Friday, January 29, 2010

State Economic Growth Trails U.S.

When he delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address on January 21, Governor Patrick had a message for the 323,200 Massachusetts residents who are out of work. Referring to the latest jobless figures released only hours before his speech, the governor announced that “unemployment, even with the disappointing numbers released today, is not as high here as the national average…”

Fast-forward to this week, and news that the national economy grew at a robust rate of 5.7 percent in the last quarter of 2009, the fastest U.S. growth recorded since 2003. Unfortunately, the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute has estimated that the Massachusetts economy registered a decline of 0.2 percent over the same time period. Something tells us the governor won’t be so eager to promote Massachusetts’ second-place status on this particular issue.

In a press release posted on the State House News Service, Northeastern University professor Alan Clayton-Matthews blamed the “disappointing” numbers on “a poor holiday spending season … and a sharp rise in the December unemployment rate.” Which brings us back to an argument we’ve made time and time again: when it comes to jobs creation, the Patrick Administration talks a nice game, but has yet to produce any tangible results. The governor’s added thousands of new jobs in state government since taking office three years ago, but the private sector has shed another 105,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate is now nearly double what it was when he was sworn in (9.4 percent vs. 4.8 percent).

People who are out of work don’t really care how our state compares to the rest of the country. What they really want are some reassurances from their elected officials that they are doing everything possible to create new jobs and get Massachusetts residents back to work.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Patrick Administration Out of Ideas

Apparently, the Patrick Administration doesn't have a clue on how to even begin to address the state's projected $3 billion budget deficit. At yesterday's press conference announcing the filing of his Fiscal Year 2011 spending plan, the governor sought to enlist outside help by making a public plea to the residents of the Commonwealth, asking them to submit their money-saving ideas to him at

The Senate Republican Caucus already has a series of cost-saving reform measures that can save the state over $1 billion. The governor and his staff may be out of ideas, but we're confident the voters of Massachusetts will have no shortage of suggestions on how to save enough money to erase the remaining shortfall. The only question is, will the governor actually listen to these ideas and act on them, or will he simply continue to ignore the problem?

ON THE AIR: Senator Tisei Calls Governor's FY2011 Budget Plan 'More of the Same'

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei offered his thoughts on Governor Patrick's Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal during an interview with WBZ Radio's Lisa Meyer yesterday. Senator Tisei dismissed the governor's spending proposal as "more of the same": more taxes, more reliance on one-time revenue sources and Washington bailouts, but none of the reforms needed to rein in government spending and get Massachusetts residents back to work. Be sure to check out the full interview by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tisei: Governor's Budget 'Doesn't Add Up'

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement in response to the release of Governor Deval Patrick’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal:

Governor Patrick’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2011 just doesn’t add up. Instead, it continues to expand government spending at an unsustainable level. The governor has yet to embrace even the most basic reform measures that are needed to bring state spending under control and to assure the residents of Massachusetts that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Last year, the governor resorted to rampant tax and fee increases to balance the budget, and it still wasn’t enough to avoid 9C cuts. The residents of Massachusetts are tired of being asked to bail out Beacon Hill when there is no accountability from their elected officials, but the governor still refuses to implement something as simple as a wage and hiring freeze to tame out-of-control government spending.

The day of reckoning has arrived. By some accounts, we are facing a structural deficit of as much as $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2011, yet the governor continues to rely on one-time fixes to bridge the gap between spending and revenues without undertaking fundamental reforms in the way state government operates. Why won’t he promote privatization by repealing the Pacheco Law, or move MassHealth recipients onto managed care plans? These are just a couple of steps the state can take right now to realize immediate savings.

Governor Patrick’s latest budget shows that after three years in office, he is still unwilling to make the tough decisions that are needed to ensure the Commonwealth’s long-term fiscal stability. We’ve had enough of the governor’s quick fixes and lack of follow-through; what we really need is a commitment to fiscal discipline and spending reforms, both of which are missing from the governor’s proposal.

