CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Thursday, February 5, 2004

"Of the people, by the people, for the people"?
Are any "people" still believing that?


In the biggest pension payout in Plymouth County history, a police lieutenant who worked on the Brockton force by night and at the county jail by day will be getting $130,000 a year in retirement benefits, officials said.

Charles Lincoln, who retired from the Brockton force Jan. 15 and from his county job Jan. 23, will receive 80 percent of the combined salaries as his yearly government pension for the rest of his life....

Lincoln, 63, a Brockton officer since May 14, 1972, was able to boost what would have been his city pension of $69,164 by working a second, full-time job for the past three years at the Plymouth County jail...

Lincoln was a key supporter in Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonough's election campaign.

Lincoln was hired as security director at the county jail after McDonough's election....

"This is an example of the abuses the governor is trying to address," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It is not just a couple of highly visible, highly connected people getting these pensions ... It is trickle-down pension abuse."

The Brockton Enterprise
Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2004
Brockton police officer gets record pension bonanza


Gov. Mitt Romney recently unveiled a $23 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 which, while it holds taxes and fees steady, relies heavily on a commitment to reform of wasteful government practices.

Citizens of the commonwealth should demand a similar approach from House and Senate leaders who will unveil their versions of the fiscal 2005 budget shortly....

A key aspect of the Romney budget is the consolidation of the state Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which perform basically the same function ...

Another major concern cited by the governor is the runaway cost of the state pension system.

"Over the past year, we have all become aware of loopholes that allow state workers to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers," Romney declared in his budget message. "We have an obligation to take care of our retirees, but no one should get a windfall." ...

Previous attempts at reform in this area have not had much success on Beacon Hill. But lawmakers up for election this year should be required to explain why the majority of citizens should pay a premium on such projects for the benefit of a few.

A Salem News editorial
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Governor's reform budget deserves Legislature's support


Gov. Mitt Romney escalated his verbal assault on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, describing it yesterday as a bloated agency whose sole aim is to protect its "friends" on the payroll. 

The Boston Herald
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Gov turns guns on Turnpike


The governor's bid to merge the state's two highway departments won't succeed if lawmakers view it as an effort to score political and public relations points, said state Sen. Steven Baddour, chairman of the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee....

Baddour's comments on the proposed merger came a few hours after Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey took the administration's campaign into the heart of the state's transportation bureaucracy.

During a press conference at the state Transportation Building, Healey said the plan has the support of a variety of political watchdog groups and think tanks, including the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation.

The Eagle-Tribune
Tuesday, February 3, 2004
Turnpike Authority changes probable 


A year ago, Gov. Mitt Romney's ideas for reorganizing public higher education were lost in a petty fight over the fate of UMass President Billy Bulger. This time, elected officials in all parties should put aside the politics and personal agendas and discuss the Pike merger proposal in terms of public dollars and common sense.

A MetroWest Daily News editorial
Wednesday, February 4, 2003
Pike merger's dollars, sense


The ugly news: Some of Romney's proposed cuts would be at the expense of poor people with disabilities.

One troubling cut would be made to the state's emergency aid program for the elderly, the disabled, and children [italics mine-Chip], which provides about $300 in monthly cash payments.

Children would not be affected [italics mine-Chip]. But to save $18 million the state would eliminate 4,550 recipients by requiring people to meet the federal definition of disabled, which is stricter than the state definition. Legal immigrants would have to meet the federal standard and have lived in the country for five years....

Romney should also revamp his plans to increase the state's 20-hour work requirement. About 8,400 parents of children ages 2 to 5 would be required to work 24 hours a week, although 12 hours of education or training could count toward this total....

Saying we can't afford it is unacceptable when it comes to protecting poor and disabled residents.

A Boston Globe editorial
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
Unkind cuts


Gov. Mitt Romney recently unveiled a $23 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 which, while it holds taxes and fees steady, relies heavily on a commitment to reform of wasteful government practices.

Citizens of the commonwealth should demand a similar approach from House and Senate leaders  who will unveil their versions of the fiscal 2005 budget shortly....

A key aspect of the Romney budget is the consolidation of the state Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which perform basically the same function ...

Another major concern cited by the governor is the runaway cost of the state pension 
system.

