The Boston Globe, Op-Ed
RICHARD R. TISEI
"Patrick's summer sizzle"
By Richard R. Tisei, June 18, 2008
GOVERNOR Deval Patrick will be in Hollywood and San Diego this week to pitch the state to filmmakers and biotech firms. No doubt he will promote Massachusetts as a great place to do business. Meanwhile, companies here are closing their doors and moving operations to other states because they can no longer afford to do business in the state. Over the past four years our state has ranked close to last when it comes to job creation.
In the 18 months since Patrick has taken office, he has offered an inconsistent and at times counterproductive economic development policy. Rather than concentrating on assisting the state's struggling core industries, the governor's efforts have focused primarily on more "sexy" endeavors such as movie stars, casinos, and life sciences.
Patrick takes with him to California one of the nation's most generous film tax credits. The movie industry had a banner year in 2007, posting a record $9.7 billion in box office receipts. It also raked in another $138.7 million in tax credits and sales tax exemptions courtesy of Massachusetts taxpayers.
Both liberal and conservative budget watchdog groups, including the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and Beacon Hill Institute, have assailed this credit as a giveaway that at best creates temporary part-time jobs. The Department of Revenue reported that the state collects less than 18 cents for every dollar in tax credits issued. Moreover, according to the department, these tax credits are primarily helping to pay the salaries of actors, producers, and directors earning more than $1 million per film.
Patrick is also bringing with him his new $1 billion life sciences plan. The plan creates a system of generous tax credits awarded on a company-by-company basis, permitting Patrick to pick winners and losers within the industry. If two companies are developing nearly identical products, one could be selected for a tax credit while the other is left out. This lack of broad-based applicability is a point that will undoubtedly be left out of the conversations in San Diego.
Patrick's inconsistent economic development policy is out of step with the realities and needs of the state. Core industries, from financial services to manufacturing, technology, and defense, are suffering due to the high cost of doing business in Massachusetts.
Instead of offering giveaways to selected industries, Patrick should introduce legislation that makes Massachusetts more competitive for all businesses, followed by special sessions of the Legislature later this summer dedicated solely to improving Massachusetts' competitiveness. The sessions should address unemployment insurance rates, healthcare costs, and electrical and utility rates - which are all among the highest in the nation. Workers' compensation, homeowners insurance, and taxes, both state and local, should also be addressed.
And then there is Patrick's soon to be enacted $500 million corporate tax hike. Decisions are being made looking only at the immediate need to increase bottom line revenues without considering the longer view of whether these policies will fairly balance tax policy and state revenue necessities with economic development.
The corporate tax bill primarily affects large multi-state corporations. These companies - including Fidelity, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, General Electric, Verizon, and many lower profile companies - serve as easy targets. However, these corporations employ 40 percent of the state's workforce and are responsible for a large portion of the state's highest paying jobs, the majority of which are portable and can move to other, less costly states.
While the governor has pushed for over-the-top tax credits to pay the salaries of movie stars and is picking winners and losers in the biotech industry, many Massachusetts employers are either transferring jobs out of the state or looking elsewhere to invest and grow. For example, Fidelity and General Electric, once mainstays of the state's economy, are choosing to expand and add new jobs in other states.
Making Massachusetts competitive again will take real leadership, and it requires a change in attitude throughout state government that employers are not the adversary. The global economic structure is rapidly changing; the state must act now or it will be poorly positioned for the new economy.
The Boston Globe
"2008 Ballot guide"
November 2, 2008
The biggest buzz on the 2008 Massachusetts ballot has been generated by three referendum questions. Use this guide to help make an informed decision on Tuesday.
Would reduce the state personal income tax rate to 2.65 percent for the tax year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2009, and would eliminate the tax beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2010.
Proponents say the tax, which generates roughly $12.5 billion a year for the state, enables government waste, fattens labor unions and public employee benefits, and robs workers of 5.3 percent of their hard-earned income. They say returning the money instead to the state's 3.4 million workers would help people afford to live in Massachusetts and encourage private business growth.
Notable supporters: Carla Howell, former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate, and her Committee for Small Government; and Barbara Anderson and Citizens for Limited Taxation, who led the effort to pass the property tax control known as Proposition 2 1/2 in 1980.
Opponents say eliminating the tax, which funds roughly 40 percent of the stat's budget, is a reckless move that could wipe out public schools, safety, and infrastructure. They also caution that it would harm the state's credit rating and ability to borrow money, discourage businesses attracted by its schools and quality of life, and cause other taxes to be raised to make up the difference.
Notable opponents: Coalition for Our Communities, which draws most of its funding from public-employee unions; community-activist groups; state and local business organizations; public offi cials; and a host of elected bodies, including Boston's City Council.
The same question appeared on the ballot in 2002. Tax supporters dismissed it as outlandish, spending just $4,600 to oppose it, so they were stunned when it won 45 percent of the vote. This time they mounted an aggressive campaign, raising and spending several million dollars to preserve the state's income tax. Meanwhile, Question 1's proponents had raised and spent about one-tenth as much through mid-October and were relying on voter frustration with elected officials, economic constraints, and a general belief in limited government to win passage.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
"Voters reject income tax repeal"
By Eric Moskowitz, Boston Globe Staff, November 5, 2008
By a better than 2-to-1 margin, Massachusetts voters yesterday rejected an effort to repeal the state's income tax, following an aggressive campaign by unions and other opponents who warned that eliminating the tax would gut state government.
