Friday, July 5, 2019

Putting Together a State Budget


"Once again, Mass. is one of the last states not to have a budget" by Victoria McGrane Globe Staff, July 1, 2019

There is no shortage of vexing problems facing Massachusetts government these days: The MBTA is in constant crisis. Housing is increasingly unaffordable in Boston and beyond, and the state is being sued for failing to provide minority children with a decent education, but don’t look to the Legislature for any kind of immediate action. Its leaders are not planning to tackle most of these key policy debates until later in the year — at the earliest — and they’ve also just blown through their July 1 deadline to finish their most fundamental task: crafting a budget.

For the ninth year in a row, the Legislature had to pass a stopgap spending measure to keep state government running, and it’s not as if budget writers have to slog through tough debates about where to cut spending: Tax revenues are pouring in far in excess of estimates.

Other states manage to do more — in some cases, much more. Forty-two states have enacted budgets for fiscal 2020 already, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. In fact, Massachusetts is one of just two states with a fiscal year starting July 1 where the Legislature has not passed an annual spending plan yet. (The other is Ohio.)

No problem. Ma$$achue$etts is a perennial bottom-feeder when it comes to all sorts of things, and thank you, Ohio. Mi$ery loves company.

Beacon Hill leadership says behind-the-scenes work is happening on several fronts, including an overhaul of the state’s troubled education funding formula and proposals to pump more money into the beleaguered public transportation system.

“So far this session, the House has passed major pieces of legislation to fund state services, keep our roads safe, raise revenue, invest in our roads and bridges, support farmers, put in place consumer protections and create safeguards for workers, among other items,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo  said in a statement.

“The Senate has been working diligently since January, and will continue its collaborative process to craft bold, actionable solutions to the challenges facing the Commonwealth,” said state Senate President Karen Spilka.

Yeah, they are doing a great job and the patting of themselves on the back confirms it.

In several cases, bills that have passed one chamber are awaiting further action elsewhere on Beacon Hill. The Legislature has sent only a handful of meaningful measures to Baker’s desk so far this year, according to a Globe review.

He’s taken action on 30 bills, but only two of these qualify as meaty policy matters — a ban on so-called gay conversion therapy for minors, and the repeal of a policy precluding families receiving welfare benefits from getting additional assistance when another child is born. Lawmakers passed the latter over Baker’s veto.

Those are the meaty things they have gotten done over the last six months?

Lawmakers and other Beacon Hill defenders argue bills sent to Baker’s desk are not the only yardstick by which to gauge the Legislature’s productivity. The start of the two-year legislative session is typically dominated by hearings, of which more than 100 have happened to date.

Lot of hearings, no action, and that's probably for the best. When they act they just do more damage, despite their good intentions.

For comparison, in their six-month legislative session that ended earlier this month, New York legislators not only completed a $175.5 billion budget, they hammered out deals on more than a dozen consequential policy issues. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, approved stronger rental laws and protections for undocumented immigrants, moved to eliminate almost all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and overhauled the state’s voting laws and the Legislature’s own ethics rules, among other measures. 

I don't want to be like New York anyway.

“A sense of jealousy and a sense of serious anger,” is how former state representative Jay R. Kaufman said he felt reading a recent New York Times editorial praising all the New York Assembly accomplished this year. “A comparable editorial cannot be written about the Massachusetts Legislature,” said Kaufman, who left Beacon Hill after 24 years to start a nonprofit focused on leadership training for the public sector.

Kaufman, nonprofit, training leaders, per protocol.

Some items are nearing the finish line on Beacon Hill. Both chambers have passed legislation this year banning the use of mobile devices while driving. The House and Senate also each passed bills to bolster organized labor. In both cases, lawmakers still must work out differences in conference committee.

The mobil device bill has been ringing away for years.

They also recently approved a constitutional amendment to raise income taxes on millionaires — the first procedural step to putting the proposal on the ballot, something that would happen, at the earliest, in 2022.

In Beacon Hill’s biennial rhythm, the season for hard-nosed negotiation and horse trading on the big, complicated matters typically comes in the second year — with the hard deadline at the session’s end.

That's when we really get $crewed.

At the close of the previous two-year session, lawmakers struck a so-called grand bargain that combined a $15 minimum wage and a paid family and medical leave program with a permanent sales tax holiday and overtime changes. (Legislative action only came, though, after progressive activists and business interests had secured separate ballot measures on their respective priorities.)

