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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beacon Hill warfare

Sorry if you gave you a nice Sunday to do the people's business Madame President. But there is a problem here that requires all of our attention.

The tension between Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leaders ratcheted up a few more notches after Patrick's release of a video declaring "reform before revenue" in the search for ways to balance the state budget. Maybe Murray was annoyed that Patrick has appropriated her mantra, but this comment will go down as one of the more tone deaf remarks in state history.

"I was very surprised, since the speaker and I gave up our Sundays and sat with him for quite a while," Murray said. "To receive that letter, with that tone, was shocking, really."

I'll leave it to others to debate whether Patrick is a reformer or just posturing. But from the tone of the comments on a Globe story from yesterday, it seems as if the governor is closer to the public's mood than a Legislature that sends the signal that it prefers an easy vote over a hard debate.

On the one hand, Murray's open annoyance at Patrick can't be a good thing for the governor's agenda. She had been a silent mediator in the struggle between Patrick and former Speaker Sal DiMasi so her adversarial stance here is ominous. And her genuine (and righteous) pique at Transportation Secretary James Aloisi makes this dustup look like a walk in the park.

But lawmakers have not been projecting any sense of urgency in grappling with ALL the issues facing the Commonwealth. And for voters the mess at the Pike, the steady steam of news about another pension outrage and yes, the political backbiting, all come down to the same thing -- elected officials out of touch.

Not to mention they elect one person as a figurehead to handle it all.

Belatedly or not, cynically or not, Patrick seems to be moving in the direction favored by the public. No one will ever be happy paying an additional penny in taxes but they do want to see some signs they are being heard.

Packaging tax decisions into easier-to-defend votes and lamenting about lost Sundays are as tone deaf as uproars over drapes and book contracts. And they are equally important to a public that is growing ever more angry over the inability of our leaders to address things important to them.

Patrick appears to have learned from his most recent gaffes -- the Marian Walsh and James Aloisi "cozy up to the insiders" moves having flamed out royally. He may have the high ground right now in the symbolism wars only to lose it later. And obviously, legislators have nothing to worry about as long as the Republican Party puts out press releases rather than candidates for office.

But standing up to a legislature is never a bad political move for an embattled governor.

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