Although they were in no mood for change on taxes, voters yesterday did upend the status quo on two other issues. They chose by a wide margin to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, and they also ended the state's seven-decade tradition of greyhound racing.
Six years ago, a similar tax-repeal question attracted little attention and no organized opposition but nearly passed. Stunned tax supporters took no chances this time, spending millions on an aggressive campaign warning that repealing the income tax would trigger drastic cuts to government programs, damage the economy, and prompt increases to other taxes and fees.
"We said the proposal was reckless, and we think voters saw it just as that," said Peter Meade, chairman of the Coalition for Our Communities, which led the opposition.
About 69 percent of voters opposed the repeal, with 80 percent of precincts reporting. In 2002, the repeal prevailed in about 100 communities. As of press time early this morning, it had not carried a single city or town.
The Coalition for Our Communities outspent the supporters of Question 1 by a 10-to-1 ratio through mid-October, a gap expected to widen on finance reports that will be filed after the election. That enabled the question’s opponents to pay for a flurry of television ads and a sophisticated effort to identify likely supporters and undecided voters.
Among other tactics, they sent full-color, personalized mailers that incorporated a voter’s name and community into the imagery and warned of specific local cuts.
Carla Howell, the former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate who led the effort to repeal the tax, blamed the defeat on the fund-raising gap.
"We knew that this was a David-versus-Goliath battle," said Howell, chairwoman of the Committee for Small Government, speaking to a crowd of about 20 supporters at Ken’s Steak House in Framingham last night. "All we needed was a bigger stone."
In an interview afterward, Howell also likened her limited-government bid to the Boston Tea Party, casting the campaign "in the long tradition of little guys trying to do what's right for working men and women."
But there was more than a monetary gap at play. The Coalition for Our Communities drew on a door-to-door network of activists worried about cuts to schools, health centers, public safety, and other programs. In Dorchester and Mattapan alone, more than 100 volunteers from several nonprofits offered rides to the polls yesterday and handed out thousands of palm cards with a thumbs-down icon and the words, "Times are hard enough. Let's not make them worse."
"We know how important Question 1 is to many services that are important to working families across the state," said Cortina Vann, a community organizer with the Dorchester-based Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, where a classroom normally used for a low- and moderate-income home-buyer course had been converted into a war room, the walls covered with charts detailing precinct locations and volunteer schedules.
On the other side, the Committee for Small Government, invested a chunk of its limited resources, which totaled $431,000 through mid-October, early in the campaign, on the signature drive to get the question on the ballot.
After that, Question 1 advocates hoped that frustration with government waste as well as fatigue from strained family budgets would lead many of the state's 3.4 million workers to strike a blow against the 5.3 percent income tax.
"We’re getting taxed to death in Massachusetts," said Bernie Friesecke, a North Reading voter who contributed $85 to the Committee for Small Government.
"You get these television ads that tell you we're going to lose this, that, and the other thing," said Friesecke, a 78-year-old retired aeronautical engineer. "No one’s ever telling you that we've got corruption and spending on stuff we don’t need, in huge quantities."
The question called for cutting the income tax to 2.65 percent on or after Jan. 1 and for eliminating it entirely a year later. That would have returned an average of about $3,700 per worker but stripped the state of roughly $12.5 billion a year, or about 40 percent of funding for the current budget.
Opponents warned that the question would also harm the state’s credit rating and destabilize its economy, in addition to forcing cuts to the myriad services that rely on the tax. The coalition received heavy funding from public labor unions but also attracted outspoken allies in the state's leading business groups and from a wide range of government officials.
Some of those who voted for the question thought it had no chance of taking effect. Andrew Gray, a microbiology graduate student from Somerville, said he knew some supporters who just wanted to tweak government and send a message, thinking it would either lose or be immediately repealed by lawmakers if it passed.
"I don't want to play that sort of gambling game," said Gray, 29, who voted no.
Still, the question won some repeat supporters, such as George Bloom, a 47-year-old engineer from Lynnfield, a town that had widely supported the tax repeal in 2002.
"I agree with virtually nothing the Legislature does. I think they're the biggest bunch of hacks in the world," said Bloom, citing what he considered mismanagement of funds, outsized public-employee pensions, inefficient road projects, and an inhospitable business climate, among other things. "Tell me if I should stop. ... I'm just basically a disgruntled and beaten down voter."
But others in Lynnfield yesterday echoed the message of the Coalition for Our Communities.
"I just think it's kind of reckless," said Christine Noonan, 55, who works as a planner for GE. "And I really don't want to see my property taxes go up."
Globe correspondents John S. Forrester and Jillian Jorgensen contributed to this report.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, RICHARD R. TISEI
"Why we shouldn't get too comfortable"
By Richard R. Tisei, November 6, 2008
EVEN AFTER Governor Patrick's recent budget cuts - and after the failure of a ballot measure to abolish the state income tax - the Commonwealth is not out of the woods financially. Even with the approximately $900 million in so-called 9C cuts that the governor wants to make, Massachusetts is likely to face a deficit of at least $1 billion in the new year.
Come January, we will see how much the recent collapse in the stock market and housing sectors will hurt capital gains tax collections. The governor is predicting a 30 percent drop in these revenues, but we'll be lucky if that happens. During the last recession, capital gains plummeted by 70 percent, from $1.16 billion to $337 million in just one year, and forced massive cuts throughout the budget, including local aid. The same could happen again.
