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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Monday, May 04, 2009

A winning hand

Deval Patrick knows a winning hand and when he sees one. And he is betting heavily in a showdown with the Legislature, knowing the end game is virtually impossible to lose.

Patrick is calling on lawmakers to rescind one of the more egregious perks they have -- the ability to collect an enhanced pension after they leave office -- even voluntarily.
"This must end. It is exactly the kind of special favors, gamesmanship, and insider maneuvering that the public is fed up with."
He was referring specifically to the most recent Globe story noting 10 lawmakers who left office voluntarily but, under a 1950 law, were able to put in for increased pension benefits originally designed to help out legislators who lose an election.

Leaving aside the extreme special interest nature of the original legislation, today's interpretation to include anyone who steps down, is a major league boondoggle.

And the likely reason it was discovered in the first place was the fact that former Arlington Sen. James Marzilli sought to collect at the same time he was fending off court action on groping charges.

This does get tricky. The 10 claim they were simply doing what they thought was their right and the retirement board approved the claims. So the public's beef should be with the board, not them.

And the current crop of legislators. While both branches included revocation of the perk in pension reform legislation, the House grandfathered current members, in effect closing the barn door only after they step down. And no one has been in a rush to resolve differences between House and Senate pension reform plans.

The issue resonates for Patrick because it also places his chief critic and potential 2010 primary foe, Treasurer Tim Cahill, smack in the middle.

As the chairman of the retirement board, Cahill could be in the position to prod, push and tug to get action. And there is a nice little wedge in the admission by the board that it could find no legal opinions or findings to back up the interpretation that had been using -- until reversing itself as a result of a Globe inquiry on a pending request for former Rep. Paul Casey of Winchester.

No less than Senate President Therese Murray has given Cahill an opening, telling the Globe:
"If the Retirement Board determines that any of the lawmakers in question were not eligible for these pensions under the old law, then they should be rescinded."
Yet the treasurer has been passive, telling the Globe he thinks the interpretation is a stretch but offering no leadership on the question of whether the board could rescind the 10 enhanced packages in much the same way it rejected Casey's request.

For Patrick, a chance to stand up against Cahill and the Legislature in championing a cause where public anger is righteous and rising is the ultimate winner.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cahill always wants to have it both ways . . . outsider image, insider player. He needs insider help to run for Governor, but he wants outsider image to get votes.

May 04, 2009 6:53 AM  

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