"Over the past year, we have all become aware of loopholes that allow state workers to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers," Romney declared in his budget message. "We have an obligation to take care of our retirees, but no one should get a windfall." ...

Previous attempts at reform in this area have not had much success on Beacon Hill. But  lawmakers up for election this year should be required to explain why the majority of citizens should pay a premium on such projects for the benefit of a few.

A Salem News editorial
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Governor's reform budget deserves Legislature's support


With a forceful opinion that leaves no doubt about its November decision to legalize gay marriage, the Supreme Judicial Court eliminated any wiggle room for a very nervous political establishment to deal with what is perhaps the most politically and emotionally charged issue that has come to Beacon Hill in decades.

Legislators have run out of options, and they seem to be in turmoil. As early as next week, they may have to vote for or against a constitutional amendment that would bar same-sex marriages, a tough prospect for even those who oppose gay marriage but are averse to amending the state constitution to restrict rights. No one on Beacon Hill yesterday had a clear idea of what would happen or even if the Legislature would go forward with its vote on the amendment on Wednesday....

Meanwhile, the legislative leadership and the rank-and-file members seemed stunned. "This is a real collision with reality," said state Representative James J. Marzilli Jr. "We as an institution will have to make a decision one way or other. But don't ask me to predict."

The Boston Globe
Thursday, February 5. 2004
Legislators' vote due on same-sex measure


The three candidates who have entered the contest -- Democrats Joyce A. Spiliotis, Anne Manning, and Republican John F. McCarthy -- were all contenders for the same seat two years ago....

Manning noted that a majority of Peabody residents taking part in the 2002 election had voted in favor of the ballot question calling for a repeal of the state income tax. But, she said, "Our state representative was one of the few reps who voted in favor of raising the income tax," referring to Spiliotis's vote last April to raise the state income tax rate from 5.3 percent to a previous level of 5.95 percent. The measure failed, 118-37.

Manning said the fact that Governor Mitt Romney carried Peabody in 2002 represented a "clear message" from city voters that "they are demanding reform of state government. And our representative has voted against many reform initiatives this year." ...

[State Rep. Joyce] Spiliotis dismissed the criticism. Spiliotis dismissed the criticism. "I didn't vote to increase the income tax," she said. "I voted to restore" the tax to its previous level...."

The Boston Globe - North Edition
Thursday, February 5, 2004
House race is rematch of '02 battle
Former rivals challenge Spiliotis


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Ever feel like just tossing in the towel, giving up even the ghost of restoring the constitutional republic bequeathed to us by our forefathers and the generations that followed? Ever feel like democracy is a myth dragged out only for each election cycle?

Ever consider that Sam Adams is now more famous for a brewery named after him than for his revolutionary legacy?

But we can and will never surrender, despite the odds and the craziness that abounds.

You will recall that just last December the state Supreme Judicial Court, in its decision on the "Defense of Marriage" proposed initiative amendment to the Constitution, ruled that under the doctrine of "separation of powers" the court cannot force the Legislature to take the constitutionally-mandated up-or-down vote on an amendment sponsored by the people; in fact, the court cannot force the Legislature to do anything.

"In its ruling Tuesday, the high court reiterated a ruling it made in another case in 1992, when it said the state Constitution does not give the judiciary any power to order the state Legislature to act," the Associated Press reported.

So what's with this Supreme Judicial Kangaroo Court now with its radical ruling on the definition of marriage? What's with its absolute rejection of the legislative alternative, civil unions? If it won't enforce the Constitution's clear and simple mandate when the Legislature ignores or violates it, where does it find the power, or gumption for that matter, to unilaterally overturn a cultural icon millennia old?

Does it simply pick and choose what it will demand of the Legislature, and does the Legislature just pick and choose which rulings it will abide by and which it will resist or reject (eg., the Clean Elections Law)?

I don't care what side of the gay marriage controversy you come down on, wouldn't a little constitutional consistency from the state's highest court be refreshing? Wouldn't a little from "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy" be so too?

A good aspect of this bizarre political crisis is that, for once, it forces legislators to take a recorded position on a controversial issue, instead of ducking it through their usual arcane parliamentary maneuvers. "'This is a real collision with reality,' said state Representative James J. Marzilli Jr. 'We as an institution will have to make a decision one way or other, '" the Boston Globe reported.

