Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God Save The Commonwealth

Governor Patrick recently decided to rescind $18 million in planned cuts to the Regional School Transportation account. His top budget aide, Jay Gonzalez, noted in today's Boston Globe that “[The cuts] would result in teacher layoffs and other school cutbacks, which the governor had not intended or had expected.”

Apparently the governor was absent when Newton's Third Law of Motion was taught in school; namely, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We here at Scaling the Hill find it alarming that Governor Patrick and his Administration would make such a substantial cut to an account without fully understanding the ramifications of their action.

As the Springfield Republican recently noted, school districts cannot cut transportation services because state law requires that transportation be provided to any student that lives more than 1.5 miles from a school. By slashing state funding for transportation services, Governor Patrick was essentially forcing local school districts to make up the shortfall elsewhere in their budgets, which no doubt would have led to layoffs and reductions in other education programs.

Ironically, Governor Patrick once said he wanted to be known as the “Education Governor”. But slashing education funding for cities and towns certainly isn’t going to help him preserve this legacy.

This is the second time this month the governor has reversed direction and righted his compass by rescinding 9C cuts he unilaterally exercised in October. On December 4th, the Patrick Administration took a mulligan by including $42 million for emergency shelter services in a supplemental budget proposal after cutting other homeless services by $2.7 million in October.

This latest debacle is further proof that state government in Massachusetts is rudderless and adrift. The Patrick Administration seems to be lurching from one crisis to the next, and spending most of its time cleaning up messes it created that could have been avoided by doing just a little more homework ahead of time.

By now, after three years in office during an economic downturn, the governor should be very familiar with the effects of budget cuts. If this sort of haphazard budgeting process continues into the New Year, then Captain Patrick – oh wait, we mean Governor Patrick - will be steering the “USS Massachusetts” into some pretty dark and frigid waters.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Scott Brown Takes On Rival U.S. Senate Candidates in Radio and Television Debates

State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown joined Democrat Martha Coakley and independent Joseph L. Kennedy in a pair of debates over the past week. In case you missed it, be sure to check out the debate that took place on WBZ Radio's NightSide with Dan Rea on December 21 and the debate moderated by WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller, which was taped December 22 but broadcast yesterday morning.

The candidates have at least three more debates scheduled between now and the January 19 special election. In addition to a January 5 radio debate on WTKK-FM (96.9), Brown, Coakley and Kennedy will meet again on January 8 for a regional debate that will run on Springfield public television station WGBY. On January 11, they will gather at the University of Massachusetts in Boston for a debate hosted by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. That debate will be broadcast live on several local TV and radio stations.

The best voter is an informed voter. Be sure to check out the debates to learn where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you, but more importantly, don't forget to vote in this historic special election on January 19.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

From all of us here at Scaling The Hill 2010, we'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy holiday season.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...

It's tough to justify a failed economic policy that has contributed to record unemployment rates not seen in Massachusetts since the mid-1970s, but that hasn't stopped the Patrick Administration from trying to put the best possible spin on any bit of good news heading into an election year -- even if the news in question isn't exactly "new".

Case in point: Earlier this week, Governor Patrick headed to Quincy to tout an $8.1 million downtown revitalization project that will utilize federal stimulus money to build a concourse road connecting Burgin Parkway and Route 3A. He also made a stop at Weymouth Landing to announce that $2.4 million in state grant funding has been committed to developing a destination shopping and dining district for the South Shore. Both announcements made for a perfect photo op with state and local officials, but as Patriot Ledger reporter Nancy Reardon was quick to point out, Patrick was simply offering up "recycled news" that had already been publicly announced by his Administration in late October and early November.

The state GOP put its own holiday spin on the Patriot Ledger's expose, accusing Governor Patrick of "re-gifting" by trying to pass off old grant funding as something "shiny and new". In its release, the party noted that the Administration's latest actions only serve to highlight "the continuing failure of the Democrat administration to spur the economy or lower property taxes."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let’s Make a Deal

Many US Senate Democrats played “Let’s Make a Deal” with leadership, scoring huge bonuses for their constituencies in exchange for their votes on health care reform very late Sunday night in Washington.

At the last minute, Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, secured a major benefit for his state when he agreed to cast the vital 60th vote in exchange for permanent federal coverage of the Medicaid cost increases, which amounts to an extra $100 million over the next decade alone. Senator Nelson is in good company, as senators from Vermont, Montana, Louisiana and Connecticut pulled in similar deals in exchange for their votes.

