Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sen. Hedlund on 'Emily Rooney Show' Friday

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund will be a guest on the Emily Rooney Show on Friday. The shows airs from noon-1 p.m. on WGBH radio (89.7 FM), and can also be streamed live.

Senator Tarr Shares His Thoughts on House Municipal Health Care Amendment

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2012 state budget that would change the way healthcare plans for municipal and school employees are developed. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr had the opportunity to discuss his initial thoughts on the issue with host Barry Armstrong of WRKO radio's "Lunch Money" program. To listen to the interview, please click the photo posted below. To read the actual language of the amendment, please click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Senator Hedlund Joins 'Broadside' Debate on Senator Brown's 2012 Re-Election Prospects

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund was a guest on Monday night's "Broadside" on NECN with host Jim Braude. Hedlund appeared alongside Doug Rubin, former Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager for Governor Deval Patrick, and challenged Rubin's recent Boston Herald column titled “Dems Can Beat Scott Brown in 2012 Here’s How”. Hedlund maintains the column is actually a template on why Senator Brown will be re-elected to the U.S. Senate next year. The debate can be seen in its entirety here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Senator Tarr Joins 'Tolman and Gray'

On Thursday morning, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News' segment "Tolman and Gray". Tarr joined former State Senator Warren Tolman and Fox 25 Morning News co-anchor Gene Lavanchy to discuss the upcoming trial of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi; the release of the House Ways and Means Committee's proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which includes a municipal health care reform proposal; and the possibility of suspending the state's gas tax temporarily to provide relief to consumers. You can watch the full discussion by playing the video posted below.

Talking Politics:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Senator Tarr on Fox 25 Thursday Morning

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will appear live in-studio tomorrow morning as a guest on the Fox25 Morning News segment “Tolman and Gray”, analyzing the latest political issues with former State Senator Warren Tolman. Some of the topics that may be discussed include a look back at last year's BP oil spill, Governor Patrick's national book tour, and the recent release of the House Ways and Means budget for Fiscal Year 2012. The segment is scheduled to air Thursday at approximately 7:15 a.m., so be sure to tune in.

Friday, April 15, 2011

House Budget Writers Endorse Republicans' Position on Wage Violation Penalties

What a difference a few years make.

In 2008, over the objections of Republican lawmakers, the Legislature approved a change in the General Laws mandating that all employers be subject to treble damages for wage violations, even if the violation was unintentional. At the time, Republicans argued that treble damages should apply only in those cases where the wage violation was committed willfully and intentionally. Even Governor Patrick acknowledged that the proposed changes were "overly punitive" to those employers who made an honest mistake.

Fast forward three years later, as the House Ways and Means Committee released its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012. Included in the budget is language that reverses the 2008 changes and limits treble damages to those cases where the delay in paying wages to an employee was done intentionally. Be sure to check out the State House News Service's coverage of this latest development, which includes comments from Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

Senate GOP Re-files Probation Reform Bill

Continuing their commitment to address allegations of widespread patronage and a "pay-to-play" scandal within the state’s probation department, the Senate Republican Caucus has re-filed legislation outlining several key reforms needed to help restore the public’s confidence in the judicial system.

The Senate bill seeks to address many of the problems identified in independent counsel Paul Ware’s November 2010 report, which detailed evidence of “systemic abuse and corruption” within the probation department under former commissioner John O’Brien. The report – which was commissioned after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation – found that “[H]iring and promotion have been thoroughly compromised by a systemic rigging of the interview and selection process in favor of candidates who have political or other personal connections.”

“The integrity of our criminal justice system has been called into question by what has been allowed to transpire unchecked for far too long within the probation department,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who is sponsoring the bill with Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham). “The reforms we are seeking will help to ensure that future job candidates are hired or promoted based on their actual qualifications for the job, and not on their political connections.”

The latest bill contains language similar to a proposal the Senate Republican Caucus offered as an amendment during the Fiscal Year 2011 budget debate last spring. The Caucus also filed a stand-alone reform bill at the end of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

A key component of the new reform bill is that it would reverse the Legislature’s 2001 decision to remove the probation department from the court system and grant the commissioner autonomy over personnel decisions. The Ware report found that the problems within the department began shortly after this transfer of power occurred.

The Senate bill would:

• transfer control over personnel decisions within the probation department to the Chief Justice of Administration and Management for the Trial Courts, including all appointments, dismissals and assignments;

• give the probation commissioner executive control and supervision of the parole service;

• require the development of a merit-based system to ensure that only qualified candidates are hired and promoted; and

• limit the probation commissioner to a five-year term, subject to appointment by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management for the Trial Courts.