Legislators now have only three options at their upcoming "collision with reality," next Wednesday's constitutional convention:

  • They can vote to pass the proposed legislative amendment for the first session, moving it toward the ballot for voters to decide in 2006;

  • They can vote to reject the proposed amendment and deny voters any opportunity to adopt or reject the high court's new definition of marriage, or;

  • They can do nothing -- duck accountability at any cost again -- abandon the "separation of powers" doctrine, surrender the co-equal legislative branch to a usurped supremacy of the high court's whimsical rulings.

If legislators choose the latter, there no longer will exist even a pretended excuse for a legislature in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; it'll be time to amputate this withered but costly appendage and accept the court's imposition, with legislative acquiescence, of its elevation to what it thinks it is: a benchload of Plato's "philosopher-kings."

If that's how we are to be governed, and were it not for the high court's own political agenda, this might well be an improvement in some areas over the Beacon Hill status quo. Take government reform for example.

"The governor's bid to merge the state's two highway departments won't succeed if lawmakers view it as an effort to score political and public relations points, said state Sen. Steven Baddour, chairman of the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee," the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence reported.

Just what does the alleged perception of motive by some Beacon Hill pols have to do with anything? On its merits, is the proposed reform a good or bad idea? Will it or will it not save taxpayers money?

"I didn't vote to increase the income tax. I voted to restore the tax to its previous level," state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis (D-Peabody) asserted, according to the Boston Globe-North.

Would our taxes have gone up, gone down, or remained the same if her vote had carried? Of course they would have gone up. That is the very definition of a tax increase.

Like the justices, philosopher-kings these legislators are not.

Chip Ford


The Brockton Enterprise
Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2004

Brockton police officer gets record pension bonanza
By Maureen Boyle, Staff writer 


In the biggest pension payout in Plymouth County history, a police lieutenant who worked on the Brockton force by night and at the county jail by day will be getting $130,000 a year in retirement benefits, officials said.

Charles Lincoln, who retired from the Brockton force Jan. 15 and from his county job Jan. 23, will receive 80 percent of the combined salaries as his yearly government pension for the rest of his life.

"This will be the largest we will be paying," said John McLellan, Plymouth County treasurer.

Lincoln, 63, a Brockton officer since May 14, 1972, was able to boost what would have been his city pension of $69,164 by working a second, full-time job for the past three years at the Plymouth County jail.

Government pensions are based on the top three year's earnings. That means Lincoln's more than $80,000 in yearly police wages which includes education pay, longevity pay and other incentives were added to his $74,816 county pay to calculate his pension.

He receives 80 percent of his combined pay as a pension.

"It is unusual to have a situation where you have the concurrent time like this," McLellan said. "Occasionally it does happen, but you can count the occasions on your fingers."

He said the largest Plymouth County retirement system pension payout in the past was between $60,000 and $70,000.

Attempts Tuesday and this morning to reach Lincoln, who recently moved from Brockton to Middleboro, were unsuccessful.

Lincoln was a key supporter in Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonough's election campaign.

Lincoln was hired as security director at the county jail after McDonough's election.

Under a proposal by Gov. Mitt Romney to overhaul the state pension system, the practice of basing retirement payments on the average of a retiree's three highest-paid years of service rather than the employee's entire salary history would end.

However, any changes would not affect Lincoln's pension.

"This is an example of the abuses the governor is trying to address," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It is not just a couple of highly visible, highly connected people getting these pensions ... It is trickle-down pension abuse."

Lincoln is in the process of transferring his pension assets from the Brockton Retirement Board to the Plymouth County system, where medical benefits for retirees are slightly better.

That means, the Brockton Retirement Board will pay about $69,164, the amount it would have been paying Lincoln as a retired cop, toward the total pension, while Plymouth County will pay the rest, said city and retirement board officials.

"We are only liable for his time with the city," said William Parlow, a member of the Brockton Retirement Board. "The city is only liable for that time."

Hal Hanna, executive director of the Brockton Retirement Board, said Plymouth County will process the retirement benefits.

McLellan said the final pension amount Lincoln will get is being calculated, but said it will be about $130,000. It will be subject to federal tax, but not state tax, McLellan said.