The sales tax holiday is now finally permanent, but at what a cost!

Lawmakers and others point to the complexity of the state’s almost $43 billion budget and stress the importance of getting it done right, not fast — especially since the stopgap spending measure means there’s no practical consequences to a delay of a few weeks’ time.

As they rush to finish it post-deadline after sitting around for six months, yup.

Everybody else got 'em done on time (except Ohio).

On Monday, Baker told reporters he is unbothered by the Legislature’s repeated budget tardiness. Passing a temporary budget to let lawmakers have more time “usually ends up producing a better product then simply getting there by June 30,” he said, and several outside advocates said they’re optimistic Beacon Hill will prove able to finish legislation on key policy fronts during the session, which ends next year.

“I actually give high marks to the Legislature this session because there’s been a clear acknowledgment of the need to act decisively on our transportation crisis, and it is a crisis,” said former state transportation secretary James Aloisi. While they may not have the details worked out, both DeLeo and Spilka have indicated “action is not just warranted but necessary. That alone gives me a lot of hope that the Legislature intends to step up and do something significant” this session, he said.

A constant crisis that suddenly flare up in the pre$$ at convenient times!

DeLeo has said the House plans to take up a tax package this fall to help fund transportation. House and Senate education chairs are meeting regularly to hash out a consensus on revamping the state’s antiquated education funding formula, which they hope to unveil before lawmakers scatter for August vacations.

I just reached for my wallet!

The timeline for other high-profile initiatives remains murky — including legislation pushed by Baker that would make it easier for cities and towns to change zoning to allow new housing. Another Patriots season is set to start without Massachusetts allowing legal wagers, a year after the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to have sports betting — while a dozen other states, including Rhode Island, have charged ahead.

I'm sure there is a light at the end of those tunnels.

Even mundane matters can move at a sluggish pace. Lawmakers did not finish a $200 million borrowing bill for municipal road repairs until June, taking five weeks longer to pass the annual measure than they did last year, according to State House News Service, even though the borrowing level has remained essentially unchanged since 2012.

“It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel. . . . This is the same thing over and over again,” said Franklin’s director of public works, Robert Cantoreggi.

Oh, he blogs, too?

Passing the annual road repair bill after March makes it harder for many cities and towns to plan their construction projects and can drive up costs, because so many municipalities are trying to hire a limited pool of contractors in a compressed amount of time, he said. The House transportation committee chairman, William Straus, said he disagrees that the timing of the bill had a negative impact on any cities and towns, but Cantoreggi said the process for authorizing these funds “could be a lot more efficient, but that’s Beacon Hill.”

It's what we are stuck with!


Ready to get burned?

"State looks to double cremation ‘view fee’" by Matt Stout Globe Staff, July 1, 2019

The state’s chief medical examiner’s office wants to double the fee it charges next of kin for it to examine a body before it’s cremated, providing a potential budget boon that funeral directors worry comes on the backs of grieving loved ones.

I would expect that to flop, and don't hold your breath waiting for the autopsy.

The proposal, which officials expect to put in place by August, would hike from $100 to $200 the fee the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner charges to visually inspect every body set to be cremated.

With an estimated 30,000 views a year, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would stand to collect $6 million annually — or twice the $3 million that the fee currently generates, officials said. Officials notified lawmakers last month of the proposed increase, which doesn’t require a change in law to go into effect, but the hike has stirred frustration among some funeral directors, who argue a 100 percent increase will only further tax the growing number of families who’ve opted against traditional burials.

Looks like GRAVE ROBBING to me, and where is the Night King when you need him?

If only ashes could lobby.

In a four-year span, the number of cremation views the medical examiner’s office processed spiked 25 percent, topping 29,200 in fiscal year 2018, records show, and that additional $100 would come on top of the thousands of others dollars a funeral can typically cost.

“I think it’s going to be a big expense for the families, especially people who have limited income,” said Paul Phaneuf, owner of St. Pierre-Phaneuf Funeral Chapels. “When you raise something 100 percent, people will take a look and say, ‘Wow, that’s substantial.’ Unfortunately, the consumer is not going to have any choice in it.”

Welcome to beep-blue Ma$$achu$etts!

State officials argue the fee hasn’t increased in 10 years, and that the extra revenue would go toward a range of initiatives, from helping pay salaries of newly hired medical examiners to covering the costs of expanding the hours at its Cape Cod facility, from five days a week to seven.

