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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 01, 2009

We now return to our regular programming

There's not much point picking through the detritus left behind by the "tsunami" that swept away Marian Walsh's HEFA job and much of Deval Patrick's credibility.

No, fun time is over and we should be back to the real questions that ought to consume Beacon Hill -- how do you deal with what has been estimated as high as a $4 billion hole in the state budget? That would be on top of several billion sliced off a spending plan that left the starting gate last July at around $28 billion.

For a man reported to speak in DeLenglish, House Speaker Robert DeLeo was pretty direct in speaking to the Boston Chamber of Commerce:
"I want to warn you that the cuts that are required to balance this budget ... will cut to the very core of government's purpose and mission ... It is almost impossible to overstate how dire the situation is for us."
His new Ways and Means Chairman, Charles Murphy of Burlington, when asked if the budget could be balanced without new taxes, replied, "Yes. Next question," according to an account of a Monday night Harvard forum reported by the Statehouse News Service (subscription required).

In contrast, Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan responded:
"I don't think so. I think we are low on a lot of our taxes."
There has already been significant unhappiness among advocates with the cuts authored since October to trim constantly falling tax receipts. Stephen Crosby, the state's budget chief after 9-11, suggested Kirwan may be presiding over the biggest downturn in revenues of almost any secretary in recent memory.

But obviously we ain't seen nothin' yet.

DeLeo was less definitive than his Ways and Means chief, saying only that he didn't like the meals and hotel tax proposals Patrick has put on the table. He did seem to reject a deep dive into the state's rainy day fund and warned federal stimulus dollars are not a panacea.

It's entirely possible this is all political posturing. The public is obviously not in the mood for a tax increase -- facing the contrast threat of layoffs and drastic changes in their own budgets. The mere talk of a 19-cent gasoline tax hike to help fix the messes created by a lack of oversight and management of the transportation infrastructure has people seeing red.

House leaders may opt to put forward a "pain budget" that spells out in grim details what would be lost without new revenues, forcing a debate on which option is worse.

In any event, the uproar over budget and tax questions will make the Walsh tsunami look like a gentle ripple in a pond.

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Blogger Daniel said...

Thank Goodness for the Marian Walsh situation! For a minute there I was afraid we might actually be asked to face our problems like adults. Whew!
As we all know, it's much better to wait until bridges collapse before you worry about fixing them.

April 01, 2009 7:09 AM  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

I actually like the idea of a pain budget. I'm a low taxes kind of citizen, but I appreciate that some state services are important.

My concern is that the leadership would cut the most vital services in this fake budget (schools shut down! entire towns with no police force!) without perhaps finding and cutting some of the waste. When the public sees the disater about to happen, they'll happily pay more taxes.

It strikes me that the problem is we live in a virtual one-party state. Ideally, there would be a strong minority party DOING this already (and they would go after the waste, one would hope, to show how awesome they were and why they should get elected more). It's like we're asking the Democrats to play the role of Republicans, because, you know, someone has to.

April 01, 2009 9:38 PM  

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