Real Reform or Political Ploy?

Governor Patrick announced yesterday that he was filing a pension reform bill that would cap public pensions and raise the minimum retirement age for state employees. According to the State House News Service, the bill also calls for pro-rating pension benefits to prevent employees from gaming the system to secure inflated pension benefits, and extends the recent ban on “Section 10” early retirement incentives to all government employees, not just elected officials.

The governor’s proposal is hardly ground-breaking. In fact, many of the provisions contained in the bill have been championed by House and Senate Republicans for some time now, but the governor is just getting around to embracing them.

The question now is, is Governor Patrick really serious about reform, or is this just another empty campaign promise? After all, this is the same governor who promised to deliver property tax relief to the voters during his 2006 campaign and then proceeded to implement some of the biggest tax and fee increases in the state’s history.

The governor claims his bill will save the state $2 billion … over 30 years that is. Meanwhile, a $3 billion structural deficit is looming in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, which demands immediate attention. We’re waiting to see if the governor has any plan to address this gaping financial hole when he releases his new budget later today. But given his track record – all talk, no action – we’re not going to be holding our breaths waiting.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Missed Opportunity

It was bad enough to learn last week that the state's unemployment rate had jumped from 8.7 percent to 9.4 percent in December. What was even worse was that Governor Patrick tried to downplay the bad news and attempted to put a positive spin on things in his State of the Commonwealth Address by basically saying, well, sure, the numbers are "disappointing", but at least we're doing better than the national average of 10 percent. Try telling that to the over 323,000 Massachusetts residents who are currently unemployed and looking for work.

The fact is, Governor Patrick had a perfect opportunity to use his televised address to explain to the residents of Massachusetts just what his administration is doing to create jobs and get people back to work. Instead, his remarks lacked any details, proving that he really has no plan.

Friday, January 22, 2010

And After Three Years...

Following Governor Patrick’s State of the Commonwealth speech on Thursday night, reporters surrounded Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield) to get his perspective, and Senator Tisei said that after three years and one more nice speech, “We have yet to see any type of proposal from the Governor that even remotely resembles a plan for achieving viable, sustainable, long-term economic growth.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wilson Hits The Jackpot

One would think that the bad economy would put the brakes on pay increases for public university leaders. However, it has recently come to light, in an annual compensation survey from The Chronicle of Higher Education, that this is not true.

Jack Wilson, the President of the University of Massachusetts system, received a 15.4 percent pay raise (which included his salary, retirement pay, housing allowance, deferred compensation, and use of a UMass car) in Fiscal Year 2009 while J. Keith Motley, Chancellor at UMass-Boston, received a 5.2 percent raise. We here at Scaling the Hill 2010 are wondering what the average raise was for the custodians, administrative staff, and the faculty? Our guess is slim to none????

Yet again, it seems that Governor Patrick and the University Trustees are out of touch with the 8.8 percent of the population in our state that is unemployed. Families are struggling to pay for heat, put food on their tables, and send their children to college, yet Patrick & Company see fit to authorize this substantial raise and simultaneously raise tuition and fees for the very same people who are paying for these outrageous salary increases.

As a result of the huge public outcry, the Boston Herald is reporting today that Wilson has now decided to voluntarily freeze his pay, saying he will "refuse all future salary and compensation increases, including the one due this year, until such time as the faculty and staff receive increases." That's a good first step, but Governor Patrick should insist on an immediate hiring and wage freeze at all of the Commonwealth’s public higher education institutions.