Just flop down about halfway to see the wa$te.

The agency also launched a new online portal in January to help it better communicate with funeral homes, and this fall, intends to open a long-delayed, $15 million facility in Westfield, which will operates 24 hours a day and replace its office in Holyoke and borrowed space it uses in Worcester.

The fee hike is in addition to the nearly $12 million in state funding the office is expected to receive next fiscal year, itself a $2 million boost from two years ago.

“The OCME is committed to providing the highest level of medico-legal services available,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees the chief medical examiner.

Looks like he was promoted from the Suffolk DA's office, and did he say that with a straight face?

The office plans to take feedback on the proposal at a July 19 public hearing at One Ashburton Place, but whether it could be persuaded to back off is unclear. Eric Hogberg, the office’s general counsel, told lawmakers in a June 11 letter that the office expects the increase to go into effect within 60 days, or mid-August. State statute says the fee must only be at least $75.

The agency, which last month learned it would keep its newly won accreditation despite slipping performance, has support within the industry, too. Adrianne Faggas — president of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association, which represents nearly 500 establishments — said she and other funeral directors met with state officials months ago to discuss the increase, which she considers “long overdue.”

“The increase will help with many improvements to medical legal services that they provide to families of the commonwealth,” Faggas, the funeral director for Faggas Funeral Home in Watertown, said in an e-mail.

David Brezniak, of Brezniak-Rodman Funeral Directors in Newton, argued the rising number of cremations also creates demands for more views and administrative work.

“I know there probably are funeral directors who are upset about it,” he said. “But it’s the cost of providing services to the public. The amount of cremations has steadily increased over the last 10, 15 years. We’re almost hitting new territory.”

They are going to put me in an early grave with all the $ophi$try.

The proposal, however, has inflamed other criticisms about the fee system. Performing cremation views is designed, in part, to ensure the office does some type of investigation into deaths before a body is cremated, but even in cases of violent deaths, which typically prompt a more intensive autopsy, next of kin who choose to cremate the body once it’s released from the medical examiner are still required to pay a cremation view fee. It’s a practice that’s chaffed some funeral directors, who argue it amounts to charging families for work already performed under the medical examiner’s primary responsibilities.

“They’re looking for revenue enhancement,” said Peter Stefan, funeral director and owner of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester.

Yeah, state government is nothing but one big money grab (so it can pay for lavish political perks and be funneled to well-connected concerns).

“Why do they need any money for a viewing when it’s already been viewed in the original investigation? And now you want to raise it to $200? They can go to hell.”

I think they all will be, if that makes him feel better.

Officials noted that under state law, the view, and its attached fee, is required for “any person whose body is intended for cremation.”

Stefan, however, argued that if the office needs an infusion of cash, state officials should consider using some of the budget surplus they’re expected to reap this year. Tax revenues were tracking $952 million above projections at the close of May.

“Don’t go looking to the public to pay more,” Stefan said.

Well, yeah, but nearly a billion extra in tax loot is not enough.


Time for last rites, and we had to send to Rhode Island for a priest:

"For the first time since the church sexual abuse scandal began, the Providence diocese lists clergy accused of abusing minors" by Amanda Milkovits Globe Staff, June 30, 2019

PROVIDENCE — For the first time since the clergy sexual abuse scandal surfaced almost two decades ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence on Monday announced the names of 48 priests and deacons who have been “credibly” accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

The published list, which covers allegations dating back to 1950, includes 17 priests and two deacons who are still alive and 29 priests who have died. The diocese, which posted the lists on its website, said all of those still alive have been removed from ministry, but did not disclose when.

While the list of names includes some not previously made public, the number of accused is far fewer than the 125 priests that the diocese said in a decade-old court deposition had been accused of sexual abuse.

Bishop Thomas Tobin, in a letter accompanying the list, called its release ‘‘a difficult but necessary moment’’ in the history of the church. He said publishing the list ‘‘is an expression of the transparency we want to encourage, and the accountability we need to accept.’’

He is not nearly as loud about this.

The long-awaited announcement came months after Tobin said he would make the names public. He made that pledge last year, after a Pennsylvania grand jury found that more than 300 Catholic priests had abused children over a span of seven decades.

