Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Patrick: Full-Time Governor or Full-Time Author?

Today’s Boston Globe reports that Governor Patrick has completed the first draft of his 200-page memoir, which is due to be published next April. You may recall that the Governor jetted off to New York two years ago to ink the book deal and collect a $1.35 million advance, even as his casino proposal was going down in flames.

Patrick has already committed to a nationwide book tour, telling publishers he would not only be “delighted to participate in a vigorous media campaign” but also would be willing to “travel across the nation for book signings,” according to the Globe. Which begs the question: with the state facing a structural budget deficit of between $2 billion and $3 billion, does Patrick plan on being a full-time Governor for the people of Massachusetts or a full-time author?

The Governor’s press secretary told the Globe that Patrick completed the book during his “limited free time.” But a book signing tour is going to require Patrick to be out of the state for an extended period of time, even as the state faces a serious fiscal crisis that deserves his full attention.

We have to wonder what Patrick’s second in command (and resident pit bull) Tim Murray thinks about all this. With Patrick unable to devote his attention to his gubernatorial responsibilities 24/7, will Murray now demand that the Governor step aside and let him take over the running of the Corner Office? But that may be a problem for the residents of the state, as Murray’s most significant role as Lieutenant Governor to date has been giving traffic reports to motorists calling 5-1-1. Unfortunately, the state recently updated the system, and Tim’s rather long and self-promoting greeting can no longer be heard.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Knapik Offers Thoughts on FY11 Budget

Senator Michael R. Knapik (right) was one of six conference committee members responsible for reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. Forging a compromise budget out of competing priorities is always a difficult one, but this year's process was even more daunting given the floundering economy and the many uncertainties surrounding the receipt of federal stimulus funding. Be sure to check out Senator Knapik's thoughts on this year's budget process and the Senate Republican Caucus' reform efforts, as reported by the Springfield Republican.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lack of Reforms in FY11 Budget 'Disappointing'

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei released the following statement today, just hours after the budget conference committee released its report:

From day one, this budget process and the contents of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget have been a disappointment. From the lack of transparency and reform to the dependence on federal handouts, Governor Patrick and Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill have failed to craft a responsible and sustainable budget.

Governor Patrick released his budget proposal in January, relying on hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government and guaranteeing the money would be here shortly. Here we are, six months and $800 million later, and the FY11 budget is a mess due to the irresponsible decision to factor in federal money that Congress has yet to approve. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders took the Governor’s word to heart and made the same careless choices while crafting the House and Senate budgets.

House and Senate Republicans led the charge for reforms to assist the state’s taxpayers and local communities, but those reforms are nowhere to be found in the final budget. Local aid has been cut, services have been slashed, and the one tool that would allow cities and towns to rein in their health care costs and save $100 million – implementing health care plan design – has been taken away.

We, along with our Republican colleagues, will not be voting in favor of this budget and hope our friends across the aisle will join us in rejecting what is once again an unsustainable and irresponsible budget for the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taxpayers Pay Price for Democrats' Inaction

SouthCoastToday just published an op-ed piece by Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei (right) about the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget, which is still being worked out in conference committee. Tisei blames Governor Patrick and the Democratic-controlled Legislature for failing to pursue key cost-saving reforms and instead balancing the budget with a series of "funding gimmicks and one-time revenue sources that are tenuous at best and could collapse at any moment."

Be sure to check out the op-ed by clicking here.

Boston Herald: More 'Politics As Usual' from Patrick Administration on Hirings

For the past 12 years or so, the state has somehow managed to get by without an executive secretary for the Division of Insurance’s Board of Appeals. But that didn’t stop Governor Patrick from filling the long-vacant slot with one of his former campaign volunteers.

The Boston Herald broke the story yesterday that Patrick supporter Mark Bracken was hired earlier this year to the $45,532 a year post, following what we’re sure was a competitive nationwide search. The Herald draws parallels between Bracken’s hiring and Governor Patrick’s aborted efforts to appoint Senator Marian Walsh to another long-vacant position at the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (HEFA) last year. Of course, Walsh was in line for a much larger $175,000 salary before dropping out, but the latest move still smacks of what the Herald calls “politics as usual.”

