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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, September 07, 2008

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program....

The conventions are over, we survived the Invasion of the U-Hauls, school has started and life is about to slip back into routine. Let's hope that includes the reporters who cover the ins and outs of politics and government in the capital city.

While the Globe thought it important enough to send a reporter over to Italy to accompany Boston Mayor Tom Menino on a mission of questionable value for the city, the newspaper of record has been pretty silent on a subject that should be capturing our attention: the impending budget nightmare.

Sure, we've seen stories about the problems at the Turnpike Authority and the MBTA and fleeting references to bond prospectuses that spell out a gloomy fiscal picture.

And we've been treated to fleeting references to extensions of a Medicare waiver deadline as the state and federal government wrangle over how much the feds will continue to pay for the state's health care experiment.

Unless you subscribe to the Statehouse News Service, you don't know there is about to be a huge hole blown into the FY 09 state budget.
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 31, 2008.....The Bush administration, which plans to deny Massachusetts $2 billion the state says it needs to cover health care costs, has come up with a way to ease the pain, according to a source familiar with negotiations.

Massachusetts has requested upward of $11 billion in federal Medicaid reimbursements over the next three years, but federal officials, while still in negotiations, are expected to slash the request by about $650 million a year. According to the source, Bush budget officials have refused to budge on that reduction but have agreed to allow the Bay State wide latitude in how it spends the funds it does receive.
Note the date -- a week ago. Long enough for the Globe -- which should have sources every bit as good as the plucky News Service -- to match the story either in Boston or Washington.

There's no question that covering the national conventions is the candy that helps justify the long and occasionally miserable hours spent covering politics.

But you would think that with the Globe's shrinking news hole the slimmed down reporting staff should be focused on "hyperlocal" topics and let someone else handle the bulk of the national beats.

Or that the Herald, looking to hit 'em where the Globe ain't, would see the void and move into it. If the state comes up (at least) $650 million short on a budget that is already two months old, the impact of cuts over the remaining nine or 10 months is going to be magnified.

And that same "shame on you" might also be extended to the Politickerma, the new kid on the block that touts itself as "inside politics for political insiders."

The fireworks have exploded and the balloons have dropped. There is a primary election scheduled in nine days (surprise!). Let's get back to business, shall we.

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