Massachusetts, you must think, must have also gotten some perks during negotiations; after all, our delegation consists solely of Democrats, including interim Senator Paul Kirk, whose appointment was rushed through the State Legislature under the exaggerated claims that his presence was absolutely vital to the protection of the Commonwealth’s interests in the health care debate.

As we see now, Senator Kirk’s presence in Washington has done nothing to help us: Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is predicting that health care costs in Massachusetts will actually rise should this legislation pass!

It is even more apparent now that this process was a huge mistake. The Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature, abusing their super-majority in both chambers, changed the rules that they themselves created four years ago to prevent a possible Republican from filling the US Senate seat, and for what? Yet another expense to burden Massachusetts taxpayers.

Senator Tisei Weighs In On Fox 25 Investigation of Government Lobbyists

In the private sector, conducting business is often as simple as picking up the phone, scheduling a meeting and working out the details. Not so in state government, however, where many agencies can't seem to communicate with one another without using a highly-paid lobbyist to serve as an intermediary.

Fox 25 Investigative Reports recently highlighted this wasteful government practice, which has reportedly cost taxpayers more than $4 million in the last four and a half years alone. The Fox 25 segment includes an interview with Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei, who has been working with his GOP colleagues in the Senate and House to ban the use of lobbyists by state agencies.

In case you missed it, click here to see the full report.

Monday, December 21, 2009

ON THE AIR: Scott Brown to Participate in U.S. Senate Candidates' Debate Tonight

State Senator Scott Brown (right), who captured the Republican nomination for the Commonwealth's vacant U.S. Senate seat earlier this month, will be joining Democrat Martha Coakley and Independent Joseph L. Kennedy tonight for the first of several debates leading up to the January 19 special election. All three candidates are scheduled to appear on the NightSide with Dan Rea show on WBZ News Radio (1030 AM) at 8 p.m.

Less than 24 hours later, the three candidates are scheduled to participate in a second debate moderated by WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller. That debate will be taped and streamed live on the WBZ TV website at 7 p.m., and will air locally on Channel 4 from 8 a.m.-9 a.m. Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spadafora Announces State Senate Run

Malden City Council President Craig Spadafora officially kicked off his campaign for the State Senate seat for the Middlesex and Essex District this week. Spadafora (above, center) was joined by the current incumbent, Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei (left) -- who recently announced his campaign for Lieutenant Governor -- and Wakefield Selectman Al Turco (right), who have both endorsed his candidacy. Be sure to check out the Boston Globe's coverage of Spadafora's announcement, which was attended by many of his friends, family members and supporters.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fiscal Crisis? What Fiscal Crisis?

Governor Patrick seems determined the lower the state’s unemployment rate all by himself – at least when it comes to the public sector.

An analysis of the state payroll conducted by the Boston Herald shows that in 2009, the Patrick Administration engaged in a “hiring frenzy that has watchdogs questioning whether the governor has a tight grip on hiring in the face of a dire fiscal crisis.”

According to the Herald, the Administration has “filled more than 1,300 state jobs this year,” including 20 positions that pay $100,000 or more. The hirings account for $46 million in state spending between January and November, the Herald notes.

The Administration’s half-hearted attempts to defend the new hires included a statement indicating that 236 of the employees cited in the Herald review have since been laid off, which begs the question: why, in the midst of a serious fiscal crisis, were these workers even hired in the first place?

If anything, the Herald expose proves that it’s well past time for Governor Patrick to accept the Senate and House Republicans’ calls for an immediate statewide hiring freeze.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In Case You Missed It...

State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown was a guest on last night's "Broadside with Jim Braude" on New England Cable News. Guest host Chet Curtis talked with Brown about his decision to sign a "no new taxes" pledge and his call for Democratic nominee Martha Coakley to do the same. You can watch the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ON THE AIR: Brown on 'Broadside' Tonight

State Senator Scott P. Brown, fresh off his Republican primary victory in the U.S. Senate race on Tuesday, will be appearing as the in-studio guest on tonight's "Broadside with Jim Braude". The show airs at 6 p.m. on New England Cable News.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On to January: Scott Brown Wins Republican U.S. Senate Primary with 89 Percent of Vote

Congratulations to State Senator Scott Brown, who ran away with yesterday's Republican primary nomination by capturing 89 percent of the vote to defeat businessman Jack E. Robinson.