Be sure to check out the Herald’s story and today’s editorial.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tarr Joins the 'Monday Morning Quarterbacks'

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (left) joined former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger in Fox25's Beacon Hill studios this morning, where he filled in as part of the popular "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" segment. The two touched on a variety of state and national topics, ranging from casino gambling and the state's ongoing budget problems to recent illegal immigration legislation passed in Arizona and the disastrous Gulf oil spill.

Be sure to check out the segment in its entirety by clicking here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who's Working on Bunker Hill Day?

WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias was one of several reporters roaming the halls of the State House yesterday to see which offices were open for business on Bunker Hill Day. Elias interviewed several legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, whose offices were fully staffed to assist the public yesterday.

While Bunker Hill Day remains a legal holiday for government workers in Suffolk County, it may soon lose that status. A Republican Caucus-sponsored amendment passed by the Senate last month would strip June 17 of its legal holiday status, along with Evacuation Day, the state's other Suffolk County-only holiday, which falls on March 17. The amendment -- which could save taxpayers an estimated $5 million -- is still being reviewed by members of the budget conference committee, but Governor Patrick has gone on record as saying he would sign it if it reaches his desk.

Be sure to check out WBZ-TV's Bunker Hill Day report.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Governor Approves ROTC Exemption Language

Governor Patrick has approved language inserted in the Fiscal Year 2010 supplemental budget that exempts junior ROTC instructors employed in Massachusetts' public schools from having to pay union "agency fees". The exemption will protect veterans across the Commonwealth, including retired Marine Major Stephen Godin, who faced termination from his 14-year post at North High School in Worcester for refusing to pay the fee.

Godin's plight, and Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei's efforts to save his job, drew not only statewide but national attention. In addition to appearing locally on WTKK with Michael Graham and on WRKO with Howie Carr, Tisei was also a guest on the nationally syndicated Lou Dobbs Show, RushRadio's Jeff Katz Show, and the Fox News Network's Your World with Neil Cavuto.

ON THE AIR: Senator Hedlund on Fox 25 News

Senate Minority Whip Robert Hedlund (left) was featured in a segment on Fox 25 News last night. Hedlund sat down with investigative reporter Mike Beaudet to discuss the Senate Republican Caucus' efforts to close a loophole in the state's laws that allows individuals to register a motor vehicle without a license. Fox 25 says this loophole is being exploited by thousands of illegal immigrants, but the Senate's Fiscal Year 2011 state budget includes corrective language that is now under review in conference committee.

Be sure to check out Senator Hedlund's interview by clicking here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

ON THE AIR: Senator Knapik on 22News

Senator Michael R. Knapik (right), the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was interviewed this past weekend by Springfield's WWLP Channel 22 about the Senate Republican Caucus' proposal to bar illegal immigrants in Massachusetts from accessing state-funded public benefits. The proposal -- which covers a wide range of benefits including housing and higher education -- passed the Senate on a 27-10 vote during the FY2011 budget debate and is now the subject of negotiations in conference committee. Click here to see WWLP's coverage.

Friday, June 11, 2010

GOP Winning the Battle for Our Veterans

There’s some good news to report in today’s Worcester Telegram and Gazette regarding the junior ROTC instructor who’s being forced out of the job he’s held for 14 years because he refuses to pay $452 in dues to the local teachers union.

According to the newspaper, Worcester School Superintendent Melinda J. Boone has issued a press release saying she will not terminate Major Stephen Godin from his position at North High School. Godin, who previously served 20 years in the U.S. Marines, was scheduled to lose his job on June 15 after refusing to cave in to the union’s strong-arm tactics.

Godin maintains that he should not be forced to pay union dues because he receives no benefits from the union. Half of his salary, as well as his health insurance, is paid for by the military, and unlike other teachers at North High School, Godin does not receive any stipend for participating in after-school activities.

Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei (pictured above) took up Major Godin’s cause this week, filing legislation to exempt ROTC instructors working in any public secondary school in Massachusetts from having to pay union dues. Tisei also filed the language as an amendment to a bill that was advancing in the Senate yesterday. Despite the support of the entire Senate Republican Caucus, the amendment was ruled beyond the scope of the underlying bill.

Now, the Worcester School Committee is working with the local teachers union to allow the district’s other ROTC instructors to be removed from the bargaining unit so they won’t be classified as classroom teachers and forced to pay union dues. Another victory for our veterans!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A 'Deeply Flawed' Health Care Compromise

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) is weighing in against the compromise health care plan design language included in the Senate's FY2011 budget, calling the proposal "so deeply flawed that it should not be included in the final budget unless it is dramatically improved."