We still have a long way to go to get through fiscal 2009, which began July 1, and can expect a difficult year. And we are not dealing with only a short-term fiscal crisis. Our current economic woes will continue at least into fiscal 2010. We need to plan accordingly.
In the two years that Patrick has been in office, the state budget has grown by nearly $2.5 billion - close to 10 percent, a rate of growth that is unsustainable. He's added two new secretariats and spearheaded efforts to borrow $13 billion for capital projects. The new reality is that government needs to tighten its belt, just as every resident of the Commonwealth is doing.
But out of adversity comes opportunity. State leaders may be more willing to embrace key reforms in the way government operates - even ideas they might have rejected in better times.
In coming weeks, House and Senate Republicans will be using five basic principles to guide us through the budget-balancing process:
1. We need to decide which services government should provide. I give the governor credit for making a lot of tough decisions, but some of his priorities don't make sense. For instance, his recent cuts included the closing of the Ferguson Industries for the Blind, a workshop that has been employing blind people since 1906. How can we slash human services programs and tell people to expect longer lines at the Registry of Motor Vehicles when we're still paying "volunteers" through the governor's new $3 million Commonwealth Corps program?
2. We must not divert scarce funding to new programs like the Commonwealth Corps or to expand programs, no matter how well-intentioned. For example, funding for after-school grants - a worthy endeavor - was increased by 177.5 percent in the fiscal '09 budget. Even after the governor's 9C cuts, there are still significant expansions of programs like this that are taking place throughout the budget. How can we expand programs if we cannot adequately fund the basic education programs we already have?
3. We must freeze hiring immediately, and conduct a thorough review of the 2,000 positions throughout state government created since Patrick took office. Although the governor has announced plans to eliminate some positions through attrition and voluntary retirements, government is still growing faster than it should. We must strive for efficiencies and eliminate waste in government.
4. We must use our reserves sparingly, and only after identifying cost reductions throughout state government. The fiscal '09 budget was passed with a $400 million drawdown from reserves, and the Legislature recently authorized the use of up to $200 million in additional reserves this fiscal year. That would leave $1.6 billion in the rainy day fund. If we aren't careful, we might not have the reserves necessary to carry us through future fiscal years. We could also jeopardize the state's bond rating and make it even more difficult for the Commonwealth to borrow for future projects.
5. Most importantly, every effort must be made to hold local communities harmless and preserve local aid. Many communities have yet to recover from the local aid cuts in 2003. Imposing additional local aid reductions at this time would wreak havoc on municipal budgets and decimate essential local services.
Richard R. Tisei, Republican of Wakefield, is the minority leader of the Massachusetts Senate.
The Boston Globe, New England in brief, November 22, 2008
"GOP leader urges Patrick to act on roads"
Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei called on Governor Deval Patrick yesterday to finalize a plan for transportation changes before resorting to increased tolls or gas taxes. In a letter to the governor, Tisei said Patrick's lack of action "has only served to increase the current and future burden on the taxpayers of Massachusetts." A spokeswoman for Patrick declined further comment because she had not yet received the letter.
"Reform meets dogma"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial, Saturday, January 03, 2009
A new and long overdue reform has taken effect in the state with the dawning of the new year that prevents businesses in Massachusetts from avoiding taxes by shifting profits out of state. Many businesses employed this accounting dodge for years to the detriment of the state they did business in, but Republican lawmakers were arguing for its repeal the day it was implemented. Happily, Republicans are more than likely too small in number to pull this off, but the attempt helps explain why they are so small in number.
Under the new law passed last year, companies will be required to pay taxes to the state based on the amount of profit they earned in the state and will be prohibited from changing their incorporation level to avoid paying taxes. Corporations with a major presence in other states, which precludes most Berkshire businesses, were listing profits in other states to trim their tax payments here. The new provisions are expected to raise $400 million annually in desperately needed funds. As a compromise that benefits all state businesses, Governor Patrick and lawmakers agreed to a gradual reduction in the corporate tax rate beginning a year from now that will take it from its current 9.5 percent, the fourth highest in the nation, to 8 percent by 2012.
This is the very definition of a fair compromise, but Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei sees it as a bad measure requiring repeal because it amounts to raising taxes during the course of a recession. This does not constitute raising taxes, of course, but Republicans routinely describe any kind of tax reform as raising taxes. If the state was not in a recession, Republicans would undoubtedly argue that "raising taxes" during good economic times would cause a recession. In fact, tax reform is needed more than ever when a recession is drying up tax revenue, as is currently the case.
There are so few Republicans left in the House and Senate that the Democratic supermajority can brush aside any filibuster attempt or veto threat. It's not good for democracy, but it is not the fault of Democrats. This situation suggests that Republicans should stop doing whatever it is that reduced them to this sorry state, but they remain imprisoned by the party dogma that voters aren't buying at either the state or national level. Opposing good reform measures that benefit Massachusetts will guarantee their continued irrelevance.
"Republican lawmakers blast governor for not identifying budget cuts"
Boston.com, January 14, 2009, 12:27 P.M., By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff
House and Senate Republicans are blasting Governor Deval Patrick for not being more forthcoming about his imminent budget cuts – and they plan to fight legislation today that would give the governor unilateral budget-cutting powers.