Advocates for abuse victims on Monday questioned why the diocese had not acted earlier to reveal the names of credibly accused priests and said the report still left too many unanswered questions.....

I'm not going to ask them because I view the whole bunch as bad now. 


Can you imagine how many people now view the churches as a haunted house?


The buzz in 2018 was literally bees:

"Mass. beekeepers rally behind measure to restrict pesticides blamed for devastation to hives" by Amelia Nierenberg Globe Correspondent  July 27, 2018

Two years ago, all of the bees in Jeff Murray’s hives died, just like that. When he started keeping bees over 40 years ago, he would only lose 10 percent of his bees in a season. Now, he is lucky if he makes it through the winter with half.

“I’ve seen a hive the size of a beautiful big beach ball go down to one with to a circumference as big as a baseball in no time at all,” said Murray, who often leads information sessions at the Boston Nature Center and is the president of Classroom Hives, which brings bees to area schools for students to observe.

Murray blames the devastation on a type of pesticide called neonicotinoids, which came into widespread use in the early 2000s.

Maybe they are right, but the one suspect that never turned up on the list was the GMOs that showed up about the same time.

On Thursday morning, he joined other beekeepers and activists at the State House to support a bill that would restrict the use of such pesticides.

The bill has support from 134 co-sponsors and more than 100 scientists from around the Commonwealth. The measure must be put to a vote before the legislative session ends Tuesday night.

“While they’re small creatures, they play a really large role in the environment,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Representative Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Democrat. “It not only has environmental impacts but also a significant impact on food supply, because a lot of our significant crops here in Massachusetts — cranberries, apples, and corn — rely heavily on pollinators.”

All I can say is, anecdotally, I don't see as many bees as I used to. 

But worry about carbon.

The bill would restrict the use of neonicotinoids, the most common pesticide in the United States, to licensed applicators such as professional landscapers. The applicators would also have to inform consumers of any neonicotinoid use. Connecticut and Maryland have already passed similar legislation. In 2018, the European Union banned the pesticides entirely, citing the destruction to bees.

This is on top of the Roundup causing cancer.

“When the insect takes a bite of a flower, that insect gets killed because the pesticides are systematic, like they’re in the blood of the plant,” said Dr. Chensheng Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at Harvard who focuses on pesticides.

Dressed in yellow-and- black outfits or wearing full beekeeping attire, the beekeepers brought sunflowers, honey, and letters of support during the rally at the state Legislature. The beekeepers wanted to encourage House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to put the bill up for a vote.

“I am surprised that this has not gotten through the Legislature faster,” said state Representative Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat who is a co-sponsor of the bill.

He doesn't understand that they don't work like bees.

In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council identified “Colony Collapse Disorder” after an alarming number of bees died off abruptly around North America. This was around the same time that neonicotinoids began to flood the pesticide market, Lu said. Since then, bees in North America have been struggling. Murray’s 50-percent hive loss is the norm, rather than the exception.

“It’s only since 2006, when neonicotinoid pesticides were really introduced, that we’ve had very serious problems,” Murray said.

Urban beekeepers around Boston hope the bill is approved because they are often worried about what pesticides their bees might bring home from foraging.

“I think if residents had the choice, they’d say no,” said Paige Mulhern, the creative director of The Best Bees Company, after tending to a hive in the backyard of Frenchie, a South End bistro.

In her capacity as a Best Bees beekeeper, Mulhern installs and maintains residential and commercial hives in urban areas, helping private citizens and small restaurants raise their own bees. Best Bees also tracks hive data to use for research and sustainability.

How do you move them around, and how many die?

Many of her clients are concerned when their neighbors use pesticides, but there’s little that she can advise them do to protect their bees.

“The honeybee can travel in a three-mile radius, so it’s very hard to control,” she said. “The more we can educate Americans about the harms of neonicotinoids, the more we can collectively lessen their use.”



"Beekeepers in the United States reported an increase in honeybee deaths over the last year, possibly the result of erratic weather patterns brought on by a changing climate, according to the scientist leading an annual survey on the insects. US beekeepers said 40 percent of their hives, also called colonies, died unexpectedly during the year that ended March 31, according to a survey released Wednesday by researchers from Auburn University and the University of Maryland. That’s up from 33 percent a year earlier. Elevated bee-loss rates have been an agricultural concern for the past decade, since a mysterious malady called colony collapse disorder coincided with a doubling of honeybee death rates and spurred greater attention and research on commercial and wild bees. Higher death rates make pollination more expensive for beekeepers and farmers....."

