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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wild card race

Voters go to the polls today in what is likely the most bizarre special election in Massachusetts history.

Several of the deadly plagues have been about the only things missing during this three-month run-up to this star-crossed primary to choose Democratic and Republican nominees to fill John F. Kerry's former Senate seat.

From the Hamlet-like moves of former Sen. Scott Brown, to the winter of our discontent followed hard by the retirement of Boston Mayor Tom Menino and the Marathon bombing tragedy, this has been a race that failed to find traction with voters.

It did not help it is the fourth race for the two US Senate seats since 2009, where Brown swooped out of seeming oblivion to capture The People's Seat after the death of Edward Kennedy, only to lose it two years later when Elizabeth Warren emerged from nowhere to take it away.

Secretary of State William Galvin predicts an abysmal turnout that will be large;y driven by which candidate has the best get out the vote apparatus.

On the Democratic side, all polls, except for Stephen Lynch's internals, suggest Ed Markey will take home the brass ring. In keeping with the bizarre twists, a stomach bug kept Lynch o the sidelines for most of the day when his presence was needed to rally the troops.

Republicans face the supposed specter of former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez closing the gap on one-time US Attorney for Massachusetts Michael Sullivan. Polling has been virtually absent in this contest as well -- at least any that can penetrate the crowd of copy generated by 24 Boston mayoral hopefuls.

Sullivan is believed to have the edge based on the fact fact he actually collected his nomination signatures himself, rather than have a firm pay for it, a sign of a better organization.

Sullivan's hardline stances on guns and abortion are also thought to make him more appealing to the hard core voters who take Republican primary ballots. But the Republican Party's unofficial house organ keeps trying to send the message to the electorate that Gomez is the second coming of Brown.

This likely won't be a late night. Unless voters surprise the experts and come out in droves.

I think the odds of a Dan Winslow win in the GOP primary is more likely than surge in turnout.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Voter overload

What if they held an election and nobody came?

Regular readers know I am a political junkie. But like many others, non-junkies included, I have been somewhat distracted by the Marathon bombing and its aftermath. My usual laser-like focus on politics and its nuances has been elsewhere, reflecting on the damage to human lives and Boston's mental health caused by the horrific events of April 15.

So imagine what the average person, inundated by US Senate elections since the death of Ted Kennedy nearly four years ago, must be feeling at the prospect of casting yet another ballot on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin has the answer in the level of interest in absentee ballots:
“These are abysmal numbers,’’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, citing the fact that applications are running about 25 percent the level in the primary for the 2010 special election. “It is depressing to see. There seems to be no momentum to the election.”
Frank Phillips details the litany of plagues the candidates in both primaries have faced in trying to capture voter attention. Some have tried harder to cut through the noise -- Steve Lynch's obnoxious attempt to take advantage of the tragedy in a TV commercial and the robo-calls in his name to mention two -- but the other four candidates have sought to plug along.

While snowstorms and the a crowded Boston mayoral field should have no impact on a primary election, the Marathon bombing is another matter entirely. The rogue actions of two misguided brothers should not derail democracy.

After all, that's what they were trying to do.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jumping to conclusions

Following the Boston Marathon bombing by social media showed it at its best -- and worst.

Twitter has become the go-to source for breaking news, as long as you trust the tweep. But it remains the home to rumors, innuendo, cranks, ideologues and instigators who troll its vastness.

It's a role that television news has filled, to a small degree, when it opts to offer wall-to-wall coverage where little is known, particularly in the early hours of a major event.

The Marathon bombing is a perfect example.

The political cranks, including those among media outlets, were spewing a steady stream of rumor before cranking into high dudgeon over whether Barack Obama used the word "terror" to describe the event.

Many were the same outlets that threw out references to Middle East terrorists, ignoring the reality that politically inspired incidents this time of year usually have a domestic flavor.

April 19 has long been a keystone for right wing warriors, staring with the federal government's move against David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in 1993, followed by the Oklahoma City bombing two years later.

Of course the grand daddy of all rebellions came in 1775, when Paul Revere rode the countryside to announce the British were coming. That event is celebrated annually in Boston as Patriots Day -- with the running of the Boston Marathon.

And it's hard to ignore that April 15 is Tax Day, and all the heat generated around that event.

None of this is to say yesterday's unspeakable events are linked to the right either. But these facts serve as a sobering counterweight to the conspiracies circulating through social media today.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Do as I say

If public pensions are a third rail in Massachusetts politics, Michael Sullivan has his hands on it right now.

