The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, the state's largest public advocacy group, today announced its newest venture. The Fiscal Alliance Foundation is a 501(c)(3) group aimed at building a stronger culture of accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility in Massachusetts government.
The Foundation's dual mission supports providing education for young people and supporting grassroots reform through the courts.
Already, MassFiscal has made an impact with the Fiscal Fellows internship program. Too often, talented students who are inclined toward fiscally responsible reform leave Massachusetts for Washington D.C. to find employment in policy and politics. MassFiscal and the Fiscal Alliance Foundation provide local jobs with engaging and challenging work in the field. The entry-level jobs are primarily educational and have the added benefit of building a farm team of fiscally-interested professionals in the Commonwealth.
The Foundation will also partner with outside groups in bringing legal action against the state to improve equity. In its advocacy work, MassFiscal has encountered too many instances in which state law works against basic civil rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of association. In Massachusetts, the political playing field simply isn't level.
The Foundation’s first public effort will be a partnership with the business community to challenge the constitutionality of Prop. 80. The lawsuit was filed today in the Supreme Judicial Court. Hearings on the case are expected to be held early next year. Prop. 80 would amend the state Constitution to allow graduated income taxes and increase taxes on the state’s highest earners by 80%. Prop. 80 is an unconstitutional bailout for Beacon Hill politicians to spend more of our tax dollars on things like pay raises and pet pork projects.
The Foundation made an initial contribution of $20,000 toward the legal challenge to Prop. 80. You may read the Globe story about the lawsuit here. More to come…
Today, campaign finance bills are on the agenda at the Statehouse. Two separate ideas, one bad and one praiseworthy, regarding restricting free speech have caught our attention.
An Act Relative to Truth in Advertising in Campaigns, filed by State Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), is a bold-faced and shameless attempt to silence opposition to incumbent legislators. Lawmakers who voted in favor of January's outrageous pay grab and then voted to override the Governor's veto of that bill, are feeling the heat. They're tired of defending their indefensible conduct. Garry's proposal would silence the critics. It's a tactic used by dictators throughout time.
Garry’s bill is so radical, many Constitutional scholars have already publicly criticized it. If it passes, they'll be in violation.
Republican Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) and Democratic Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) have separately filed similar bills which would close the union loophole in Massachusetts campaign finance regulations.
The loophole is the most lopsided campaign finance law in the country. The state allows individuals to give up to $1,000 per candidate, while employers cannot donate at all, but unions can donate up to $15,000.
Companies owned by MassFiscal board members have filed a lawsuit to right this imbalance, but a law such as the ones proposed by Fattman and Lewis would right the wrong now, saving taxpayers needless legal expenses.
Last week, MassFiscal filed a complaint with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) against Paul Feeney, a union boss running in an Oct. 17 special election for state senate. According to Feeney’s last OCPF report, the campaign has already received two union donations of $5,000 each.
OCPF could, on its own, close the loophole and thus prevent another tainted election. That action would also level the playing field and save taxpayer money. We hope OCPF will act in the interest of the taxpayers and those that want to see more good government.
The plan: 61 Votes totaling $275 Million in overrides.
House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez (D – Boston) plans on leading his colleagues in the House in overriding $275M out of $320M of the Governor’s vetoes through the FY2018 budget process. Yesterday, the House met to start the override process and according to Speaker DeLeo (D - Winthrop), this process will take weeks.
Rep. Sanchez outlined his plan before the chamber as being a positive approach to budgeting and fiscal responsibility. Let’s break down the numbers.
In July, the legislature passed the FY2018 budget, totaling $40B. Just before the bill passed, the Boston Herald reported that the state ended the fiscal year with $400M in budget deficits. Governor Baker made $320M in cuts in over 160 budget vetoes, warning the legislature that not only was the spending plan irresponsible, but the conference committee who created the budget in secret already underfunded some accounts by a total of $198M.
As of today, tax collections are up about $60M this year over the same period last year. However, the benchmarks by which Rep. Sanchez and the leadership made their budget projections are still down by $11M. This is because they projected a 2.9% growth rate in tax collections whereas the past 2 years, tax collections have seen no more than 1.4% growth. The House continues to over budget based on wildly ambitious projections, grounded in nothing but hope.
House Republican Minority Leader, Brad Jones (R – North Reading) strongly recommended that the House wait until October to have a more substantive conversation about the budget. His recommendation was turned down as quickly as it was brought up.
The House plans on meeting again to continue to restore money we don’t have to the budget. The Senate, still on recess since Senate President Stan Rosenberg is traveling out of country, will return at the end of the month. We will be updating our scorecard with the new votes as the House and Senate meet to vote on the overrides.