.
Scott Walker filed a budget that not only cut spending but removed
some aspects of union collective bargaining that had driven
unsustainable public employee pay and benefit increases.
Since spending items require a super-majority
vote, some Democrats tried to prevent the cuts and reforms by hiding
out in neighboring Illinois; while union teachers abandoned
schoolchildren to rally at the statehouse.
After waiting for three weeks for everyone to
return to their jobs, Republicans blew around them. Spending items
were put on hold while a majority vote was taken to reform
collective bargaining, abolishing it for health insurance and
pension decisions. The hiding Democrats couldn't get back in time
for the vote, which while presently being challenged in court, was a
great moment in taxpayer housecleaning.
Another fun moment quickly followed, as the
Massachusetts union leader, Bobby Haynes, AFL-CIO, was outed by the
media as one of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield board members who voted
to give $8.6 million in severance pay to departing chief executive
Cleve Killingsworth, while himself being paid $73,000 a year by
BC/BS. What made this outing so delicious is that he's spent his
union career railing against fat-cat CEOs, and was now rewarding one
such who had presided over extraordinary premium increases for
"workers'" health plans.
Just as delicious was the presence of Paul Guzzi,
executive director of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, on the BC/BC
board for $84,000 a year, and voting for that severance windfall
while Boston businesses struggle with the same huge premium hikes.
On a NECN set last week, he asked me if we could all just get along.
I said, "No."
Guzzi, like Haynes, has been on the other side of
my initiative petition battles to get state spending under control.
He never had any interest in hearing my side before he was caught
this month "playing the game" of cahoots that is at the core of the
ongoing Massachusetts fiscal dysfunction: Big Government, Big
Business, Big Labor working against small business and
private-sector working citizens. Enough!
While the fat cats from all three Big Power
groups "get along" with each other, we alley cats fund the outrages
including fat severance pay for failed CEOs and fat early pensions
and lifetime health insurance for many favored public employees.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is pushing
legislation to raise the state income tax rate on working people and
capital gains taxes on job-creating investors by $1.2 billion. The
bill also increases the personal exemption to cut taxes for
lower-income taxpayers. The last time they did this the
"progressive" tax break was repealed as soon as the permanent rate
increase was solidified.
Speaking of collective bargaining, because the
hack holidays of Evacuation Day and Patriots Day are in their
contracts, state employees must still be paid overtime or given comp
time for working those days, even though the Legislature no longer
closes down the Statehouse and Suffolk County to "honor our
heritage." How's about we honor our heritage by passing a balanced
And where is the state budget anyhow? Shouldn't
the Massachusetts House be working on its version this month? And
shouldn't it include language giving our cities and towns some
control over their unions?
Well, the Legislature is busy having hearings on
many bills, including some filed by Democratic liberals to kill the
initiative petition process, the one tool we ordinary citizens have
against the power of Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor. A
proposed constitutional amendment heard by the Election Laws
Committee this week wants to double the number of signatures
required to get a petition on the ballot. This would have kept
Proposition 2½ off the 1980 ballot so the public employee unions
wouldn't have needed to expend so much fruitless effort to defeat it
and keep our property taxes the highest in the country.
Governor Deval Patrick created a commission on
job creation two years ago to show his commitment to improving the
state's economy, but I can find no record of it ever meeting.
Meanwhile, more Fidelity Investment jobs are leaving the
commonwealth, while Gov. Patrick was overseas urging investment in
Massachusetts. Can't you just hear the pitch: "Come to
Massachusetts, where we have the fifth highest per-capita tax burden
in the U.S. (with the AFL-CIO wanting more), way-out-of-whack
unemployment taxes and benefits, and who-knows-what falling on your
head while you drive through the city tunnels."
One promising bit of spring cleaning: Because so
many productive citizens are leaving Massachusetts, we are probably
going to lose one congressional seat, which is to say, we'll soon be
sending one less deficit-hiking, reform-resisting Democrat to
If voters really get into cleaning House and
other political arenas, a true hopey-changey spring may yet arrive.