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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Run silent, run deep

Deval Patrick hasn't just been spending his time flying or driving around on the taxpayers' dime. There are some serious policy discussions going on beyond the scenes, keeping Patrick from showboating.

While Mitt Romney is running around the country trying, as one observer put it, to airbrush out his four years as governor, Patrick has been working to come up with some solutions to the problems the real gubernatorial showboat left behind.

And if Patrick has managed to draw criticism from Sal DiMasi, Barbara Anderson and Michael Widmer, he's off to a good start.

The annual trial balloon festival has begun in a run-up to the unveiling of Patrick's first budget.

The Globe reports Patrick is looking at closing corporate tax loopholes (ironically one of the few good moves made by Romney while he still cared about his job). This follows on the heels of a formal unveiling of a package to assist local governments in raising local option taxes, including an end to the loophole that allows utilities to avoid paying taxes on their poles, fiber optic and other infrastructure.

And with the carrot, also coming is a likely stick: local pension reform. (And yes, Kerry Healey offered this idea and also yes, Patrick said he liked it. Nothing wrong with actually listening to an opponent. What if George Bush listened?)

Then there's the stick of the pain budget -- spelling out what failing to come up with solutions to a chronic revenue shortfall might actually mean. What all these leaks and formal announcements amount to is the real State of the State, spelling out the options available to address shortfalls and shortcomings and provide an accurate accounting of what "no new taxes" means beyond a slogan.

And no that accounting doesn't include the cost of the State Police Air Wing and a State Police-mandated car. It would be nice if the enterprising reporters at the Little Picture Paper compare apples to oranges and tell us the lease price of a Crown Vic or whatever low-mileage vehicle Romney left behind. (Somehow I doubt it was a Crown Vic -- how about an Ford Explorer like Tommy Menino?)

I recognize the Massachusetts Republican Party -- the one with barely enough elected officials to fill out a 25-man baseball roster -- needs its official media outlet -- the one with barely enough circulation to fill out a newsroom -- to raise self-righteous indignation over alleged "excesses."

Anything to change the subject from discussing what things might look like if the party's last holder of the keys to the Corner Office has actually stuck around here long enough to deal with the problems before they got worse.

But he had bigger sheep to fleece.

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Blogger Paul Levy said...

His idea on state takeover of underperforming municipal pension funds is right on target. Our citizen's commission on budget matters in Newton found systematic underperformance of the city's pension assets compared to the state's PRIT system. When we suggested transferring those assets to state management, the CHAIRMAN OF THE ALDERMANIC FINANCE COMMITTEE opposed the idea! Since the pension board is not appointed by elected officials, there is no way for the Mayor or (the other)Alderman to make them take a step that would earn the city millions of dollars more per year. Clearly, the state must step in. Bravo to the Governor for taking this on.

February 16, 2007 6:05 PM  

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