“He hasn’t provided any information to anyone,” Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said in an interview. “It’s disgraceful, and he’s not living up to the job. This is not transparent, it’s not an open process, and it flies in the face of everything he said he was going to do.”
The House and Senate are scheduled later today to vote on whether to grant Patrick expanded powers that would allow him to cut into the $5.3 billion the state provides in aid to cities and towns. Top lawmakers expect the Legislature to give Patrick the powers, but they want the governor to provide a more detailed plan of how he plans to use them.
The debate could also hinge on philosophical differences over how money is distributed. The last time local aid was cut midyear, in 2003, Governor Mitt Romney agreed to use the same percentage reducation for all cities and towns -- so a wealthy community, such as Newton, had the same percentage reduced as an less wealthy area like New Bedford. It is unclear whether those terms will be used this time, or if the Legislature would allow the governor to preserve funding for poorer areas while making deeper cuts in wealthy areas.
Administration officials refused yesterday to detail what programs and services would be cut, including how much would come from cuts to local aid and whether they would use funds from the $1.7 billion remaining in the state's reserve account.
Leslie A. Kirwan, secretary of Administration and Finance, said she was not ready to discuss solutions as she briefed reporters on revenue figures, adding, "We haven't formulated a plan."
Republicans are drawing a sharp contrast with Patrick’s approach and the way Romney handled the cuts in January 2003, the last time there were midyear cuts to local aid.
At that time, the Democratic-led Legislature pushed Romney to offer more detailed plans on his cuts. After a flurry of closed-door meetings, Romney agreed with legislative leaders to a series of terms that included a pledge to not close more than a third of the budget gap with local aid cuts, and using the same percentage reduction in aid to all cities and towns.
Romney also disclosed the scope of the cuts in an address to the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"We know this needs to be done in a timely fashion, because we're bleeding money," Senate President Therese Murray said yesterday in an interview. "But it's hard to act in the dark. We'd like a little bit of light, in terms of what the parameters are."
Yesterday, Patrick administration officials drastically reduced revenue estimates for this year, predicting a $1.1 billion midyear budget gap that the governor must solve within the next two weeks.
The budget gap, which will trigger a second round of cuts, is slightly worse than Patrick forecast two weeks ago, when he anticipated that he would face a shortfall of up to $1 billion.
Under state law, Patrick has two weeks to produce his plan
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, CHARLES CHIEPPO
"Losing a fiscal shell game"
By Charles Chieppo, February 20, 2009
THERE'S nothing like an economic meltdown to make state government feel powerless. Its impact on the economy is marginal, and it takes time before even that effect is felt. The natural desire is to take bold action to turn the tide. Unfortunately, those actions often do more harm than good.
Recently, Massachusetts has chosen a familiar path that is ultimately a dead end: luring specific businesses and industries with preferential treatment. The Commonwealth beefed up tax credits to the film industry and paid nearly $70,000 per new job to entice a pharmaceutical firm to expand in Lexington.
It also bet a billion taxpayer dollars on the biotech industry. Let's hope the Commonwealth is a better poker player with its chips than the federal government was with the first $350 billion it sunk into ailing financial institutions.
These deals are, in the words Governor Patrick often used during his campaign, a fiscal shell game. Massachusetts is in no position to absorb foregone revenue from tax breaks, so last year state government offset the hit with about $300 million in business tax hikes. The damage done by broader increases outweighs the benefits to chosen industries.
The biotech initiative also relies heavily on another trick: borrowing. A $500 million bond authorization means the more than $1.8 billion state taxpayers pay annually for debt service - already the fourth-largest line item in the budget - will increase. Or its term will be extended. Either way, we pay more.
Although the benefits wouldn't be felt immediately, there are things the Commonwealth can do to limit the pain of future recessions.
Massachusetts must get retirement costs under control. This year alone, paying down unfunded liability for public employee pensions will cost more than $1 billion.
The average annual state pension of about $23,000 isn't the problem. But countless loopholes allow the connected to reap windfalls that stoke the flames of anti-government sentiment. Both the governor and House Speaker Robert DeLeo promise pension reform; let's hold them to it.
Much of the burden of hard times falls on municipalities. Most cities and towns can save by purchasing employee health insurance through the state's Group Insurance Commission. But they currently have to negotiate with local unions to do it, even though GIC usually provides better coverage options at a lower cost. Municipal officials should be given authority to make the switch.
Employee health insurance is also part of the state fix. One-time federal stimulus money won't eliminate the gap between revenues and expenditures the Commonwealth faces almost every year. Increasing the amount state employees contribute toward their health insurance, as Governor Patrick has proposed, would narrow that gap by more than $50 million annually.
Those who decry "balancing the budget on the backs of workers" should remember that, contrary to conventional wisdom, public employees in Eastern Massachusetts earn 15 percent more on average than private-sector employees who do similar jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Perhaps the biggest thing the Commonwealth could do to improve the business climate is fix our bloated unemployment insurance system. The unemployment costs Massachusetts businesses pay are more than twice the national median. Benefits are the nation's richest, they can be collected for longer than anywhere else, and qualifying for them is easier here than in most other states.
The system is also riddled with loopholes that result in many people - including small-business owners who lay themselves off - using the system to supplement their income for part of every year. An Associated Industries of Massachusetts proposal would address these "frequent fliers" by forcing their employers to pay more.