Then which is it, the pesticides, climate change, or what I suspect?

I know, I know, I'm just a troll for questioning the official story as found in my pre$$:

Senate approves legislation to crack down on ‘patent trolls’

Except we don't need “ a law like this killing the inventors,” for the sake of the tech industry.

I know abortion was a big issue, too, and here is why it matters and what is has to do with the secretary of state:

"Mass. House OK’s repeal of 19th-century law that criminalized abortion" by Jamie Halper Globe Correspondent  July 19, 2018

The Legislature is poised to send to the governor a bill that would overturn a 19th-century state law criminalizing abortion in Massachusetts — a preemptive move, supporters said, in case the US Supreme Court overturns its ruling on Roe v. Wade.

On Wednesday, the House passed its version of the legislation that would repeal a set of abortion restrictions that have not been enforced in the state for decades. The bill also removed from the books other state laws that criminalized adultery and fornication.

Glad they got around to it, I guess, but now they are going too far.

“Today’s vote became more important than ever to show that we here in Massachusetts especially will always stand for women’s rights,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo after the vote.

Now sign this NDA!!!!

Senate President Harriette Chandler, who said she first sponsored the bill two years ago, called the repeal “essential” now. She said she hopes the bill — which still needs final approval from both chambers — will be on the governor’s desk “as soon as possible.”

“This is about sending a message, about protecting women’s rights, about doing something that frankly should have been done many, many years ago,” Chandler said.


In passing the bill, many lawmakers cited concerns over whether Trump’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, might eventually tilt the court in favor of overturning its landmark decision on Roe v. Wade, allowing states to outlaw abortion again, and while a 1981 state high court decision strongly suggests the Massachusetts Constitution protects abortion rights, advocates say it’s not explicit and needed clarification from Beacon Hill.

I'm not going to reopen old wounds.

Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said she was “absolutely delighted” about the bill’s passage.

The bill would also eliminate archaic state laws that criminalized adultery and fornication with punishments of imprisonment or fines.

The bill would go into effect immediately if approved by Governor Charlie Baker, who has not said yet whether he would sign it into law, but a spokesman for Baker said he “supports full access to women’s health care and family planning services.”

“While the Massachusetts Constitution provides greater protection for a woman’s right to choose than what exists at the federal level, the Baker-Polito administration opposes any measures to erode these protections here in the Commonwealth” said Lizzy Guyton, the Governor’s communications director.

C.J. Doyle, executive director of Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, called the bill’s passage “hasty, historionic, and gratuitous.”

Maybe not the greatest advocate.

“It seems to be a matter of pandering to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry rather than substantive legislation,” he said.


Now bag it up!

At least they got the budget done, although the speed of the vote, which required lawmakers to suspend their own rules, represented a stunning lack of public deliberation even in a State House known for its opacity, as the state has seen a huge windfall of tax revenue and, as a result, Senate and House leaders increased how much money they expect to flow into state coffers in the new fiscal year — and how much they plan to spend, and it is all thanks to the Trump tax cuts (at least most of it, anyway, as the political $cum are smiling ear to ear -- and as the wealth inequality in this state increases).

You get your eviction notice yet, and maybe the expectation of “trust in our elected officials to do the right thing” were too high because although the State senate has “been through a lot the last few months, there is a silver lining to the chamber’s annus horribilis, a positive spin on the mass exodus to get our groove back and put this behind us.”

Sorry, they couldn't help you union folk with a pension or a paycheck, but they were able to get you a pill for the pain in the last-minute deal-making:

"It may not have had the symbolic oomph that a ceremony at last week’s BIO International Convention would have had, but Governor Charlie Baker on Friday signed a bill that will pump approximately half a billion dollars into the life sciences industry over five years. Baker had hoped to sign the bill at BIO, the glitzy four-day industry event that drew more than 16,000 people to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, but the state Legislature didn’t finish up work on the package until June 7, the last day of the convention. So the governor signed the bill Friday at Bunker Hill Community College, which offers an associate’s degree that focuses on biotechnology. The legislation will provide $473 million worth of capital spending into grants and authorize up to $30 million a year in tax incentives to help the industry....."

Looks like pandering to the pharmaceuticals, and maybe they loot can be kicked back in the form of campaign contributions. 

