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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, October 18, 2010

The fudge factor

The Globe has two of the gubernatorial candidates fudging the facts about Big Dig and MBTA financing today. But while Deval Patrick seems a bit loose with some words, Baker may have a more serious issue -- fudging bond documents.

Patrick appears to have overreached in trying to tie Baker's Big Dig administration to the sprawling MBTA debt problem, with the Globe's Noah Bierman calling out the Patrick camp for not having rock solid evidence to back up the claim.

Instead, Patrick appears to be relying on the commonly held belief that Big Dig costs sucked up all available transportation dollars -- and saddled the MBTA with additional projects to mitigate the massive highway construction.

Where Patrick seems to have stretched is in his contention that Baker is responsible higher bus, subway and commuter rail fares because of his signature on the Big Dig financing plan.

Patrick's overreach is ironic because the Globe nails Baker for a far more serious issue surrounding his signature: the fact the Weld Administration and Finance Secretary signed a 1996 bond prospectus saying the project would cost $7.7 billion when state officials knew that inflation would take it over $11 billion.

Baker has been more honest on the campaign trail -- declaring the project was $11 billion when he got to A&F in 1994 and was $11 billion when he left four years later.

But there are no brownie points for fessing up now when you sign a document under pains and penalties of perjury that shave the truth.

Especially when the most famous cost-waster and truth shaver, former Turnpike Authority boss James Kerasiotes acknowledges he fudged the true costs because he didn't want the inflation factor to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In 2003, the SEC found Kerasiotes negligent for failing to disclose a $1.4 billion cost overrun in three 1999 bond offerings, issued by the Turnpike Authority, the Commonwealth and the MBTA. In each case, Kerasiotes supplied the Big Dig cost estimates as he did in the 1996 bond offering by the commonwealth and signed by Baker.

Hindsight has shown trusting Kerasiotes was a bad move. But instead of fessing up to the fact the project was mess during the years when he was the state's finance chief, Baker insists on declaring he was just a little cog in the wheel.

Which is a much bigger whopper than Patrick's stretch.

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