In a letter sent to Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and the six budget conferees, MTF President Michael Widmer called on the conferees to "reject the Senate proposal and take decisive action to provide real relief to municipalities" to ensure that communities can "protect municipal jobs and services."

During last month's budget debate, the Senate Republican Caucus offered an amendment that would have granted cities and towns plan design powers and the flexibility to change health care co-pays and deductibles for municipal employees without having to go through the collective bargaining process for approval. Under this plan, communities would collectively save $100 million, or enough money to save the equivalent of between 1,070 and 1,630 teachers, firefighters and police officers, according to the Beacon Hill Institute.

The amendment that passed the Senate, however, was a watered-down plan requiring only 25 percent of the cost savings to go to municipalities, 25 percent to municipal employees, and left the distribution of the remaining 50 percent to be determined through collective bargaining and potential arbitration. All five Caucus members rejected this proposal, which passed on a vote of 20-17.

"The choice is clear -- give cities and towns the tools to manage their health plans and save thousands of jobs, or preserve some form of collective bargaining and guarantee that these teachers and public safety workers will lose their jobs," Widmer wrote. "Potential savings from health care alone dwarf savings from the entire package of 'municipal relief' proposals passed by the House and Senate."

Friday, June 4, 2010

In Case You Missed It...

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (left) was an in-studio guest on yesterday's Fox Morning News, joining former Senator Warren Tolman to discuss some of the Senate Republican Caucus' recent budget victories, including a proposal to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining a host of taxpayer-funded state benefits, as well as a proposal to eliminate Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day as paid holidays for state government employees. You can check out the full segment by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

GOP Leaders Call on Governor to Produce Contingency Plan to Address FMAP Shortfall

Saying there’s no guarantee Congress will extend Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments, House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei today called on Governor Patrick to announce a contingency plan for dealing with what’s expected to be a gaping $700 million budget hole.

In January, Governor Patrick filed his FY11 budget proposal that relied on $689 million in federal assistance for Medicaid payments. At the time, Governor Patrick and Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said they were confident Congress would act quickly to approve the FMAP extension and that President Obama would soon have the legislation on his desk to sign. The U.S. Senate did approve the extension, unfortunately the House of Representatives rejected a proposal to provide additional Medicaid funding to states.

This news couldn’t come at a worse time as the state is already facing a $2.5 billion structural deficit.

“Governor Patrick never should have released a budget, without a contingency plan, that was so dependent on federal aid that had yet to be approved,” said Representative Jones. “At this point in the process and with the likelihood that we will not receive this money, it is incumbent upon the Governor to outline his plan for filling this hole immediately. One can only hope it’s not another tax increase.”

“The Patrick-Murray administration has consistently been two steps behind, always having to react to economic news,” said Senator Tisei. “It’s frustrating and disappointing that Governor Patrick refuses to act in a proactive manner. There was never a guarantee that this aid would be approved by the federal government and if this money does not come through, it will be the hardworking taxpayers who will suffer from devastating cuts to health and human services.”

The state’s stabilization fund has practically been depleted since Governor Patrick took office. Only $600 million remains in the rainy day fund, far short of the $700 million that would be needed to cover this additional budget gap.

Herald Endorses Caucus Budget Reforms

Today's Boston Herald includes an editorial that endorses several of the Senate Republican Caucus' reform initiatives that were introduced during last week's budget debate.

In the editorial, the Herald notes that a number of amendments were not in the House version of the budget, but "are well worth including in the final budget when it is sent to the governor's desk." Those initiatives include: prohibiting illegal immigrants from accessing a wide range of state-funded public benefits; banning employers who hire illegal immigrants from bidding on state contracts; and eliminating Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day as paid holidays for state workers.

The Herald also faults the Senate for not pursuing the Caucus' proposal to "loosen restrictions on privatizing government services" and for watering down the Caucus proposal to give cities and towns health care plan design powers to reduce costs, which the Herald calls "a potential savings gold mine."

Be sure to check out the editorial.

Senator Tarr Goes 'On The Record'

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (left) was a guest last night on the Fox News Network's "On The Record with Greta Van Susteren". During his segment, Senator Tarr discussed the Senate Republican Caucus' success in passing a budget amendment that makes a wide range of state-funded public benefits available only to citizens and legal immigrants, while barring individuals who are in this country illegally from accessing those benefits.