County workers must be on the job for 10 years to be vested in the retirement system. However, Lincoln was able to combine his 32 years as a Brockton officer and three years as a Dedham officer with his nearly three years with the county to get into the Plymouth County system.

"It is all provided for within the state law," McLellan said. "There is nothing illegal or improper in it. It is something that a lot of people are going to look at the type of money he is going to get and say, 'I'm busting my butt and not getting that.' There will be objections raised, I am sure, but the law provides for it."

McLellan said once the final retirement figures are completed, the information will be forwarded to the Public Employment Retirement Administration Commission for verification.

Lincoln worked nights with the Brockton Police Department and days at the jail. In the past, Lincoln said he worked full-time at both jobs.

When he retired from the city, Lincoln received $5,355.81 in vacation pay, $525 in longevity pay, $311.75 in hazardous duty pay and $389.69 in holiday pay, said Maureen Cruise, Brockton's director of personnel.

Lincoln used up his sick time and compensatory time prior to retiring.

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The Salem News
Thursday, February 5, 2004

A Salem News editorial
Governor's reform budget deserves Legislature's support

Gov. Mitt Romney recently unveiled a $23 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 which, while it holds taxes and fees steady, relies heavily on a commitment to reform of wasteful government practices.

Citizens of the commonwealth should demand a similar approach from House and Senate leaders who will unveil their versions of the fiscal 2005 budget shortly.

A key aspect of the Romney budget is the consolidation of the state Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which perform basically the same function, only on different parts of the commonwealth's highway system. Yet the turnpike authority, which has been allowed to operate as an independent fiefdom beholden more to a few influential politicians than the taxpayers, seems to pay a lot more for its share of road and bridge maintenance.

That amounts to "tens of millions of dollars ... that can go into schools," Romney told a group of editorial page editors during a conference call last week. His consolidation plan was rejected by the Legislature last year, but ought to get much more serious consideration in 2004 by lawmakers who should otherwise be called on to explain why it is so important for the state to have two separate agencies doing essentially the same thing.

Another major concern cited by the governor is the runaway cost of the state pension system.

"Over the past year, we have all become aware of loopholes that allow state workers to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers," Romney declared in his budget message. "We have an obligation to take care of our retirees, but no one should get a windfall."

The system is indeed a generous one, which in recent years has been modified to allow many to retire early with full benefits. Romney wants to take a hard look at these early retirement provisions, as well as the way benefits are calculated. But he also vows to crack down on those who would abuse the system by faking injury or getting themselves installed in make-work jobs simply to boost their retirement earnings.

Likewise, taxpayers in Massachusetts are already paying plenty for a bidding process on public construction projects that virtually guarantees they will pay top dollar for every building erected using state funds. Changes he is recommending to make the process more competitive, Romney said, could boost the amount of money available for the construction of new schools by 10 percent or better.

Previous attempts at reform in this area have not had much success on Beacon Hill. But lawmakers up for election this year should be required to explain why the majority of citizens should pay a premium on such projects for the benefit of a few.

Other worthwhile changes proposed by the governor include an increase in state employees' share of their health insurance premiums and an increase in work requirements for welfare recipients.

In a statement issued just prior to the governor's budget message, Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry, D-Peabody, warned that "the budget will not be balanced simply by eliminating waste and inefficiency or enacting reforms." He's right, but taxpayers deserve to know that every ounce of waste, greed and corruption have been squeezed from the system before they are asked to pay more in taxes or deal with further cuts in state and municipal services.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Gov turns guns on Turnpike
By Jay Fitzgerald


Gov. Mitt Romney escalated his verbal assault on the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, describing it yesterday as a bloated agency whose sole aim is to protect its "friends" on the payroll.

Romney, who wants to eliminate the authority and merge it into the Massachusetts Highway Department, said the independent Turnpike board will keep coming up with projects and bond proposals to legitimize its existence, even though it has long since paid off the bonds used to build the highway.

"They will never, ever, ever go away," Romney told a crowd yesterday at a breakfast gathering of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. "(The authority) exists, in my view, because of its friends."

Romney, a Republican, touted projected annual savings of $20 million by eliminating the authority and ticked off what he said were stats proving the Turnpike's overhead expenses far exceed those of the Massachusetts Highway Department.