The Shot Heard 'Round The Nation

The people have spoken, and Wrentham State Senator Scott Brown is now heading to Washington as the Commonwealth's next U.S. Senator. Brown proved all the doubters and naysayers wrong by claiming a decisive margin of victory and capturing 52 percent of the statewide vote in yesterday's special election to fill the seat once held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Brown's victory was one for the history books: not only is he the first Republican to be elected as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts since 1972, but he's also the first Republican to hold the seat since Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. lost his U.S. Senate re-election campaign in 1952 to a young John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

All of us here are Scaling The Hill 2010 congratulate Senator Brown on his successful campaign, and know that he will be an effective representative for all Massachusetts residents on Capitol Hill.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exercise Your Right To Vote Today

For the past six weeks, Republican Scott Brown, Democrat Martha Coakley and independent candidate Joseph Kennedy have been busy criss-crossing the state as they campaign for the U.S. Senate seat that was held for nearly half a century by the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Today, the voters of Massachusetts will have their say on who will represent the Commonwealth over the next 2 1/2 years in Washington, and it's important that everyone's voice is heard. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., so be sure to get out and exercise your right to vote today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scaling The Hill 2010 joins with the residents of Massachusetts and across the nation today to honor the legacy of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his lifelong dream of equal rights and justice for all Americans.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Governor Patrick Does An 'About Face' And Restores Soldiers' Home Funding He Had Cut

It must be an election year. How else to explain Governor Patrick's sudden epiphany that led him to restore funding for outpatient clinic services for veterans at the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers' Homes?

As veterans from across the state converged on the State House Wednesday morning for a "Save Our Services" rally (left), Patrick released a statement, which read in part: "The service and sacrifice of our veterans is never to be underestimated or undervalued, and the gradual recovery of our economy makes it possible for us to fix this problem now."

What the governor neglected to mention was that he was the one who created the problem when he used his 9C powers to slash approximately $2 million in funding for the two Soldiers' Homes last October. He later vetoed a partial restoration of this funding, spearheaded by Senator Michael Knapik, which the Legislature had included in a November supplemental budget. The governor's actions were a slap in the face to the Commonwealth's veterans, who were denied the dignity and respect they rightfully deserve for their service to our state and our nation.

If Governor Patrick was hoping to gain any political traction by restoring the funding, his plan appears to have backfired. After all, if he truly valued the sacrifices made by our state's veterans, why would he have cut these services in the first place, and then blocked an attempt by the Legislature to restore a portion of the funding?

It wasn't that long ago that the governor's cuts forced veterans and their families to scramble to find alternative health care providers when the Holyoke and Chelsea clinics were shut down. That's something they're sure to remember when they head to the polls in November.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Senator Tisei's Statement on Education Reform

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement regarding today’s Senate vote on education reform legislation:

I support this bill and its objectives of raising academic standards, promoting quality teaching, and improving failing schools. It’s just unfortunate that it took the dangling of a $250 million federal grant incentive and the threat of a ballot question to finally get the governor and the Legislature to act.

I see this not as the end, but rather the beginning of a process that will improve our education system and prepare our students for the challenges of the next decade. When all is said and done, this bill will only work if we have the leadership in place to ensure that we can turn around our failing schools and expand charter school opportunities for children across the state.

This is only the first step. We still need to look at implementing other significant reforms that will make real and lasting changes in our classrooms, and will help us transform our underperforming schools into performing schools. Every child in Massachusetts deserves a quality education, and we must do everything we can to see that they get one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Crisis Foreseen

Just when we thought we had heard it all about the behind-the-scenes political machinations that led to the Gloucester charter school controversy, along comes another bombshell in today’s Boston Globe.

Citing new information released by the state’s inspector general, the Globe is reporting that the Gloucester charter school application was on the verge of being rejected “until the Patrick administration intervened.” That’s when the school was given the green light instead.

According to the Globe, on February 5, 2009 a “mid-level official” in the state’s charter school office drafted a letter to the Gloucester charter school group and a memorandum to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education denying the Gloucester charter request and listing the problems with the application. However, neither of these documents was ever distributed, because later that same day, Education Secretary Paul Reville sent his now-infamous e-mail to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester urging him to approve the application so the Patrick Administration would not be seen as “hostile” to charter schools (see our January 7 post, “Charter School Politics”).