A recession isn't the time to shorten the benefit period, but bringing benefits in line with comparable states, tightening eligibility, and closing loopholes would reduce the cost of creating jobs.
In a democracy, there's little incentive to enact long-term reforms when people are hurting. But state stimulus efforts often hurt more than they help. Perhaps officials wrestling with economic crisis should take their cue from physicians: "First, do no harm."
Charles Chieppo is the principal of Chieppo Strategies, a public policy writing and advocacy firm.
Photo by staff illustration
"Calling all pork-busters: Pols urge taxpayers to alert them of waste"
By Laurel J. Sweet, Monday, March 2, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
When Gov. Deval Patrick brings home billions in federal stimulus bacon, two Republican lawmakers will be counting on government-fatigued taxpayers to be “pork busters,” dropping dimes on napping hacks and boondoggles run amok.
“Let’s face it, people don’t like us (politicians), and we give them a lot of reasons to not like us. Let’s not use this as an excuse for an orgy of spending,” said Sen. Michael Knapik, 46, of Westfield.
Cities and towns are already lining up for the anticipated $6 billion to $9 billion in recovery and reinvestment dollars at the Golden Dome trough for everything from sidewalks to synthetic-turf fields.
Tomorrow at the State House, Knapik and Republican Rep. Vinny deMacedo, 43, of Plymouth will be putting would-be stimulus money pigs on notice by announcing an e-mail “hotline” for the public to report to them - by word or photograph - any perceived abuses or wasting of the funds. Such as: workers sleeping on the job, projects dragging out for no good reason, or expenditures that seem plain absurd.
“This is the call to arms to 6.4 million pork-busters and watchdogs,” Knapik said of the state’s population. “Questionable spending is in the eye of the beholder, but you will know the boondoggle when you see it. You will know the pork when you see it.”
Knapik said tips received, anonymous or not, will be passed along to the proper authorities, including the inspector general’s office.
“I hope we get no input, quite frankly,” he said. “I hope the streets are paved with gold - or maybe just paved.”
Paving is what some communities have in mind, along with new senior centers, parking garages and modern sewers. But Boston also wants $3.85 million to forge a path for bicyclists and walkers between Roxbury and South Boston. And while Falmouth is holding out its hand for $1.5 million for the “nourishment” of Chapoquoit Beach, Mashpee requests $120,000 to replace school carpeting being held together with duct tape.
Patrick’s spokesman Kyle Sullivan said the governor’s got taxpayers’ backs with his Web site, www.mass.gov/recovery, which in due time will enable them to track online how the stimulus dough is being put to work.
“The governor has been a national leader in preparing for increased transparency and oversight of the recovery funds,” Sullivan said.
Both Knapik and deMacedo noted that because the feds are mortgaging the country’s future by spending money they don’t have, not one penny can afford to slip down the drain.
“We’re talking billions of dollars. The sheer numbers are crazy,” deMacedo said. “I’m not diminishing at all the (Patrick) administration. We want to make sure this money is spent efficiently.”
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1155607
House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading, Massachusetts); (Photo by Angela Rowlings).
"GOP leaders say they’ll have more followers"
By Hillary Chabot, March 7, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
Although the dwindling ranks of Republican lawmakers have prompted a case of all leaders and no followers in their state Senate caucus, GOP stalwarts argued yesterday a conservative comeback is in the wind.
“We’re down, but I don’t think by any stretch of imagination we’re out,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “The amount of people angry about tax increases could prompt a strong comeback.”
The party has shrunk to five Republicans in the Senate. They take in stipends totaling $82,500 as members of the party’s leadership team despite the fact that there are no other members to lead.
Republican lawmakers said a heaping of tax hikes on booze, gas, candy and soda, combined with an ethical cesspool on Beacon Hill, could prompt voters to send more Republicans to the State House.
“It’s a perfect storm. People are looking for a change, I’m hopeful there will be more Republicans to lead,” said Sen. Scott P. Brown (R-Wrentham), who currently collects a $15,000 stipend as associate minority whip.
Brown said he occasionally does line up votes amongst the four other members, but admitted he doesn’t pay attention to his title.
“I’m on six or seven committees, I have a 99 percent voting record, and it is (a) tradition that has been in effect for 50 years,” Brown said of the title.
GOP activist Jim Rappaport defended the stipends, saying even though the members preach fiscal conservatism, the roughly $60,000 a year salaries for the lawmakers is too low.
“These guys are like the Christians thrown in with the lions, all they do is battle up there,” Rappaport said.
Jones said he hopes the state GOP lawmakers, who have seen their numbers decline from 39 to 21 since 1990, can start to crawl back from the bottom.
“Clearly nobody’s happy with where we’re at. We’ve just got to keep our sleeves rolled up and keep working,” Jones said.
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1156792
"Too many chiefs: All Senate Republicans paid as leaders, but there’s no one to lead"
By Hillary Chabot, March 6, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
The state Senate’s five lone Republicans, spearheading a new campaign against the Democrats’ wasteful spending, are raking in more than $80,000 a year in taxpayer-funded stipends, each claiming a leadership title - even though they have nobody to lead.
All five members of the anemic Senate minority caucus boast a top-tier post, including a minority leader, an assistant minority leader, a “third assistant minority leader,” a minority whip and an assistant minority whip.