The former Massachusetts legislator and Plymouth County District Attorney lobbied his former colleagues for higher salaries and pension benefits while he was head of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.

And while Sullivan proudly proclaims his refusal to take a legislative pay hike in the '90s, he wasn't shy about the better benefits he received as DA.

The boost results from elevating DAs to Group 4, a category reserved for employees with high-risk jobs like police officer or prison guard. Lawyers were not originally envisioned as a member of the group.

But that was before Paul McLaughlin, as assistant Suffolk County DA was shot at an MBTA train station by a gang leader in 1999.

What's at issue is less the question of the risk involved than the reality of Sullivan, who edges closer to the Tea Party than has Senate race rivals, appears to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

For starters, he is collecting since age 55 as his right, a $27,492 a year pension. No mind that a local conservatively-bent publication has recently pursued a series of stories about pensions, in which the early retirement age is an issue.

And Sullivan seems to have amnesia on the subject, unable to recall his role in the effort despite the recall of the DA association's chief lobbyist at the time, Robert F. White, who told the Globe:
Initially, [he] had negotiated an agreement with legislative budget leaders that would have given district attorneys an increase to $113,000 a year, White said.
“I was blindsided when ­Sullivan announced at an association meeting he had gotten a special commitment from the House Democratic leadership for $117,490,’’ White said.
Sullivan poo-poohed White's contention and insists the lobbyist has it out for him because he prosecuted former House Speaker Tom Finneran while serving as US Attorney for Massachusetts.

It's a real tough place to be in if you are proclaiming yourself as the right's best hope in the April 30 Senate primary. Feeding at the public trough and short memories don't go ever well with the voters he is wooing.

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Peace is at hand

It looks as if Deval Patrick has swerved to avoid that high-speed crash with the Legislature.

The day began with Senate President Therese Murray rapped Patrick for his rhetoric over the transportation funding bill passed by the House:
“You have to be careful when you speak, and the rhetoric and the words that you use, if you want to move things ahead,” she told reporters after speaking to the ­Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
It probably didn't hurt that Patrick took a lashing from the Globe's Scot Lehigh a day earlier.

Within hours a newly conciliatory Patrick offered well-tempered words for the Senate plan, which calls for $300 million more in transportation spending -- if not revenues-- by shifting dollars around.
“You see that the Senate has moved to a different place than was announced back then,” said Patrick. “It was about kicking the can down the road. But I think there are a lot of people in the Legislature – and, I think, including the Senate president — who don’t want to kick the can down the road, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve seen the movement on the ­Senate side.”
Not that Murray was holding an iron grip either. Her original plans to have the chamber take up the bill Wednesday or Thursday have given way to an extremely rare Saturday session. There were clearly some members who needed to be brought into line -- and a weekend session before a school vacation week recess sends a loud message.

Now it will be up to reconcile any Senate bill that emerges with the House package -- and where Speaker Robert DeLeo appears dug in for his $500 million revenue plan.

 No one can be kept after school for that compromise, so some more conciliatory words are going to have to flow.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sleight of mouth

Michael Sullivan isn't a lobbyist. He did "counsel work for an industry."

The Republican US Senate candidate ought to hope the audience was minimal for the televised debate last night when he not only stepped out of the mainstream on gun control, but managed to engage in the kind of verbal gymnastics that typifies why people hate politicians.

The debate with Gabriel Gomez and Dan Winslow came the same day that a bipartisan agreement on background checks for commercial purchase was announced by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.

Sullivan, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- the federal agency that allegedly regulates guns -- says he doubts this measure and efforts to check a purchaser's mental health status won't work. That position put him at odds with his GOP rivals, including the former Navy Seal Gomez.
Both Gomez and Winslow said they would vote for the Toomey-Manchin measure. ­Under pressure from Winslow, Sullivan said repeatedly that the Toomey-Manchin effort “doesn’t address the problem,” but refused to clarify whether or not he would vote for it.
Challenged by Gomez that he was ducking the question, Sullivan insisted he was not before firing back at Winslow, who said Sullivan was “a lobbyist for the gun lobby."
“I don’t lobby for anything, anybody,” he said, terming his work at the Ashcroft Group as “counsel work for an industry.”
While the company carefully couches its language and shelters its client list, it's a stretch to call any Washington-based firm headed by a former Attorney General that engages in regulatory and legislative affairs as not involved in working with legislators and regulators to influence outcomes.