Brown will now face Attorney General and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley in the January 19 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. A victory by Brown in January would give the Massachusetts Republican Party its first U.S. Senator since Edward W. Brooke, who served in Washington from 1967-1979.

"They say I'm the long shot, and if the same old powers-that-be get to decide this election, I guess that's right," Brown told supporters at a post-election celebration last night. "But I'm betting that a new day is coming in Massachusetts."

Brown has promised not to be "another rubber stamp," but rather an "independent voice" who will "take my orders from you, the people who sent me to Washington to make a difference."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Federal Funding Pulled for 'Bridge to Nowhere' - But Massachusetts Taxpayers May Still Pay

The Boston Globe’s Noah Bierman is reporting that the Patrick Administration has removed the $9 million Foxborough footbridge planned for Route 1 from its list of projects to be paid for using federal stimulus funding – the same footbridge that is being built to connect two parking lots owned by multi-billionaire Robert Kraft, who also owns the New England Patriots.

Has Governor Patrick finally come to his senses and decided that this “corporate welfare” project doesn’t constitute the best use of taxpayer dollars? Well, not exactly.

The Globe reported over the weekend that the project wouldn’t be getting federal stimulus money because it won’t be able to meet the designated “shovel-ready” deadline to qualify for the funding. But a follow-up story in today's Globe reveals that federal highway officials had expressed concerns about including the controversial footbridge on the state's list of federal stimulus projects, which also prompted inquiries from the U.S. Inspector General's office in Washington.

That doesn’t mean the Patrick Administration has given up on the project; on the contrary, the Globe is reporting that the Administration “still supports finding other public money for the project.” That’s good news for Kraft – who recently contributed, along with his wife, a total of $12,000 to Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, and the state Democratic Party – but bad news for the state’s taxpayers, who will be stuck picking up the tab, one way or another.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

It was, in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "a date that will live in infamy."

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941 the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor came under attack by the Japanese navy. When the surprise assault was over, 2,345 U.S. military personnel were dead, and another 1,247 lay wounded.

Today, on the 68th anniversary of the event that precipitated America's entry into World War II, we remember and honor the many men and women who were killed or wounded that day. And we salute those veterans who survived the attack and vowed -- in the words of the 1942 poster by Allen Sandburg pictured above -- "that these dead shall not have died in vain."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scaling The Hill 2010 Launches Today

Next year promises to be an historic election year for Massachusetts. Two of the state’s Constitutional offices (Auditor and Treasurer) are up for grabs, and depending on the outcome of next month’s special U.S. Senate election, there could potentially be two more vacancies, in the offices of Attorney General and Secretary of State. Throw in a hotly contested Governor’s race, and it’s safe to say there are a lot of moving pieces sure to shake up the political landscape in 2010.

With that in mind, we here at Scaling The Hill would like to reaffirm our commitment to bringing you the latest news and behind the scenes look at what’s really happening on Beacon Hill, including some stories that may go unnoticed by the mainstream media. Today we are re-launching Scaling The Hill as Scaling The Hill 2010, as we look forward to an election year that promises to bring unprecedented changes to Massachusetts politics.

As we have stated under our masthead since we published our first post in the fall of 2008, “Our blog is meant to inform the residents of Massachusetts in a timely fashion about the issues affecting them on Beacon Hill. We represent you. Our blog is here to voice our shared ideals and goals.” We look forward to continuing to carry out that mission in the year ahead, and hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baker Unveils Pension Overhaul Plan

It's no secret that the state pension system is a mess. Despite the Legislature's passage of a pension reform bill earlier this year, the system is still in need of fundamental changes to prevent abuses and ensure the pension fund's long-term solvency.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has offered a plan that, if implemented, would save the state at least $50 million a year. He hopes to do this by capping pensions and eliminating the remaining loopholes that make it possible for certain individuals to game the system to secure an inflated retirement pension.

Be sure to check out the story that ran in the Boston Herald, or visit Charlie's official campaign website at for more information.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ON THE AIR: Fox 25 Investigative Team Exposes Wasteful Perks at Quasi-Public Agency

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei was interviewed recently by the Fox 25 News Investigative Team and asked for his reaction to the exorbitant salaries and perks being handed out to Executive Director Ben Caswell (right) and other employees of the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (HEFA), one of the many quasi-public state agencies whose spending practices have come under increased scrutiny by the news media.

Be sure to check out Mike Beaudet's expose and his interview with Senator Tisei.