“It’s a joke. There’s nobody to whip,” said Steve Crosby, a former Administration and Finance secretary under Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci and acting Gov. Jane Swift. “This is the kind of thing where, if the Democrats were doing it, the Republicans would send out a snippy press release.”
Although they launched a statewide listening tour yesterday to blast Beacon Hill Democrats’ tax-and-spend agenda, the GOP senators had no problem collecting as much as $22,500 a year for their largely ceremonial titles.
Both parties have traditionally had five-member leadership teams, but the steady drain of Republicans from the Senate over the past two decades has left the party in the ludicrous position of being all leaders, no followers.
“Are there a lot of chiefs and no Indians? Yes, but we’re working to try and change that,” said Sen. Scott P. Brown (R-Wrentham), who gets a $15,000 stipend as the assistant minority whip.
Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei (R-Wakefield) defended his leadership team, saying it has to work twice as hard to keep an eye on one-party rule and try to rein in overspending.
“It’s us against the world,” Tisei said. “We’re the only ones to question the majority, and we have a lot of responsibility to act as watchdogs.”
For that work, the five Senate leaders pull in a total of $82,500 a year in taxpayer dollars over and above their base pay.
Tisei gets $22,500 on top of his $61,440 salary. Assistant Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) gets a $15,000 stipend in addition to his $58,237 salary, as does Third Minority Leader Michael R. Knapik (R-Westfield).
Minority Whip Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth) and Brown, as assistant minority whip, both get $15,000 tacked onto their $61,440 salaries.
Tisei said his caucus led by example when they refused a 5.5 percent pay raise earlier this year, but he argued his members earn their stipends.
He also noted that every Democrat in the Senate gets “some sort of stipend,” serving as either chairs or vice chairs of various committees.
“If we had the opportunity to sit down and reform the whole system,” Tisei said, “I would be all for it.”
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1156542
"Massachusetts Republicans call for Walsh appointment to be 'rescinded'"
By Matt Collette, Boston Globe Correspondent, March 28, 2009
The Massachusetts Republican party is calling for Governor Deval Patrick to "rescind his appointment" of State Senator Marian Walsh to a high-paying job at a state authority.
The comments came in a written statement from MassGOP spokesman Barney Keller after a story in today’s Globe on the involvement of Patrick's aides in Walsh's hiring at the Massachusetts Health and Education Facilities Authority. Keller said in a telephone interview he had no further comment.
The Globe reported that, contradicting a series of steadfast denials, internal e-mails showed that Patrick's top aides controlled Walsh's appointment.
The e-mails showed that the authority's chairman, Allen Larson, worked closely with Jay Gonzalez, Patrick's undersecretary of administration and finance, in the days before the authority voted to hire Walsh as a $175,000-a-year assistant executive director.
Critics have questioned Walsh's qualifications and noted that the post had been vacant for a dozen years. The position had not been advertised, and no search firm had been hired to compile a list of candidates. The appointment was not on an agenda for the authority meeting where it was unanimously approved. Acknowledging the controversy, Walsh recently requested that her salary be reduced to $120,000 a year.
As of late this week, Larson continued to say that the push to hire Walsh came from the authority, the Globe also reported today.
"Governor Patrick and his staff should explain why they encouraged Allen Larson to deliberately mislead the public in order to install a political supporter in a patronage job,” Keller said in today's statement.
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately have a comment.
Related link: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/28/patrick_aides_directed_hiring/
"Patrick aides directed hiring: Set Walsh's salary, wrote job description E-mails detail their level of involvement"
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, March 28, 2009
Contradicting a series of steadfast denials, internal e-mails show that Governor Deval Patrick's top aides controlled the appointment of state Senator Marian Walsh to a high-paying job at a state authority, from setting her salary to crafting her job description.
They also provided the agency's talking points for the news media in an attempt to quell a public uproar.
"I'm going to send you a proposed job description from [Patrick chief of staff Doug Rubin] soon," Patrick senior adviser Jay Gonzalez told the two top officials at the Massachusetts Health and Education Facilities Authority in a March 11 e-mail.
As of late this week, one of those officials, HEFA chairman Allen Larson, continued to say that the push to hire Walsh came from the authority.
"I would deny that," he said when asked if the Patrick administration engineered the hiring. "We have been looking for the additional staff expertise since I got on the board. We have been working with the administration to figure that out. But I do not consider this an orchestrated matter."
The e-mails indicate, however, that Larson and his staff worked closely with Gonzalez, Patrick's undersecretary of administration and finance, in the days leading up to the board's decision on March 12 to hire Walsh as a $175,000 a year assistant executive director. (After Patrick's action kicked up a political firestorm, Walsh requested this week that the salary be reduced to $120,000.)
The e-mails were released to the Globe after a public records request.
The salary level of $175,000 originated with the administration, the e-mails indicate. They also show that Rubin drafted Walsh's job description. Patrick's press office wrote the script for public statements by the agency.
On the weekend before the Patrick-controlled HEFA board unanimously approved Walsh's appointment as assistant director, Larson asked Gonzalez to justify why the Democratic lawmaker should be paid more than $128,500. That was the amount that a Burlington-based consulting firm, The Survey Group, reported as the average market base pay for the position.
Larson asked Gonzalez to contact Rubin for backup information that would support a $175,000 salary.
"Generally, it's lower than the $175,000 figure," Larson wrote to Gonzalez, referring to the consultant's survey of pay at other government agencies. "It would be helpful if Doug or others could send along some comparables so that we have substantive justifications."