The continuing fallout from this whole debacle is hardly surprising. After all, Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei warned back in February of 2008 that the loss of an independent Board of Education would lead to many questionable decisions being made based not on sound education policy, but rather on political considerations. Be sure to check out Senator Tisei’s latest op-ed on the charter school controversy, along with his prescient Senate floor speech from 2008.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Herald Exposes Deval's 'Flack-A-Rama'

Unemployment is at near-record highs, the state is continuing to hemorrhage jobs, and budget-writers are looking at a structural deficit of up to $3 billion in FY11. So what is Governor Patrick doing? According to the Boston Herald, he’s been busy larding up the payroll at MassDOT, the new state transportation super-agency.

When MassDOT was created last year, it was supposed to produce huge cost-savings for taxpayers through consolidation and increased efficiencies. But the Herald reports today that there hasn’t been any downsizing of PR “spinmeisters” since the various transportation agencies merged. In fact, the 10 individuals that were in place before the restructuring have all been retained under the new agency, and they’ve even added one more to their ranks: former Patrick spokesman Joe Landolfi.

According to the Herald, these 11 communications employees are collectively pulling in more than $800,000 a year, or about $73,000 per employee on average. Landolfi alone is making $119,000 a year. If this is the governor’s idea of reform, we can only imagine what it would take to get him to classify something as wasteful spending.

Landolfi has apparently jumped headfirst into his new role, and was clearly attempting to put a little “spin” of his own on the story when he told the Herald “we haven’t been just sitting still here.” He also tried to deflect some of the criticism by pointing out that his salary is paid for by the governor’s office, not MassDOT. But let’s be real: no matter how you slice it, it’s all taxpayer money that’s being used.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said it best when he noted that Governor Patrick has “really fallen down on the job as far as implementing the law and wringing out the savings we all know are there.”

Veterans Rally To 'Save Our Services'

Senator Michael Knapik informs us that he is expecting a large contingent of Massachusetts veterans to arrive on Beacon Hill this week to participate in a “Save Our Services” rally protesting Governor Patrick’s decision to cut funding for the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. The rally is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 13 in front of the State House.

Senator Knapik has been leading the charge to restore the funding that pays for outpatient services provided to the state’s aging veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Governor Patrick slashed this funding not once, but twice: first as part of his October 9C cuts, and then through a veto after the Legislature partially restored the funding in a November supplemental budget. That's on top of a previous cut in FY09 that eliminated dental services at the Home.

Knapik and Representative Michael Kane are scheduled to deliver a letter to the governor today urging him to restore the funding. If not, Patrick will have to answer to the state’s veterans, who deserve an explanation about why his administration has so callously turned its back on them after all the sacrifices they have made for our state and our nation.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Caucus Pushes Prisoner 'Pay-To-Stay' Bill

Crime doesn’t pay, but what’s wrong with making the criminals themselves pay – literally – to help defray the cost of their incarceration?

That’s just what Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson had been doing at the Dartmouth House of Correction, where inmates were assessed a $5-a-day “pay-to-stay” fee – that is, until the Supreme Judicial Court shot down the policy earlier this week. The reason? The state’s sheriff’s lack the authority to impose such a fee, which the SJC noted must be given to them by the Legislature.

Let’s do the math: at $5-a-day, Hodgson was collecting a grand total of $1,825 a year per inmate. But the actual annual cost to the state for housing each inmate is closer to $35,000, so taxpayers would still be picking up the $33,175 difference. One could argue that these inmates should be paying their own way, but all Hodgson did was ask them to contribute roughly 5 percent – not a bad deal for someone who has broken the law and forfeited their freedom.