In other words, lobbying.

That bob and weave is only slightly more egregious from Winslow's effort to back away from his service to Mitt Romney as chief legal counsel, saying he had nothing to do with Romney Care.

And it stands in sharp contrast to Gomez manning up to his asking Deval Patrick to appoint him to the interim seat he is now seeking full-time.

Sullivan's words are sure to comeback to haunt him if, as polls suggest, he wins the GOP primary.

Let's hope he's a straighter shooter with a firearm.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Half a loaf

There's a signpost up ahead to the Beacon Hill transportation showdown, if any of the players are willing to accept it.

Senate President Therese Murray is offering a bill worth anywhere between $725 million and $805 million in revenue and spending earmarked for transportation.

Problem is: will anyone -- from the dug in House leadership to the Patrick allies -- be willing to bend?

To Murray, the new proposal -- which taxes utility companies by requiring them to pay for infrastructure, such as light poles, on state highway right-of-ways and diverts roughly $80 million in excess funds from an underground storage tank cleanup program -- is better than the nothing likely if she stands firm with the House plan:
“If that bill doesn’t go forward, then the T rates will go up, tolls will go up, and I don’t think anybody wants that to happen."
Patrick, who says he would be willing to find a middle ground, has not signaled his thoughts on the Senate proposal as clearly as he has denounced the House plan. Reading the tea leaves however, his Senate supporters are gearing up to try to delay consideration of the Murray proposal.

Jamaica Plain Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz used procedural maneuvers to delay Thursday consideration of the bill and her Acton colleague James Eldridge called the House bill regressive,  declaring:
  “I think we need a much stronger revenue package."
Patrick may have held the high ground for his grand, if expensive, not to mention overly ambitious  vision to overhaul transportation and education. But he is quickly losing that high ground:
 Our governor is about to suffer a stinging rebuke. The man most responsible for that?
Deval Laurdine Patrick.

Patrick and his team have over-reached badly on his big tax-and-spending package. He now faces this choice: Settle for much less or risk getting nothing at all.
When columnists call you by your rarely used middle name you have a problem.

It's easier to compromise than change your middle name.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Plan B

Legislative leaders have lost the battle. Do they still think they can win the war?

With unusual alacrity, House Speaker Robert DeLeo brought a $500 million tax package to fund transportation improvements to the floor yesterday. Unlike the House budget -- due out tomorrow and with time for members to digest it and offer amendments -- this plan was voted on just days after it appeared with no public discussion.

The need for speed was obvious: Gov. Deval Patrick appears to have picked off about two dozen Democrats from DeLeo's usually lockstep majority and the 97-55 margin means the plan to hike gasoline, cigarette and business taxes is short on a veto-proof majority.

While the bill appears likely to receive a Senate vote this week -- victory margin TBD -- the real question is what happens after the bill lands on Patrick's desk and is returned.

There should be no doubt Patrick will deliver his veto: remember the casino bill that died because he didn't go along with DeLeo's hard stance for more slots parlors. It's safe to assume DeLeo will start marching Democratic nay sayers into his office for some, er, persuasion.

The likelihood of turning Democrats would be a subject of great interest if the state had also legalized betting on games. I wouldn't want to take that action. Listen to the strongest argument apparently offered by House Transportation Committee Chairman William Straus:
“Is there a perfect bill? I have to ask that, because I hope it causes you to rethink your position.”
What became clearer in the light of day (or dead of night when the bill passed just before midnight) is the legislation doesn't contain enough cash to fund anything beyond current MBTA operations, unlike the Patrick plan that would fund expansion of South Station, a rail line to Fall River and New Bedford, and the Green Line extension pro­ject.

And repairs to or replacement of crumbling roads and bridges from Pittsfield to Provincetown and the hundreds of communities outside the MBTA district.

Straus acknowledged the long odds of a compromise:
"I myself don’t want to play some sort of roulette game or game of chance with the people we represent."
So it's on to a showdown in the Senate and then what will hopefully be some calm discussion among DeLeo, Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray.

But I wouldn't bet on that either.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Somnolent Senate showdown

Anyone notice there are Senate primaries going on?

The Democratic and Republican primaries to replace John Kerry were low-key affairs to begin with, the hopefuls failing to spark interest after high-profile campaigns involving Scott Brown, Martha Coakley and Elizabeth Warren.