There is no e-mail that describes how the administration responded, but other documents show that after the board vote, the agency's executive director, Benson Caswell, wrote Walsh offering her the job at the $175,000 salary. Another document shows Walsh's total salary package, which includes retirement benefits and healthcare coverage, would have totaled $242,442.
The appointment, coming amid talk of tax and toll hikes, has generated public anger directed at Patrick, who ran for election in 2006 as a reformer vowing to end patronage hiring on Beacon Hill. In the face of the criticism, Patrick has said the deputy director job at HEFA needed to be filled, even though it has been vacant for 12 years.
Patrick's director of communications, Joseph Landolfi, said yesterday in response to the evidence in the e-mails that Patrick's staff acted appropriately. He said the contacts involved "personnel decisions with chairman Larson that related to HEFA's role in supporting the governor's economic development agenda."
The e-mails about the salary also contradict statements from Walsh, a West Roxbury Democrat and one of Patrick's earliest political supporters. Walsh said this week that the authority had proposed the $175,000 salary after looking at the compensation levels of other, similar agencies.
"They made the offer based on a due diligence," she said after announcing she wanted the salary reduced to $120,000 in wake of the public outrage over her appointment.
The records also reveal that Gonzalez needed clearance from the governor's senior staff on several of the major issues.
The day before the board meeting where Walsh was formally selected, Gonzalez told Caswell that Rubin would create the job description that would be presented to the board. Caswell had already written and sent to Gonzalez a two-page job description for an assistant executive director. But that job description outlined duties that included working to develop new projects and procure new financing, expertise that Walsh did not possess.
The revised description, which is one paragraph, focused her duties on government-relations work, including merging the agency with the Massachusetts Development Authority, and not on tax exempt capital financing.
Gonzalez also edited a draft e-mail that Larson wrote for board members, telling them that Walsh had been "nominated" for the job and that her hiring would be taken up at the Thursday meeting.
"I think this is great," Gonzalez told Larson late Sunday afternoon after reading his final draft of the statement. "I have forwarded it on to a couple of others internally and asked them to get back to me by the end of the day today if they have any concerns."
As the story of Walsh's appointment unfolded, the governor's press operation was in close touch with Liam Sullivan, who handles media relations for the authority.
On the day the board voted to hire Walsh, Patrick's deputy press secretary, Rebecca Deusser, e-mailed Sullivan directing him to release a joint statement by Larson and Caswell praising Walsh as highly qualified for the job. Deusser had written most of the two-sentence statement.
Sullivan was also in constant touch with Patrick's press office, getting approval for talking points for dealing with reporters and providing it with information on press inquiries he was getting. Landolfi said his press office became involved the day the board hired Walsh. The "sole purpose" he said was to coordinate "who responds to various media inquiries ensuring that responses were accurate."
The governor's hiring of Walsh has prompted some who have worked with independent state authorities to sharply criticize the intrusion of political influence on the agencies. David T. Hannan, a former chairman of the authority, said the appointment is a breach in the legislative intent to create independent authorities that would be insulated from political pressures or become patronage dumping grounds.
"That is political mischief," said Hannan. "The Legislature created the authorities to avoid this kind of political mischief."
Scot Lehigh of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
"Massachusetts senator proposes selling naming rights"
The Associated Press, Tuesday, June 9, 2009
BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts state senator says given the state's financial crisis, it's time to consider selling naming rights to state-owned facilities, including pools and parks.
Wakefield Republican Richard Tisei (ti-SAY') tells The Boston Globe that if selling naming rights to corporate sponsors keeps facilities open and brings in money, then it should be examined.
An amendment to the Senate's supplemental budget that would allow for naming rights passed 36- 3. If the measure is included in a House and Senate compromise budget, the proposal could be sent to Gov. Deval Patrick for approval.
Under the proposal, the state secretary of administration and finance would solicit bids and determine if they were appropriate.
Previous similar attempts have failed.
"Baker picks Tisei as GOP running mate"
State House News Service, November 23, 2009
BOSTON — Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker has selected Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei as his running mate and was slated to make the official announcement this morning in Wakefield.
An outspoken critic of the Patrick administration, Tisei adds insider heft to Baker's campaign, bringing with him 18 years of experience in the state Senate and six more before that in the House. Tisei is one of only five Republicans in the Senate and his run for lieutenant governor would open up the seat he has long held.
“He’s a very tenacious campaigner, a good campaigner,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones. “He’s never lost an election. If you look at Richard’s district, it runs the gamut of cities to suburbs, from affluent to less affluent. It’s a great sort of microcosm of the state.”
Jones questioned the outsider approach that Gov. Deval Patrick, who intends to run for re-election with Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, brought to public office, listing the lawmakers – Reps. Doug Peterson, Mike Festa, Jim Leary, Bob Coughlin and Dan Bosley, as well as Sen. Marian Walsh – that Patrick either placed in his administration or sought to.
Jones predicted Tisei critics might try to hammer him as an insider, but retorted, “This will be an arguing line but I think it’s a little ridiculous. I think you have to look at what they’ve done in office. Deval Patrick’s as much an insider now as anybody else.”
The Baker-Tisei ticket has a decidedly North Shore feel, with Baker from Swampscott and Tisei from Wakefield. Treasurer Tim Cahill, running unenrolled, and Republican Christy Mihos, competing against Baker for the Republican nomination, have not announced running mates. The lieutenant governor is elected independently in Massachusetts but candidates have historically formed alliances with preferred picks during primaries. Baker made his announcement on his Facebook page and Twitter account.
Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei has said he's concerned the state's true financial condition is being concealed until after the Nov. 2 general election. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe staff)
"Senate Republicans to block Massachusetts budget bill"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, October 5, 2010
BOSTON --Gov. Deval Patrick says his Republican challengers have reached "a new low" after lieutenant governor candidate Richard Tisei (tih-SAY') suggested there could be a post-election tax increase in Massachusetts.
In a statement Tuesday, the Democratic incumbent said Charles Baker's running mate "makes baseless insinuations" about the budget.
He calls them "both ridiculous and irresponsible."
Tisei is vowing to block action on a $420 million supplemental budget bill until Patrick explains the reasons behind the spending and whether he will need more cash this year.
Tisei says he's concerned the state's true financial condition is being concealed until after the Nov. 2 general election. And he says he's hearing talk -- though he won't say from whom -- about a potential post-election tax increase.
"Despite defeat, Tisei has no regrets: Lieutenant governor run ‘a great experience’"
By John Laidler, Boston Globe Corrrespondent, November 14, 2010
It was not the ending Richard R. Tisei had in mind when he signed up to be the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker a year ago.
But the Wakefield Republican said that despite the defeat they suffered in the Nov. 2 election, he has no regrets about his decision to run for lieutenant governor.
“If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again because it was a great experience,’’ said Tisei, 48, the state Senate Republican leader.
“I traveled all around the state. I learned a lot about Massachusetts. I met an incredible amount of people,’’ he said.
“I didn’t have a bad day in the entire campaign. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way we would have liked. But . . . I was very proud to have stood by Charlie’s side and helped him during the campaign,’’ he said.
Tisei now is preparing for what will be his first break from public service since his election to the State House at age 22 in 1984. He served six years as a state representative, and is now finishing his 20th in the Senate.
Tisei said his immediate plan when he leaves office in January is to work full time at Northrup Realty, the agency in Lynnfield that he co-owns with his business and life partner Bernie Starr.
“My business has been growing every year, and it’s gotten to the point where this is good timing because I can concentrate on it full time and help it grow even larger. So I’m excited by that,’’ said Tisei, who began working at Northrup in 1982 and purchased the company with Starr in 2000.
Tisei said, however, he plans to “stay involved in government and politics. And in the future I would hope to run for something else.’’
While he said he has no specific plan in mind, Tisei has expressed interest in running for Congress. He resides in the Sixth District, which is represented by Salem Democrat John F. Tierney. He also will likely be mentioned as a future GOP contender for statewide office.
“If Richard decides to run again, he would be a terrific candidate for any office he may seek,’’ said Al Turco, who is chairman of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen and chaired Tisei’s lieutenant governor campaign.
“Richard brought a tremendous amount to the Baker-Tisei ticket in terms of his knowledge of . . . state government and his ability to raise funds not only in his district but throughout the state,’’ said Turco, a Republican State Committee member.
House minority leader Brad Jones of North Reading said he looks forward to his outgoing GOP colleague “remaining engaged in the political process,’’ and believes Tisei has strong potential as a future candidate.
“He’s run in a lot of elections,’’ Jones said. “He’s won in blue cities and red towns, and certainly, if that’s a direction he chooses to want to go in in the future, I think those possibilities will be there.’’
Looking back on this year’s race, Tisei said that campaigning as a running mate was a “little different than just being out there by yourself as a candidate.’’
But he said when Baker asked him to join the ticket, “I knew what I was getting myself into.’’
Tisei said he was motivated by a really strong belief that Baker would be an excellent governor, and a belief that “given my background, I would be in a great position to help him govern the state.’’
With his campaign driver and aide, Scott Conway of Melrose, Tisei crisscrossed the state, speaking before groups and raising about $2 million for the campaign.
“Everyone thinks Massachusetts is one state; it’s really a bunch of different regions,’’ Tisei said. “Like the Berkshires — I was really surprised that they are so disconnected from the rest of the state. You’d go out there and people sometimes were totally unaware of what was going on in Greater Boston.’’
Reflecting on the outcome, Tisei said: “Charlie and I did everything we could to win but at the end of the day this is still a tough state for a Republican to win statewide, and when you take on an incumbent governor, it’s very difficult to do.’’
He said it also turned out to be a very difficult year to run as a Republican in Massachusetts.
“Sometimes, the tide at the end of the campaign either sweeps you in or acts as an undertow,’’ he said. “In this case, we were positioned to win, but I think a lot of swing voters looked at what was happening nationally with the Republicans doing so well and just got a little nervous about electing Republicans here in Massachusetts.’’
Tisei, who represents Lynnfield, Malden, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and part of Melrose, publicly disclosed he is gay just prior to his selection as Baker’s running mate. He said he does not believe it hurt his campaign.
“Wherever I went, it was never an issue. I have a track record in government and people judged me on my record,’’ he said.
While he was pleased with the role he played in helping shape bills such as the education and welfare overhaul acts of the 1990s, Tisei said what gives him the most satisfaction is the assistance he was able to render to individual constituents.
“I had a district office open for 26 years in Wakefield and anybody could walk through the door who needed help,’’ he said. “And we were able to help them a lot of the time.’’
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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