He took particular aim at hundreds of toll collectors on the authority's payroll, even though many toll booths are now automated. "Again, these are friends," said Romney of the collectors.

An angry Jordan Levy, vice chairman of the authority, responded: "I don't know what he's talking about. What friends? Tell me, what friends?"

Jordan disputed Romney's cost analysis of overhead expenses.

Levy accused Romney of going after the authority in the same way he took on William Bulger, who resigned as head of the University of Massachusetts last year after repeated attacks by Romney.

"It seems they have to have a whipping boy each year," said Levy, noting Romney is gunning for authority Chairman Matt Amorello. "I don't think Matt Amorello would have taken the Fifth," he said, referring to Bulger's famous refusal to answer questions at a Congressional hearing on his gangster brother, James "Whitey" Bulger.

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The Eagle-Tribune
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Turnpike Authority changes probable 
By Shawn Regan, Staff writer 


The governor's bid to merge the state's two highway departments won't succeed if lawmakers view it as an effort to score political and public relations points, said state Sen. Steven Baddour, chairman of the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee.

But that doesn't mean the Methuen Democrat thinks Romney's controversial plan is destined to fail. In fact, Baddour believes the Senate will also propose "big changes" to the Turnpike Authority by the time it passes a state budget in June.

"I have been working to reform the state's transportation delivery system since I became chairman," Baddour said. "The status quo is unacceptable. We will see change this year."

The senator said he has not yet made up his mind on whether to support Romney's exact plan, which would trim the independent authority's payroll by roughly 170 workers and bring it into the executive branch and under the control of the governor and the Massachusetts Highway Department.

Romney says the merger would provide a one-time cash infusion of $190 million from the Turnpike's reserve account and then save $20 million annually. He has already plugged the $190 million figure into his fiscal year 2005 budget, and has said further cuts to state government will have to be made if the Legislature rejects his proposal.

Romney contends the authority will run an operating deficit of $9.7 million next year, and that it has resorted to risky investments to generate extra cash. He has said the authority spends far more per mile than the highway department, and that its leaders have failed to trim their work force despite new, automated toll collections.

Baddour's comments on the proposed merger came a few hours after Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey took the administration's campaign into the heart of the state's transportation bureaucracy.

During a press conference at the state Transportation Building, Healey said the plan has the support of a variety of political watchdog groups and think tanks, including the Beacon Hill Institute, the Pioneer Institute, Free the Pike and Citizens for Limited Taxation.

"If the (Turnpike Authority and the Highway Department) can share the same building, why can't they share the same legal department, the same public relations department and the same set of books?" Healey asked. "The answer is, they can."

Romney first talked of merging the two highway departments while campaigning in 2002. His initial attempt to do it was defeated by the Legislature last year. Baddour did not support the governor's plan last year, questioning the governor's reasons for the merger and his cost savings estimates.

"It has a lot better chance than last year," Baddour said yesterday. "The administration answered all the questions we had last year. There is a lot in their plan that makes sense. Their challenge is going to be convincing the leadership that this isn't just a symbolic attack against Amorello. If the leadership sees it as just about Amorello, we will end up rejecting it."

Opponents of the Romney plan charge the governor is playing politics by trying to get rid of Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello. Some see Amorello, a Wenham resident and former Republican state senator, as a symbol of old-school Beacon Hill power and patronage in the mold of former University of Massachusetts President William Bulger. Bulger resigned last year after Romney targeted him.

Critics of the merger, including state Rep. Joseph Wagner, D-Chicopee, Baddour's House counterpart on the Transportation Committee, also worry the state would be risking its Wall Street bond rating if it assumed the authority's approximately $2 billion in debt. Massachusetts already has one of the highest debt loads of any state.

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The MetroWest Daily News
Wednesday, February 4, 2003

A MetroWest Daily News editorial
Pike merger's dollars, sense


Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey picked the right setting Monday to make the case for merging the Mass. Turnpike with the state Highway Department. She called reporters to the state Transportation Building, where both agencies are headquartered. 

"If these two agencies share the same building, why can't they share the same legal department, public relations department and same set of books?" Healey asked. "The answer is, they can." 

