Senate Budget Week; MBTA Bailout

Senate budget debate starts tomorrow, and our researchers are getting a good picture of what sorts of amendments the upper chamber will be discussing.

Most interesting among them may be an amendment aimed at thwarting further reforms via privatization at the MBTA. The short passage reads like mumbo-jumbo. In essence, the amendment puts more road blocks in place of privatization as the clock is running out on the moratorium of the anti-privatization law. The suspension of the Pacheco law has meant big savings for T riders and taxpayers, and nothing makes the Union Bosses more red in the face than better service at a lower cost. 

A timely amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) would create an 11-member commission to examine the state of the MBTA pension fund. Just today, according to The Globe, Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s acting general manager informed the Fiscal Control Board the MBTA pension fund needs $1 billion or it'll go bust in less than 20 years. Things are upside down at the Transit Authority, with 5,786 employees and 6,685 pensioneers. Something has got to give there, and while we're not generally fans of Study Committees, Tarr's amendment might just start an overdue conversation about stopping that runaway train before it's too late. 

Tarr also put in for amendments establishing a MassHealth Cost Containment Council and investigating waivers from the Affordable Care Act. Both attempt to cut down our out-of-control MassHealth spending.
There were a few other glimmers of good in the pile of amendments, including allowing short-term rentals a pass on the impending AirBnB tax; establishing a sales tax holiday; and prohibiting the purchase of marijuana with state welfare grants (EBT cards).

And of course, a few last-minute requests for nickel-and-dime pork turned up. Among them: a study of needed improvements to Westwood's town hall, $100,000. Another $88K for a ceremonial militia, $75K for a regatta, and almost $325K for the Division of Ecological Restoration. And another $300K for climate change preparedness.

Everybody agrees these small requests for local project money is bad business. Still, you can't expect the Legislature to give them up cold turkey, even in the face of a growing budget deficit.

It's Deadline Day for DuBois to Make Nice with OCPF; MassFiscal Calls for More Investigation

Press Release
For Immediate Release

(BOSTON)—  The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance today lodged a formal complaint asking the State Ethics Commission to investigate State Rep. Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton). The call comes on the day the Office of Campaign and Political Finance set for DuBois' campaign committee to come clean with its disclosure of suspicious fundraising activity.

DuBois drew national attention because of social media postings that warned illegal immigrants of what she believed were imminent ICE raids.

Soon afterwards, DuBois used her 15 minutes of fame to solicit funds in a way that violated state campaign finance rules. In a May 3 Public Resolution Letter from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Rep. DuBois was told her committee must bring her campaign committee into compliance with the law by May 19, which is today. 

"DuBois took advantage of the paranoia amongst undocumented foreign born people and sounded a false alarm--a lot like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, but worse," Paul Craney, executive director of MassFiscal said. "Her social media posts and the fundraising campaign she built around them must be investigated for their obvious ethical failings."

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance advocates for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in state government and increased economic opportunity for the people of our Commonwealth.


Hey Mr. Speaker, how're you going to pay for the free lunch?

In the wake of stories about the House Speaker's credit card, which in January alone paid for more than $11,000 in meals, the Boston Globe this week dragged out an old term that's looking more and more apt: Taxachusetts.

Seems like even the limited budget debate Speaker DeLeo allowed meant the bloated bureaucrats on Beacon Hill worked up an appetite. Nobody outside of the Golden Dome knows exactly how much was spent during budget debate for food for lawmakers, though, as the House is exempt from the disclosure laws that apply to most state agencies.  

You'd think these guys would brown-bag it the way the rest of us do. The state faces a $462M budget shortfall, and as you know, Massachusetts law says the budget must be balanced but it can carry over debt. 

That's where the Taxachusetts talk comes in. Spending is out of control, and the desperate Legislature is looking for any solution, short of tightening their collective belt. That Boston Globe story mentions a few of the brainstorms brewing:  

  • Prop80, the graduated income tax which increases taxes by 80% on the state's highest earners
  • A brand-new health care tax on employers to cover MassHealth overspending 
  • A big increase in the marijuana tax
  • A service tax
  • A surtax on sugary drinks
  • A tax on AirBnB 

For most of us, there's no such thing as a free lunch. For Massachusetts Legislators, the trick is, finding someone else to foot the bill.


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