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei thinks Hodgson’s “pay-to-stay” policy is a “common sense” approach that most law-abiding citizens support. The good news is, Tisei and the rest of the Senate Republican Caucus are planning to push legislation – filed last January and currently pending before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security – that would allow the state to charge criminals a minimum of $2-a-day for their incarceration.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Charter School Politics

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei is calling for Education Secretary Paul Reville (right) to resign in the wake of a damaging report from the Inspector General’s Office which found significant flaws in the awarding of a school charter in Gloucester and amidst revelations that key documents pertaining to the application process may have been shredded.

“Shredding documents, this sounds like sort of something out of Watergate, rather than the open and transparent administration that Governor Patrick promised us when he took office,” Tisei said during an interview with the State House News Service on Wednesday.

Is anyone really surprised that something like this happened? After all, when Governor Patrick pushed through his education reorganization plan two years ago to create an Education Secretary, Tisei warned this would compromise the independence of the Board of Education and lead to many questionable decisions, and he was right.

The “smoking gun,” if you will, was an e-mail Reville sent to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester on February 5, 2009 urging Chester to approve at least one of three pending charter applications so the Patrick Administration would not be seen as “hostile” to charter schools. In the e-mail – which was uncovered by the Gloucester Daily Times – Reville told Chester that “Frankly, I’d rather fight for the kids in the Waltham situation, but it sounds like you can’t find a solid basis for standing behind that one. I’m not inclined to push Worcester, so that leaves Gloucester.”

That hardly seems like a glowing endorsement for the Gloucester charter school, which got the nod anyway, despite strong opposition from local residents and officials. One has to ask, why was Reville “not inclined to push Worcester”? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Worcester is Lt. Governor Tim Murray’s home town? Or that, according to the Daily Times, Reville "had two children in the Worcester public schools" at the time of his appointment in 2008?

It’s disheartening to know the charter school process has been so thoroughly tainted by politics. The Gloucester decision was based purely on political expediency, rather than the merits of the application or what was in the best interests of the students.

Given how badly the Patrick Administration has bungled this whole situation, it’s going to take a long time to restore public confidence in the charter school process. Reville’s resignation would be a good first step, but more importantly, the office should be abolished and the Board of Education restored to the independent body it once was to prevent similar political shenanigans in the future.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Brown Campaign Closing the Gap

With the special U.S. Senate election just two weeks away, State Senator Scott Brown is closing in on his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley, in the polls.

According to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, Brown now trails Coakley by just 9 percentage points, with 50 percent of likely voters supporting the Attorney General and 41 percent supporting Brown. Just 1 percent of likely voters prefer neither candidate, while 7 percent are undecided.

Although both candidates draw strongly from voters within their respective political parties, Brown holds a commanding lead among so-called “unenrolled” voters, who support the Wrentham senator by a 65 percent to 21 percent margin. Brown also has a higher favorability rating, with 25 percent of voters expressing a “very favorable” opinion of him and only 5 percent having a “very unfavorable” opinion (Coakley’s comparable numbers are 21 percent “very favorable” and 22 percent “very unfavorable”).

Earlier today, Brown, Coakley and independent candidate Joe Kennedy participated in a live debate on WTKK’s Braude and Eagan show. In case you missed it, you can replay the audio on WTKK’s website.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Senator Tisei Calls on Galluccio to Resign

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement today after Cambridge Senator Anthony Galluccio was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction for failing several Breathalyzer tests while under court-ordered home confinement for an October 4 hit-and-run accident:

With his sentencing today, Senator Galluccio is no longer able to carry out the duties of his office or to effectively represent the residents of his district. Senator Galluccio has already taken responsibility for leaving the scene of an accident he caused by pleading guilty to the charges in court. Now that a judge has found that he has violated the terms of his probation, Senator Galluccio must again accept responsibility for his actions and should realize it is in the best interests of everyone that he resign, as it is clear that he will be unable to fulfill his duties as a state senator.

Friday, January 1, 2010


On behalf of the Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus, Scaling The Hill 2010 would like to wish everyone a Very Happy and Healthy New Year. We look forward to continuing to serve the taxpayers of Massachusetts as your voice on Beacon Hill in 2010.