How much money could be saved by putting the state employees in the Transportation Building into one organizational structure is hard to say. Eliminating administrative redundancy would provide some savings. Replacing -- or at least diluting -- the free-spending culture of the Mass. Pike with the leaner style of the Highway Department would bring savings that are harder to tabulate. The Romney Administration estimates $20 million a year can be saved on operations. The Beacon Hill Institute, a right-leaning think tank, estimated the merger could save as much as $56 million. 

Opponents of the merger have made unconvincing claims that no money would be saved. Slightly more convincing is their claim that the state shouldn't take on the Pike debt, though since it is also taking on the toll revenue that backs up Pike bonds, we're not sure what the problem is. The merger would also free up $190 million in a Pike reserve account that would no longer be needed to back up the bonds. You'd think legislators facing another tough budget year would be looking for a way to make that cash available, not fighting to keep it locked away. 

A year ago, Gov. Mitt Romney's ideas for reorganizing public higher education were lost in a petty fight over the fate of UMass President Billy Bulger. This time, elected officials in all parties should put aside the politics and personal agendas and discuss the Pike merger proposal in terms of public dollars and common sense.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

A Boston Globe editorial
Unkind cuts


Governor Mitt Romney's $22.98 billion budget proposal contains good news: Massachusetts is fiscally stronger than it was a year ago. And bad news: Absent new revenue, cuts are still necessary. The ugly news: Some of Romney's proposed cuts would be at the expense of poor people with disabilities.

One troubling cut would be made to the state's emergency aid program for the elderly, the disabled, and children, which provides about $300 in monthly cash payments.

Children would not be affected. But to save $18 million the state would eliminate 4,550 recipients by requiring people to meet the federal definition of disabled, which is stricter than the state definition. Legal immigrants would have to meet the federal standard and have lived in the country for five years.

Tweaking the rules in this way would not change a key fact: These people would still be poor, disabled, and living in a state with high costs and a recovering economy. Welfare officials say those who lose benefits could go to the state's employment centers. But there won't be any special placement programs to target their needs. Some may find jobs. Some may get help from relatives or charities. But this would be a sad retreat, forcing people and nonprofit organizations with scarcer resources to pick up after Massachusetts.

Romney should also revamp his plans to increase the state's 20-hour work requirement. About 8,400 parents of children ages 2 to 5 would be required to work 24 hours a week, although 12 hours of education or training could count toward this total. Some 5,100 parents with school-age children would have to work 34 hours a week, and education and training would not count.

Romney wants to prepare for tough federal work rules that could be enacted once Congress reauthorizes welfare reform. But it would make more sense to let education and training count for all parents so they can build the job skills that could increase their incomes. At the very least, poor parents should be allowed to develop word processing and other computer skills.

If Massachusetts requires more work, it will have to pay for more child care. Romney has proposed $781,000 in new funds to create more slots for several hundred more children. Many of the families affected already have child care. And parents who can't get day care are temporarily exempt from the work requirement.

Romney deserves credit for plans to spend $18 million on new efforts to help people with physical, mental, and learning disabilities find work through better screening and placement. Now, the House and Senate have to bridge the gaps in Romney's budget. Saying we can't afford it is unacceptable when it comes to protecting poor and disabled residents.

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The Salem News
Thursday, February 5, 2004

A Salem News editorial
Governor's reform budget deserves Legislature's support

Gov. Mitt Romney recently unveiled a $23 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 which, while it holds taxes and fees steady, relies heavily on a commitment to reform of wasteful government practices.

Citizens of the commonwealth should demand a similar approach from House and Senate leaders who will unveil their versions of the fiscal 2005 budget shortly.

A key aspect of the Romney budget is the consolidation of the state Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which perform basically the same function, only on different parts of the commonwealth's highway system. Yet the turnpike authority, which has been allowed to operate as an independent fiefdom beholden more to a few influential politicians than the taxpayers, seems to pay a lot more for its share of road and bridge maintenance.

That amounts to "tens of millions of dollars ... that can go into schools," Romney told a group of editorial page editors during a conference call last week. His consolidation plan was rejected by the Legislature last year, but ought to get much more serious consideration in 2004 by lawmakers who should otherwise be called on to explain why it is so important for the state to have two separate agencies doing essentially the same thing.

Another major concern cited by the governor is the runaway cost of the state pension system.