“The public has a right to a probation department with true integrity and wants to see decisive action taken to correct these problems,” said Senator Tarr. “This bill provides a roadmap for implementing positive changes within the probation department and correcting the mistake the Legislature made 10 years ago that allowed politics to trump process.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Senate Unanimously Adopts Early Local Aid Resolution Requested by GOP Caucus

Today the Massachusetts State Senate acted on a Republican Caucus order to provide cities and towns with a set of preliminary Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) local aid figures. The Senate resolution, which passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 36-0, sets the minimum amount of Chapter 70 education aid and general government assistance communities can expect to receive from the state for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1st.

“This resolution addresses two critical factors – timing and reliability,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “Through its adoption, municipal and school officials can have the information they need to make timely decisions about their budgets, and they can count on specific amounts of aid, at a minimum, to be there when they need them."

Tarr filed an order last week with Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) compelling the filing of today's local aid resolution by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and its consideration by the Senate.

The local aid figures reflect a $120 million – or 3.1 percent – increase in Chapter 70 education aid for cities and towns, bringing the statewide total to $3.99 billion. Unfortunately, unrestricted general government aid is reduced to $833 million statewide. This represents a cut of $65 million, or 7 percent, compared to this year’s totals.

The timing of the resolution is critical, since municipal and school budgets must be acted upon and approved by local legislative bodies well in advance of the July 1st deadline for the implementation of the state budget for the coming fiscal year.

“Senate Republicans have consistently expressed the belief that local aid is a budgetary priority, and today’s vote reflects the agreement of the full Senate with that belief,” Tarr noted.

Senator Tarr Interviewed by Channel 5 About New MBTA Employee Amnesty Program

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr spoke with reporter Sean Kelly of WCVB-TV Channel 5 yesterday about the MBTA's new employee amnesty program. A Channel 5 investigation discovered that the MBTA has been allowing workers who misrepresented their educational background on their original employment application to come clean without fear of losing their job, provided they obtain their GED in a timely fashion. The report -- which originally aired on Wednesday night’s 11 p.m. newscast -- can be viewed by playing the attached video link.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Senator Tarr Issues Statement on Commuter Rail Oversight Hearings

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr released the following statement on the Transportation Committee’s decision to hold the first of two commuter rail oversight hearings yesterday, following a written request by the Senate Republican Caucus:

"I want to thank the chairmen of the Joint Committee on Transportation for responding to the concerns raised by the Senate Republican Caucus and holding this important informational hearing to get to the bottom of some of the problems that have plagued our public transportation system in recent months. Today’s hearing has given us a better sense of the contributing factors that have led to countless service disruptions and delays on our commuter rail system, but the public hearing process won't be complete until the public has an opportunity to be heard. I look forward to the second hearing on May 3 and hopefully others, where it is imperative that members of the general public have the opportunity to provide their comments and suggestions for getting the commuter rail system back on track. Armed with the information from today's hearings and the thoughts and suggestions of those who depend on commuter rail service everyday to travel, we then can and must do whatever is necessary to prevent continued hardships and disruptions."

Tarr Addresses Commuter Rail Delays

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr was a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News, where he had the opportunity to discuss yesterday's MBTA Oversight Hearing held by the Joint Committee on Transportation with morning news anchor Gene Lavanchy. Yesterday's public hearing featured testimony from MBTA and MBCR officials, legislators and transportation experts who provided insight on the issues surrounding commuter rail service disruptions. To view the interview in its entirety, just play the posted video below.

Lawmakers preparing to grill MBTA:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hedlund Weighs in on Corporate Tax Breaks

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund sits on the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, which recently conducted an oversight hearing on the tax breaks given to Evergreen Solar and Fidelity Investments. The following is an op-ed piece Senator Hedlund distributed to his local newspapers regarding the hearing:

Beacon Hill saw a flurry of activity last month, from the passage of an over $300 million supplemental budget, to multiple committee hearings, one you may have seen both newspaper and television coverage of. On Tuesday afternoon, March 29th, the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, of which I am the ranking minority member, heard testimony from executives of Evergreen Solar and Fidelity Investments.

State officials are concerned over the recent decision by Fidelity to close its Marlborough facility and relocate some of those 1,000 jobs to Rhode Island and New Hampshire, and Evergreen Solar’s attempted sale of its $450 million manufacturing plant in Devens after benefitting to the tune of almost $21 million in tax breaks and grants, and moving production to China.

