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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You spent it on what?

The Massachusetts Legislature has approved a $26.8 billion plan to spend out tax money. On what?

The Globe tells us the budget raises spending 4.2 percent -- higher than the 3 percent revenue estimate -- but that Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation chief Mike Widmer thinks they'll win that gamble and not need to dip into reserves.

The Associated Press tells us that while there now appears to be peace between Deval Patrick and the Legislature who know what his use of the budget on will due to relations between Democratic lawmakers and the first Democratic governor in 16 years.

The Herald doesn't even bother with $26.8 billion, focusing on a little item in a supplemental budget that would benefit the district of a gay marriage voter. They repeat Kris Mineau's unsubstantiated allegation the money for a community center is a payoff for the vote.

Call me quaint and old fashioned, but when I reported on this stuff, you were expected to tell readers what the money is being spent on -- if only in broad categories like education, health and public safety. Over time, you drill down for interesting specifics.

We've had a lot of discussion in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere about Patrick's priorities and whether they were sound. We've had a lot of discussion about what needs to be done to make Massachusetts competitive again. We've had a lot of discussion of where taxpayer dollars actually go.

So where is it in the budget stories? The document was available on Friday. The Legislature made the report and a separate document detailing the differences among the House, Senate and final versions available for review to the public and the Statehouse News Service had it for its subscribers.

Even accounting for the possibility that no one wanted to work on the weekend, what stopped reporters from poring over those documents on Monday while waiting for the votes? Even a bullet-pointed laundry list of where the money is going?

Reporters should not be complaining about the lack of sunlight in government when they seem unwilling to open their eyes.

CORRECTION: If you make it to page B3 of the dead tree edition of the Globe you do indeed get a bullet-pointed laundry list. No details, no discussion but there are bullet point comparisons.

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