"Over the past year, we have all become aware of loopholes that allow state workers to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers," Romney declared in his budget message. "We have an obligation to take care of our retirees, but no one should get a windfall."

The system is indeed a generous one, which in recent years has been modified to allow many to retire early with full benefits. Romney wants to take a hard look at these early retirement provisions, as well as the way benefits are calculated. But he also vows to crack down on those who would abuse the system by faking injury or getting themselves installed in make-work jobs simply to boost their retirement earnings.

Likewise, taxpayers in Massachusetts are already paying plenty for a bidding process on public construction projects that virtually guarantees they will pay top dollar for every building erected using state funds. Changes he is recommending to make the process more competitive, Romney said, could boost the amount of money available for the construction of new schools by 10 percent or better.

Previous attempts at reform in this area have not had much success on Beacon Hill. But lawmakers up for election this year should be required to explain why the majority of citizens should pay a premium on such projects for the benefit of a few.

Other worthwhile changes proposed by the governor include an increase in state employees' share of their health insurance premiums and an increase in work requirements for welfare recipients.

In a statement issued just prior to the governor's budget message, Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry, D-Peabody, warned that "the budget will not be balanced simply by eliminating waste and inefficiency or enacting reforms." He's right, but taxpayers deserve to know that every ounce of waste, greed and corruption have been squeezed from the system before they are asked to pay more in taxes or deal with further cuts in state and municipal services.

Return to top


The Boston Globe
Thursday, February 5. 2004

Legislators' vote due on same-sex measure
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff


With a forceful opinion that leaves no doubt about its November decision to legalize gay marriage, the Supreme Judicial Court eliminated any wiggle room for a very nervous political establishment to deal with what is perhaps the most politically and emotionally charged issue that has come to Beacon Hill in decades.

Legislators have run out of options, and they seem to be in turmoil. As early as next week, they may have to vote for or against a constitutional amendment that would bar same-sex marriages, a tough prospect for even those who oppose gay marriage but are averse to amending the state constitution to restrict rights. No one on Beacon Hill yesterday had a clear idea of what would happen or even if the Legislature would go forward with its vote on the amendment on Wednesday.

"There's a lot of anxiety out there," said Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, minutes after he announced the SJC opinion in the Senate chambers. The Senate had sought the opinion in hopes that the court would give the lawmakers the option of enacting a civil-union statute similar to the one adopted in Vermont.

Travaglini huddled for more than an hour with his top leadership team yesterday and could find no consensus on whether to go forward with Wednesday's vote on the proposed amendment. "There's a million different opinions about what to do," said one senator.

The Senate president will put the issue to the 34-member Democratic caucus today, but no one is predicting what the decision will be.

Almost everyone at the State House was either avoiding the media or talking off the record. Governor Mitt Romney issued a short statement, as did Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, who had suggested that the original SJC opinion offered room for a civil-union law. Both refused to make themselves available to the media.

Reilly has said he supports civil unions instead of gay marriage, but said he will enforce the court's decision. In his statement, he said the court has "clearly spoken" and vowed that as the chief law enforcement officer he will uphold the law.

Romney -- who had banked on putting in place a strong domestic partner compromise, just short of civil unions, while also pushing the marriage amendment -- now faces the prospect that, beginning May 17, city and town halls will be issuing civil marriage licenses to homosexuals. It will be national news.

He is caught between what he believes should be some sort of fair treatment for gays and the harsh realities of politics. At stake are his national ambitions in a Republican Party that has little patience with liberal social policy.

Yesterday, Romney reiterated his support for the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and seemed to escalate his rhetoric about taking the issue to the voters.

"We've heard from the court, but not from the people," he said. "The people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage."

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran -- a strong opponent in the past of civil unions, gay marriage, and domestic-partner benefits -- was all but silent. He issued a two-sentence statement saying he would study the decision and refrain from comment until "I have thought through the options." His role could be crucial because the House, with its 160 members, dominates the 40-member Senate when the Legislature meets jointly as a constitutional convention.

Meanwhile, the legislative leadership and the rank-and-file members seemed stunned. "This is a real collision with reality," said state Representative James J. Marzilli Jr. "We as an institution will have to make a decision one way or other. But don't ask me to predict."