And they became significant snoozers, particularly to the Boston media, after Tom Menino declared he was walking away from City Hall.

There are now just three weeks until voters go to the polls and the under-the-radar screen contests seem to be rousing, although the best tonight's Ed Markey-Steve Lynch debate can generate is live streaming in the run-up to the NCAA championship game.

Columnists are trying to generate some heat: witness Joan Vennochi's assertion that state Democratic Party leader John Walsh tried to keep Lynch out of the race -- a claim that was roundly denied on Twitter by just about everyone, including Lynch's team.

And Markey's efforts to date have been just about as bad as Joe Battenfeld suggests, a lackluster debate effort amid what can only be called uninspiring TV commercials that assume everyone in Massachusetts knows the 36-year veteran.

While Lynch works to define himself, Markey can expect the Republicans to do so if he makes it out of the primary.

And despite his own efforts, it's likely he will because Vennochi has a point: the liberals who vote in the Democratic primary are not enamored of Lynch.

The South Boston congressman was not helped in that cause with the Globe's extended look at the record he has compiled in the Massachusetts Legislature and in Washington.

It's not so much his "evolution" on  issues like abortion and gay rights. The toughest roadblock Lynch faces (in contrast to the boost from Markey's apparent indifference to campaigning) is his vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Lynch's response that the bill was flawed is not good enough. Everyone committed to health care reform can rattle off all the compromises that had to be made to secure passage of one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history.

Democrats fell into line to support the less-than-perfect start of a major milestone, knowing that the law can be improved over time, once the highly partisan Republican obstruction fades.

 But not Lynch.

There's still time for Markey to rouse from his slumber and properly introduce himself and what he stands for, not necessarily because he faces a major challenge from Lynch.

Republicans would like nothing more than reclaim the "Brown seat." And a nominee perceived to be as disinterested as Martha Coakley -- to the point of not challenging his primary foe -- would give them a credible shot.

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Gutless wonders redux

Accept our tax plan or MBTA riders get it.

That appears to be the bargaining position of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey of Haverhill as lawmakers dig in their heels against lobbying by Deval Patrick over a tax package aimed at resolving two pressing issues. Asked about moving beyond the $500 million plan offered this week, he said:
 “Getting to a higher number does not appear at all likely,” he said.
Both Dempsey and his boss, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, insist the package is more than enough to prevent another round of MBTA fare hikes a year after a 23 percent increase.

I'd feel a lot better about the claim if I didn't know the Legislature's history in dealing with transportation issues, from the Big Dig itself to the decision to saddle the MBTA with a major hunk of the Big Dig debt in order to bail out the late, unlamented Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

And I would also feel better about the proposed 3-cent per gallon gasoline tax hike if I didn't know that lawmakers have already rejected proposed 19-cent gas tax hike to deal with the massive transportation issues their endless dithering has caused.

Let's stipulate the Patrick's $1.9 billion tax overhaul targeting both transportation and education is a major overreach and that the issues should be uncoupled.

But when the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says we need at least $800 million in new revenues to begin tackling the problems of roads, bridges and public transportation, the legislative package starts to look feeble.

So feeble in fact that some members are willing to express their doubts publicly, if not by name about the ability to pass the bill, let alone override a threatened gubernatorial veto:
“Not only do I not think that we have the votes to override, I don’t know whether we have the votes to pass it,” said one Democrat. “I don’t know what the House is going to do, but I think the debate on our side is far from a foregone conclusion.”
The situation reminds me of the state of affairs in the late 1980s when lawmakers could not agree on even acting to deal with the state's fiscal crisis, prompting then Gov. Michael Dukakis to label them "gutless wonders."

The Great and General Court has repeated the pattern countless times on the issue of transportation and taxes alone. So here's a suggestion for grabbing some attention.

As part of any fare hike-service cut scenario, the MBTA should shut down the Haverhill commuter rail branch and use buses instead of the Blue Line through DeLeo's district.

Alas, I doubt anyone has the guts for that either.

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Heckuva job Scotto

Old friend Scott Brown is a couple of states short of a full Mitt. That's not stopping our erstwhile lawmaker from creating headlines.

Former Senator Barn Coat told a Nashua, NH audience this week that he's not done with politics -- even though Massachusetts voters kicked him out the barn door last November.