These decisions highlight a larger problem for the Commonwealth. Specifically, targeted tax breaks for favored industries, the Commonwealth’s inability to track job growth from tax incentives due to corporate shield laws, and the lack of effective clawback provisions allowing for the recouping of investments if job growth doesn’t meet expectations. In short, what I have believed for a long time is a failed tax policy and ineffective economic development strategy has created a situation where the Administration is gambling with your tax dollars, and putting the Commonwealth in a position of reading tea leaves to pick winners and losers in specific industries.

This has been the failed policy since 1996, picking the industry flavor of the month, Raytheon was first, then the film industry - with testimony from this hearing claiming the state is giving away $113,000 in tax credits for every temporary film job created - and most recently the biotech industry.

In the case of Evergreen Solar the Administration considered them a “winner” until they decided to close up shop and move to China. Bringing us to one crux of the problem: state law protects companies from having to disclose tax information, making it virtually impossible for the Commonwealth to track the effectiveness of the tax and other incentives it offers. In the case of Evergreen that means when the economy shifts and the jobs “disappear”, as Chief Executive Michael El-Hillow testified, the Commonwealth is left holding an empty $21 million bucket.

Testimony from Housing and Economic Development Secretary Gregory Bialecki indicates the Commonwealth could recoup up to $13 million from Evergreen through existing clawback provisions, but over $7 million of that was an investment tax credit that went unclaimed. Some feel more effective clawback provisions could help the State in the future.

In the case of Fidelity a 1996 change in the tax code, not considered a tax break according to testimony of Fidelity President Ronald O’Hanley, allowed the mutual fund company to join manufacturers in benefitting from a single sales factor calculation for income tax rather than the three-factor formula which accounts for payroll and property. In this case Fidelity may be right; I do not categorize this as a giveaway. I think it was a common sense incentive to get businesses to come to Massachusetts. The problem is that at the time of the passage the legislature required companies to increase employment by 5% a year for 5 years to take advantage of the single sales calculation. Fidelity exceeded this by creating nearly 3,000 jobs, double what it was required, while enjoying the tax break in perpetuity.

Frankly, government should not be in the business of allocating a special benefit for one industry over another, or worse picking winners within one industry to receive special favors, tax breaks, or grants, as we now do with biotech companies through the “Life Sciences Initiative.” This should serve as a wake-up call to this administration, and the legislature.

Tax policies need to be revisited, the tax code needs to be simplified and our corporate tax burden reduced across the board. Massachusetts is currently ranked #32 by the Tax Foundation in the State Business Tax Climate Index fiscal year 2011 calculations. Another step is making sure taxpayer investment is done with oversight and accurate information.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Media Alert: Tarr on Fox 25 Morning News

Tuesday morning at approximately 7:45 a.m., Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr will be a guest on the Fox 25 Morning News to discuss his thoughts on the Joint Committee on Transportation's MBTA oversight hearing, which is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. in the State House. To read a past blog post on Tarr Talk on how the oversight hearing came to fruition, please click here, and don't forget to tune in tomorrow morning for what is sure to be a lively discussion.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Senate Republicans Secure Commitment for Early Local Aid Notification by April 14

The Massachusetts Senate has approved a Republican Caucus proposal to provide cities and towns with preliminary Fiscal Year 2012 local aid figures no later than April 14.

An Order adopted by the Senate today requires the Senate Ways and Means Committee to prepare and file local aid numbers for cities and towns by April 13, detailing the minimum amount of Chapter 70 education aid and general government assistance communities can expect to receive from the state for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1. Those numbers will be voted on by the Senate at the next formal session on April 14.

“Given the continued uncertainty surrounding the state’s economy, it’s important that we provide cities and towns with preliminary figures in advance of the new fiscal year so local officials can have realistic numbers in front of them when they prepare their municipal budgets,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who filed the Order along with Senators Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham).

Tarr said the early local aid notification will allow municipalities to be better prepared by providing communities with the most up-to-date numbers in advance of their annual town hall meetings, rather than making them wait until the budget is finalized on July 1.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Media Alert: Senator Tarr to Appear on 'Conservatively Speaking' and Jeff Katz Show

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr is scheduled to join Senator Richard Moore and "Conservatively Speaking" host Jon Weston on WCRN True Talk 830 on Saturday morning. They will be discussing the Secure Communities Program and parole reform in Massachusetts beginning at approximately 7:30 a.m.

On Monday morning, Senator Tarr will be speaking with Jeff Katz of the Jeff Katz Show on Rush Talk 1200 Boston to discuss several Medicaid reform amendments to yesterday's supplemental budget that were filed by the Senate Republican Caucus. Please tune in on Monday at 7:05 a.m. to hear the interview.

To read more about the Medicaid amendments that were filed please check out the recent Tarr Talk post.