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The Boston Globe - North Edition
Thursday, February 5, 2004

House race is rematch of '02 battle
Former rivals challenge Spiliotis
By John Laidler, Globe Correspondent

As the race for state representative in the 12th Essex District gets underway, it might seem to voters like a movie they've already seen.

The three candidates who have entered the contest -- Democrats Joyce A. Spiliotis, Anne Manning, and Republican John F. McCarthy -- were all contenders for the same seat two years ago.

But if there is a familiar cast of characters, there is a different dynamic to the race this year. In 2002, the seat was open due to the decision of then incumbent John P. Slattery to run for lieutenant governor. This year, Spiliotis, who won the 2002 contest, is running to retain her seat while Manning and McCarthy are hoping to wrest it from her. The 12th Essex is made up of five wards in Peabody.

While the contest is in its early stages -- and could yet attract other contenders -- initial signs suggest it will be hard fought.

Manning, who was elected to a second term on the School Committee last November, has wasted little time in taking aim at Spiliotis. The supervisor of classification at the Suffolk County House of Corrections, Manning, 37, is the sister of Governor's Councilor Mary Ellen Manning of Peabody.

In an interview, Anne Manning accused Spiliotis of having failed to heed the expressed wishes of Peabody voters on issues of taxes and state government reform.

Manning noted that a majority of Peabody residents taking part in the 2002 election had voted in favor of the ballot question calling for a repeal of the state income tax. But, she said, "Our state representative was one of the few reps who voted in favor of raising the income tax," referring to Spiliotis's vote last April to raise the state income tax rate from 5.3 percent to a previous level of 5.95 percent. The measure failed, 118-37.

Manning said the fact that Governor Mitt Romney carried Peabody in 2002 represented a "clear message" from city voters that "they are demanding reform of state government. And our representative has voted against many reform initiatives this year."

Spiliotis dismissed the criticism. "I didn't vote to increase the income tax," she said. "I voted to restore" the tax to its previous level. "My reason for doing that was to avoid the drastic cuts in local aid and to avoid seeing people's property taxes rise."

"I've supported reforms," she said. "We did some reorganization of the courts, and we" folded the Metropolitan District Commission into a new agency. "So I think we did a pretty good job last year. We did some reforms and I'm sure we'll do more."

"I did run as a Democrat," Spiliotis said. "I think a lot of the reforms people thought [Romney] would propose are a lot different from what he actually did," referring for example to what she said was Romney's attempt to eliminate Prescription Advantage, the state program to help seniors with prescription drug costs.

A five-term city councilor at large who did not seek reelection to that post last year, Spiliotis, 57, is also a longtime member of the Democratic State Committee. Before entering the Legislature, she was office supervisor at the Salem District Court clerk's office.

In the 2002 race, she topped the field in the four-way primary race, with 2,732 votes, to 2,367 for Manning, 1,499 for Peter C. McCarthy, and 1,244 for Robert J. Wood. In the final, she defeated John McCarthy, by 9,223 votes to 6,166.

She said in her reelection bid she will tout her experience as a city councilor and state representative, and a "proven record" of being accessible to constituents.

McCarthy, 55, is a co-owner of the B.K. McCarthy Insurance agency in Peabody. He served one term as Ward 5 councilor. While still a Democrat in 1984, he ran unsuccessfully for Essex County commissioner.

Romney, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and GOP State Committee chairman Darrell Crate have each donated $250 to his campaign.

"We are in tough times and you have to have people who are going to make tough decisions.... When I was on the City Council, Proposition 2 came in. We had to make some tough decisions.... We did the right things. We [revalued property]. We cut jobs and cut expenses and we increased the tax base."

He said his opponents "don't have the political courage" to make the tough decisions, pointing to Spiliotis's having "voted to raise taxes" and Manning's vote as a School Committee member in support of instituting a bus fee.

Spiliotis said she has made tough decisions as a councilor and a state representative, pointing to votes she cast last year in the House to cut funding for programs for people in need. "We restored some money but there was still quite a bit cut," she said.

Manning said she, too, has made difficult budget decisions, pointing to votes she cast last year to cut school jobs by consolidating positions.

She said the vote to institute bus fees was also difficult. She said it was prompted by a request by parents that the committee consider fees as an alternative to proposed cuts in bus service.

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