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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 01, 2008

Happy fiscal new year

Another fiscal year dawns on Beacon Hill without a state budget -- and while lawmakers actually have a decent reason this time, their inattentiveness to detail makes them look bad.

It's easy to compare blowing past the June 30 deadline as the state's equivalent of Manny being Manny -- and it happens about as often. The process involves big money and big egos looking to protect precious initiatives. Look no further than the infamous Finneran-Birmingham negotiations of 1999 to see a broken down process fueled by both.

This time there is a third party at the table -- the federal government. The discussions over the Medicare waiver have also gone into overtime and there is serious money -- and problems -- under discussion.

Without a firm answer on the billions that will finance a part of the health care law, nothing else can be finalized.

But there aren't any good reasons for the decision to pull the cigarette tax increase out of the package and pass it at the last minute.

No sympathy for smokers here. But there is something to be said for the hassle to retailers -- although we know that gas stations certainly have an ample supply of numbers available to stay up with their own daily changes.

No, the problem is more that of inattentiveness to detail. The cigarette tax was something lawmakers agreed to on early on as part of the financial discussions. Were they hoping against hope there would be a budget deal in place on time so they could just slip this one in with everything else?

If the revenue is important enough -- and right now every penny is -- legislative leaders should have pulled this one out of the budget talks earlier. It's not as if they've been burning the mid-morning oil up on Beacon Hill.

Instead, they wait until the last second of the fiscal year and create extra buzz around the action.

What a way to run a commonwealth.

UPDATE: It sure would be nice if Globe editors talked to each other. Casey Ross has the scoop on the corporate tax bill. That's in Business, and a good lesson for those of us who don't really scan the online version as thoroughly as the dead tree edition that has Matt Viser's budget story as the Metro lead.

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