Like kids in a candy store
In a scene being played out in 50 capitals, local, state and federal officials are tussling of who gets what and how much as they desperately hope to stave off major painful local cuts.
The desire for political credit combined with real needs to fix roads and bridges and prevent layoffs holds the potential to turn friend against friend -- and slow down what is supposed to be a quick infusion of capital into a comatose economy.
Um, excuse me, Mr. Representative. You are just one elected person and you serve a population much smaller than the governor.
"The concept that one person, who is politically elected, is the sole person to decide where the money should go, just doesn't seem right," said US Representative Michael Capuano, a Democrat of Somerville who has been an early and frequent supporter of Patrick. "I would argue that no individual should be given that sole authority."
"When I said money should go to Longfellow Bridge, it's an earmark," he added. "But when Governor Patrick says it, it's a worthy idea."
The view is even sharper one step farther down on the ladder.
Even the normally sleepy proceedings of the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization recently erupted in controversy. During a meeting last week in West Springfield, mayors in Western Massachusetts were shocked when state transportation officials said they wanted to use about $60 million in federal stimulus money for construction on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The mayors feel the money should be used instead to fix municipal-owned roads and bridges in local communities. The meeting ended after several confrontational exchanges and was rescheduled for tomorrow.
"They've all submitted everything - including the Taj Mahal in every town - from wish lists they've had for years," Senate President Therese Murray said in an interview. "It's probably, what, $4 trillion?"Patrick seems to have an interesting idea for breaking up the playground spat: a special administrator named by him, the attorney general, inspector general and auditor. It's the process used to name the IG in the first place.
Ever the realist, the one-time Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman says that's fine:
"If you gave us all the money and we all got to decide, we'd never agree where the money should go," Murray said.Not to mention the fact that if you took the Patrick administration's timelines for producing casino and transportation plans, we'd be into the next recession before things got done.