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Massachusetts Liberal

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

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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