The truck-drivin' man says he actually has a long personal history in the Granite State and says "the people's sear" now held by Jeanne Shaheen could be silently calling him.
“New Hampshire’s like a second home. I was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. My mom and sister and family live here. Spent summers here growing up. Have a house here. Been a taxpayer for 20 years.” 
Our Man Myth famously lived in five states, including the daily double favored by Brown. But even Romney never had the temerity to suggest that his Lake Winnipesaukee manse gave him the standing to run for office in the tax-free state.

Granite Staters are not amused by the musings of future Senator Carpetbagger. Says Tracy Hahn-Burkett:
“I don’t think people will buy the idea that somebody coming from outside the state is just going to waltz in here and put one over on us. People really take the ‘live free or die’ thing above everything else.”
 University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala thinks Scotto has other things in mind:
“I think it’s just as plausible to think that Mr. Brown is trying to scare up some publicity for himself than that this was the opening foray into running against Ms. Shaheen,”
Coming in the same week that Brown debuted as a guest host on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, do you think he may be trying to gin up some business for himself or his law firm?

This. after all, is a man who didn't think twice about appearing in the buff in a national magazine to make his, er, name, known.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

To the mattresses

The long Beacon Hill hibernation is over. And the sparks between Deval Patrick and legislative leaders may be more than a spring brush fire.

Patrick called a rare news conference to blast the proposal by Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray to raise $500 million in taxes to pay for transportation improvements.
“If it comes to me in the current form . . . I’m going to have to veto it,” Patrick said. “It won’t be a surprise to the members of the Legislature.”
It didn't take long for lawmakers to fire back:
“I think arithmetic will show that our plan is more responsive to the needs of the middle class,” DeLeo said. “It’s not the House and the Senate plan that’s talking about the increase in the income tax.”
Patrick suggested he tried to take legislative counsel in crafting his $1.9 billion in income and sales tax changes to pay for both transportation and education improvements. But he says the same courtesies were not extended to him, getting a summary of the proposal an hour before it was announced.

We don't know what's triggered the latest spitting contest although we know Patrick and lawmakers have had a history of disagreement -- remember the casino plan that died?

We do know there is a vast amount of middle ground between the leadership's half-loaf and the governor's overly ambitious plan that also takes on tax equity as well as the advertised issues of transportation and education.

We also know that every Red Line train that runs with an open door and every highways that drops chunks of concrete is a sobering reminder of the rotten state of our transportation system.

Lawmakers think they hold the upper hand by being able to label Patrick an out-of-control spender. But the administration has a strong hand in being able to highlight what desperately needed road project gets delayed or cancelled because of the lack of cash.

Both sides have staked extreme positions. It's time to get to work on a rational middle ground. But even then Patrick has the upper hand because he has shown he's not afraid to speak out.

And lawmakers, who do have a history of half-loaf and buck-passing, like to do their work behind closed doors.

Maybe they should try the Red Line car.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Upping the ante

You didn't expect the Patrick Administration to take the legislative tax counter-offer lying down did you?

One day after House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray offered up what the administration considers a half-a-loaf to the $1 billion mass transit and highway package, the MBTA says higher fares and steeper costs to a mandated Green Line expansion are just around the corner.
“The proposal released yesterday does not appear to provide funding for the MBTA’s ‘state of good repair’ work, meaning the Federal Transit Administration is not likely to fund any portion of the cost of the $1.3 billion project,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an e-mail. “Because the Commonwealth is legally obligated to extend the Green Line, $1.3 billion in state funding will be necessary to move the project forward.”
And echoing the words of General Manager Beverly Scott about "consequences" for a depleted lifeline, the words "steep fare increase" emerge again:
Meanwhile, Statehouse News Service reported that Patrick administration officials were warning that the legislative plan would eventually force “steep” fare and toll hikes as well as force the state to pick up a larger share of the Green Line project.
Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, in a memo obtained by the News Service, warned that the plan could lead to shuttered Registry of Motor Vehicles branches, MBTA fare and toll increases, and represents “another short-term band-aid” for transportation.
About all that's missing is a plague of frogs.

Oh wait. About hoped for commuter rail service improvement:
One of the two companies competing to provide Greater Boston’s commuter rail service is threatening to drop out if the MBTA does not provide key information by Friday, potentially leaving the state with only one bidder for the largest contract in Massachusetts history.
Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail, which runs the Purple Line under contact to the MBTA, claims they have turned over 90 percent of the needed data but the rest they consider "proprietary."

