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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Who says House and Senate leaders don't talk?

On the same morning that House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy unveils a pain-filled $27.4 billion budget that contains not a speck of new taxes, Senate President Therese Murray utters one word at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that spells out legislative planning.

The House document is stark -- it even eliminates the Quinn Bill, a prized piece of perk for police officers. Local aid is slashed, sending the pain down the chain to cities and towns who will need to layoff those same police officers, along with public works employees and librarians.

Murphy and Speaker Robert DeLeo insist it is an accurate reflection of reality in a state that has been rocked by the national recession.
"We're not playing any games," Murphy said in a briefing with the Globe. "We're trying to illustrate the fiscal reality."
And it is one version of fiscal reality.

Taxes, as we all know, are the third rail of politics (an even more apt analogy given another picture of fiscal reality offered by the MBTA). No one wants to pay them, yet everyone wants something from government, whether it is police protection or education benefits.

I've been as vocal as anyone in suggesting House lawmakers intended to use scare tactics in unveiling a bare bones budget. Murphy and DeLeo simply picked other words from the thesaurus to describe it.

And Murray offered the tag team approach at the Chamber breakfast.
"We need the revenue. To see that over $900 million leaves the Commonwealth every year and goes to Connecticut and Rhode Island for gaming, I think that even if we could pick up $700 million of that, we would all take that."
Anyone find it interesting that she used those numbers when it has been estimated a penny on the sales tax would probably raise $750 million?

The most ardent foe of Deval Patrick's casino gambling proposal, former House Speaker Sal DiMasi, is gone. His chief lieutenant in that fight, Rep. Dan Bosley, he of the economically gutted North Adams run by Mayor John Barrett, has been consigned to the back benches.

Murray held her cards close to the vest in the first round. But by alluding to some sorts of slots proposal she is now aligned with DeLeo and Patrick in saying the debate will be re-opened.

In very different economic times.

Don't bet against it. While it may be a lot harder to find a Sheldon Adelson or Steve Wynn willing to plunk down the cash to launch a casino in a recession, it's certainly the easiest way out of the political box -- no matter what other social and economic problems are raised.

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Blogger dan bosley said...

ML, This debate has always been about misdirection.Yes, casinos make money. Yes people go to Connecticut to gamble because they can't in Massachusetts (in casinos). Yes, people seem to accept this revenue source rather than tax hikes. These have never been disputed. But this misses the point. Casinos don't create new revenues for a state, so one has to weigh how much revenue in a casino is economic transfer from other parts of the state economy. In other words, where is this money being spent in Massachusetts already and how does that spending work for us? How much can we reasonably expect to recapture from other states and what will that cost us to recapture? Is it wise to take a more diversified economy and replace it in part by one that relies on a few big revenue centers? These are the questions that people ignore when they discuss this. If I did that as a leader in Massachusetts on any other issue, I would be summarily dismissed. However, in our irrational exuberance over gambling, some people ignore these questions. This isn't about placing a few casinos in Massachusetts. It's about the future direction of our economy. Do we want to be Nevada, or do we want to be Massachusetts? I think we deserve a better future.

April 17, 2009 7:49 AM  

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