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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, July 18, 2008

That pesky elephant is back in the room

Treasurer Tim continues to tell us what he's against. But I still haven't heard him tell us what he's for.

We know know Tim Cahill is opposed to "Taj Mahal" schools as well as the proposal to have the Commonwealth co-sign the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's latest debt sale.

OK, the treasurer has kindly informed us that "off-the-shelf" designs may be one way to achieve the noble goal of preventing more disastrous school construction projects like Newton North High School.

But he was less than forthcoming, again, with any solutions to the problems facing the Pike during a Statehouse hearing yesterday.
He called for unspecified changes to be imposed on Turnpike Authority operations if the deal moves forward.
Cahill has been in office for six years -- and his job is to make sure the books balance. The Pike has been a problem throughout those years, but I don't seem to recall him speaking up as frequently or as loudly as he is now.

Why the absence of firm suggestions? He certainly has an interesting idea for the school building problem.

Could the answer be that he doesn't want to take the heat for the remedy?

Another critic, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president Mike Widmer spelled it out in simple English.

"This is one of the most irresponsible proposals I have seen seriously considered by the Legislature in my 16 years," said Widmer, whose organization is backed by business. "We are just heading off a cliff, Thelma and Louise, with a smile on our face."

Widmer called for a gas-tax increase and new tolls to help the Turnpike Authority meet the terms of its Big Dig-related debts.


Cahill preferred a less direct approach:
“We cannot allow ourselves to operate with a blank-checkbook mentality,” Cahill said, adding the plan will hurt the state’s credit rating.
Widmer was part of a special panel assessing state transportation infrastructure needs and has been on the record about the need for taxes for awhile.

The Patrick Administration has also been shying away from the tax proposal -- they recognize the income tax repeal question on the November ballot makes it an even worse subject to discuss right now. So no Profile in Courage Awards there either.

But Treasurer Tim is playing a more cynical game, calling for decisive action while avoiding any mention of what that alternative might be.

No wonder Turnpike boss Alan LeBovidge snarked:
“Maybe I missed it. They all said they had other options, but there were none that I wrote down.”
While LeBovidge should have jotted down Widmer's suggestion, the sarcasm still seems appropriate directed at Cahill and Sen. Marc Montigny, who said "It is the worst of both worlds for the taxpayer and the toll payer" and apparently left it at that.

This button's for you Tim. You can share it if you like.

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Perhaps Tim Cahill has a secret plan to pay the debt with honor.

July 18, 2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...


July 18, 2008 7:17 PM  
Blogger Dan Kennedy said...

I respect Widmer, but at the same time his business constituency has no problem with higher tolls and gas taxes, so there are no negative consequences for him to propose such things.

What Widmer suggests is that drivers and taxpayers who have already been horribly screwed over and saddled with a wildly expensive, leaking, unsafe project be forced to fork over even more money.

Even if it's necessary, it's grossly unfair, and everyone knows it. What elected official would propose such a thing? I mean, if someone said we shouldn't pay one more penny until someone goes to prison, could you really disagree?

July 18, 2008 10:38 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

An accurate description of Widmer and a good description of the overall situation, Dan.

But, even sending someone to prison (and the last I looked incompetence isn't illegal) is not going to fix the problem.

Neither is bald-faced grandstanding, which is what Cahill is guilty of here. He knows exactly what the solution is -- and he signed off on the plan in April (says the Globe). Because his head is not directly on the chopping block, he's engaged in politics, not problem-solving.

We have enough of that already. The fact the Globe is letting him do it is even more astounding.

July 19, 2008 6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cahill is being tutored by kingmaker Jack Connors to make headlines now that can be used during his future run for Governor. His "handle" will be, "I was the only one in the Executive Branch to display fiscal responsibility when the state needed it," and he will pull out his comments about holding back on the size of the bridge repair bond issue, the Pike refinancing, and the school building authority. For this purpose, he doesn't need to offer alternatives. He just needs headlines.

Interesting that the Lt.Gov. was sent out to be the pit bull to disagree with him on the Pike issue. Or maybe he volunteered for that assignment, as the first act in the match-up between the two of them when the next run for Governor takes place.

Amazing, though, that no political columnist has picked up on Cahill's gambits and the role of his key mentor.

July 19, 2008 7:28 AM  

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