So if higher fares and broken bridges aren't scary enough, the T tosses in the threat of continued lousy commuter rail service.

While incredibly heavy handed, the threats are real -- and the potential loss of a half-billion in federal aid because of a half-million shortfall in new revenues would also fall into the category of idiotic.

The T committed to the Green Line extension of part of the Big Dig mitigation agreement. And while regular riders have to wonder how long they will have to wait when the aging and rundown cars have to go to Somerville and not just Lechmere, a deal is a deal.

And a half-billion is a half-billion. In the T's view, you can pay me know or you can pay me later.

Back to you Bobby and Terry.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Battle joined

Ah spring, when crocuses bloom and the Legislature awakens to propose a tax plan as controversial as the governor's.

The $500 million plan to finance some transportation improvements offered by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray is about a quarter the size of Deval Patrick $1.9 billion opening bid. But it has the potential to raise just as loud a ruckus.

No mention of the income or sales tax changes called for by Patrick. Instead, the legislative leaders call for a 3-cent increase in the gas tax, a hike on cigarette taxes and a series of business tax jumps. Also no acknowledgment of his call to boost spending on education.

If universal condemnation is a sign of hitting the right middle ground, then this plan seems to be smack in the middle.

Transportation advocates bemoan the package as half of what's needed to shore up the MBTA and the highways. And it's notably $300 million short of the benchmark suggested by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

If rhetoric could pay for road repairs or a ride on the T, we'd be set.

New MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott has now jumped right in with some verbiage that may come back to haunt her:
“A billion is a billion, and 500 million is 500 million, and that’s half of what was the original request. Certainly, that has its own consequences — what they will be, God only knows.”
That may have played a role in Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer of Barre hinting MBTA fares (raised 23 percent last year) may be a better source of revenue than gasoline taxes (last raised in the '90s).
“Placing too much of an empha­sis on the gas tax would simply set the stage for another transportation crisis in the years to come.”
That might be a better argument against yet another hike in the cigarette tax, which seems to be the preferred levy of all elected officials.

The GOP, as usual, considers no tax worthy of increase, calling yet again for deeper cuts in the transportation agencies.
“They may be saying, ‘Thanks, Governor,’ because you asked for $2 billion and we look extremely reasonable going for $500 million,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “If the people of the commonwealth accept that logic, they should fear for their wallets.”
The lonely band of legislative Republicans promise a list of transportation agency changes in the coming days. (I guess they also enjoyed the legislative hibernation.

This opening package from DeLeo and Murray means there will be new cash coming to transportation projects. The only question is how much -- and from which pocket.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013


He suffered a gruesome on-the-job injury in front of a national audience. And he may be forced to pay the full cost of his care and recovery.

Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his leg in the Cardinals win over Duke. While the team advances to the Final Four, Ware turns his attention to recovery. And his parents may be facing massive medical bills -- without any help from the university or the NCAA.

Despite the billions passing from CBS (and cable television viewers) to the NCAA, Ware is dependent on the kindness of Louisville not to yank his scholarship. Because he is a "student-athlete" he is not eligible for worker's compensation that would help cover the costs of a professional athlete's on-the-job injury.

Even health insurance is no slam dunk because the NCAA's catastrophic injury insurance coverage comes with a $90,000 deductible.

The university is saying all the right things, for now, but others are skeptical:
"Going forward, we don't know what's going to happen in terms of medical expenses," said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, which is seeking reform. "If Kevin has lifelong medical bills associated with his injury, he could be squarely responsible for this."
Ware hails from The Bronx, so if his parents have health insurance, there is some hope under ObamaCare, which guarantees them the right to carry him on their policy until he turns 26. But even then, depending on the nature of his recovery, they could come up against lifetime coverage limits.

The proclaimed difference between professional and college sports is the latter's alleged "amateur" nature. And while it is true the athletes perform for the "love of the game" and a scholarship that pays for living expenses (and classes should they attend), the system is lopsided in favor of the university/employer.

The prognosis on Ware recovering and perhaps even resuming his collegiate career seem good. But reality suggests he will be viewed as "damaged goods" by Louisville and the NBA unless and until given a chance to prove otherwise.

Ware deserves our best wishes -- not just now but when the spotlight fades and his employer decides whether or not to drop him because of his on-the-job accident.

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