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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, October 29, 2009

Sacred Cows and the Sacred Cod

Memo to Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill: Underestimate Deval Patrick at your own risk.

Faced with the task of chopping another $600 million from the state budget, Patrick traveled to Worcester to spell out the details (such as they are), which were then concisely summarized by Boston Herald headline writers:

Gov eyes 2,000 jobs, hack holidays, Quinn Bill in cuts

Over at the Globe, due notice is taken at the other gauntlet thrown down by Patrick, the alleged darling of the left.
Almost 1,000 state jobs will be eliminated and another 1,000 are in jeopardy unless unions agree to concessions as the state moves to close a $600 million budget gap, Governor Deval Patrick's top fiscal aide said today.
Take that Charlie and Tim. You too Christy.

But most of all, here's looking at you Bobby and Terry.

The focus on eliminating Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day -- Suffolk County holidays whose demise South Boston Sen. Jack Hart once likened to the elimination of Christmas -- clearly sets the upcoming round of cuts as a battle between Sacred Cows and the Sacred Cod that represents the tradition of the Massachusetts Legislature.

Toss in a few bombs aimed at police and other unions and you have another fascinating chapter in the ongoing saga of Deval vs. The Great and General Court.

Patrick has already made it quite clear he intends to run against the Legislature. His battles against now-indicted former Speaker Sal DiMasi were merely warm ups for this year's fights over ethics, pensions, transportation and taxes. (Let us never forget the highly unpopular sales tax increase was the birthed by current Speaker Robert DeLeo, although Patrick has also been tarred by it).

Not to mention that lawmakers have already said no to eliminating the Suffolk County holidays and blinked in the face of union pressure in rolling back but not ending Quinn Bill benefits.

Telling the leaders of other public employee unions that it's either concessions or another 1,000 layoffs is also going to go over well with a public that has either seen their own jobs disappear or knows a neighbor or co-worker on unemployment.

Patrick was deliberately vague about $352 million in cuts across state government will come. But he wasn't shy about protecting local aid -- and the teachers, cops and firefighters whose jobs depend on it.

And while he was at it, he spared human services the Draconian cuts they feared, leaving advocates to at least hum his praises.

The scene now shifts to the Legislature, where DeLeo and Senate President Terry Murray have been non-committal about giving Patrick the "9c" powers he's asked for the cut beyond the executive branch.

Now they find themselves in the position of giving him that power -- and the taking the heat from the unions and employees who like a couple of extra paid days off.

Or they can stand in support of hack holidays and the Quinn Bill and offer fresh fodder for Patrick's campaign commercials. And Baker and Cahill can only stand by and watch.

Good policy, but even better politics governor.

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