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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Monday, July 14, 2008

Warning signs ahead

One thing you have to love about political spin -- it is creative.
"I am pleased the governor has lent his approval to 99 percent of the appropriations the Legislature approved as part of its Fiscal 2009 budget plan."
With those words, House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo heralded the next phase of the state's annual budget show, which promises to be an affair to remember this time around.

That's because Gov. Deval Patrick vetoed $122.5 million in legislative spending, much of it prized local earmarks that legislators want to take back for their fall election campaign. Patrick also asked for special emergency "9C" powers to make cuts anytime during the fiscal year.

(For a great visual of how earmarks are layered into the budget, check out this Blue Mass Group post.)

DeLeo sounds as if he's pleased that Patrick didn't do more damage to the perfect masterpiece he co-authored with his Senate counterpart Steven Panagiotakis. Members who saw their pet projects redlined may be less forgiving.

But there are serious questions about whether even these cuts will be enough to keep the budget in balance. Says Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation head Michael Widmer:
"It's a good first step, but I think it's highly likely that he will use the emergency powers this fall to make additional cuts to deal with the state's fiscal realities."
Realities like a $300 million federal waiver that will pay for health care reform. Or the fact that the nation's economy is heading south (why is it we are only on the cusp of a recession when things are so shaky?)

Patrick signaled the fact he knows this won't be enough by asking the Legislature to give him the authority to make unilateral cuts along the way. Lawmakers granted Mitt Romney the same power -- and for a very good reason -- any additional pain can be blamed on the governor, not them.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to the vetoes in the remaining two weeks or so of the legislative term. Veto overrides have to be done now. Any veto still standing when the session ends at the end of the month is law.

Will they accept Patrick's first pass, go back home and say they tried but that nasty governor didn't want them to have that bandstand?

Or will they get the cut restored and then sit back and let Patrick take the heat when the crunch comes?

(Note to Patrick: that's what is called a lose-lose scenario for you).

And what would be a better scenario come November: Bring home the bacon and get re-elected? Or bring home the bacon, get re-elected and give harried taxpayers (yeah, the same ones who want the bandstand) a chance to get even by eliminating the income tax and forcing both legislators and Patrick to have a special year-end budget machete session?

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