RelatedMassMutual poised to receive $46m in tax breaks for expansion

The end of 2018 was all about getting themselves pay raises.


"House unveils $40.3 billion state budget" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, Joshua Miller and Laura Krantz Globe Staff  April 10, 2017

House leaders unveiled a $40.3 billion state budget Monday that significantly tempered two controversial plans by Governor Charlie Baker to tackle the cost of health care. Lawmakers slashed his proposed fee on businesses to fund state medical costs, and they rejected a plan to cap the prices charged by hospitals.

The budget proposal comes as state tax revenue has failed to meet projections. It effectively maintains spending levels in many areas, including the University of Massachusetts system, and cuts funding for lawyers for poor defendants.

The plan comes as the state grapples with flagging tax revenue.

Through March, tax revenues are up just 1.7 percent — about $220 million less than Beacon Hill expected to take in. That could mean more emergency budget-tightening measures from Baker in the coming weeks, and that could impinge on the new budget House leaders are proposing for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1....

I'm sure they will do what they always do as the witching hour approaches.


Of course, they spent January reviving a pay raise after having already received a 4.19 percent bump last year under a constitutional amendment that ties the salaries of legislators and officials to changes in the state’s median incomegiving themselves a pay raise at a time when the public’s attention was focused on the transition of power in Washington and the New England Patriots’ winning a place at the Super Bowl. Then they shielded themselves from scrutiny while multiplying the average annual cost 18-fold.

I'd say the city was better, but for the past three years, Boston has quietly earned an unflattering recognition: being among the top three major US cities for income inequality

That explains your state median income going up even as more of us fall behind.

Quarterly economic report:

"Massachusetts business owners aren’t in a celebratory mood over holiday sales. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts said Monday that a survey of its approximately 4,000 members found that overall sales in November and December fell 1 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The decline followed six years of holiday sales growth and despite surveys that showed strong consumer confidence. The association had projected a 3.9 percent increase for the season, and said the disappointing results were likely the result of more consumers choosing to purchase gifts from online retailers outside the state. The group’s survey only measured sales by locally based retailers, and not national chains or online sellers. "

Like they were stuck in a time warp or something.

One week after the pay raise:

"State early childhood education system ‘in crisis,’ says DeLeo" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  February 09, 2017

Flanked by lawmakers and business leaders, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo Wednesday called for more money to support early childhood education, describing the state’s system as being “in crisis.”

Yeah, raise first.

“We’re at a tipping point,” said DeLeo, citing the many underpaid and unqualified workers who tend to the state’s youngest students. “It’s a workforce which, quite frankly, I believe is in crisis.”

Last year DeLeo asked local business leaders to find ways to increase access and improve the quality of the state’s early childhood education system, which serves children from birth to 5 years old. His presentation Wednesday marked the release of that report.

Isn't that his job?

The average annual cost of full-day child care is $17,000 for infants and $13,000 for 4-year-olds, some of the most expensive rates in the nation, according to the business leaders’ report.

There are about 90,000 early childhood teachers in the state, who earn a median annual salary of around $25,000 — just $700 above the federal poverty level for a family of four.

Many workers are women, particularly women of color, and the annual turnover rate is around 30 percent, according to the report. Many classrooms go unfilled because of a lack of qualified teachers, the report also found.

The speaker told the small crowd gathered in a State House chamber that, based on the findings, he will advocate this year for more funding for early childhood education programs in the state budget. He said he would also file legislation to improve professional development for early childhood workers.

Not now.

DeLeo’s presentation did not include specifics on how much money he would devote to these programs or where those funds would come from.

The revenue source issue has plagued many local officials who have struggled to secure funding for their early education initiatives.


Last month Mayor Martin J. Walsh renewed a push in his state of the city address to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten.

At the time, he was more worried about whether LGBTQ could march in the St. Pat's Parade.

Walsh has pushed similar initiatives since he ran for mayor in 2013.

In his latest effort, Walsh proposed using tourism tax revenue raised in Boston from the Convention Center Fund to increase access to pre-kindergarten. Walsh has estimated that revenue could bring in as much as $16.5 million annually.

Democrat Jay Gonzalez, who is running to challenge Governor Charlie Baker in 2018, has proposed to fund early education through a tax on income over $1 million. Gonzalez was a member of DeLeo’s business committee that produced the report.

DeLeo said he has spoken with Walsh about the mayor’s idea, but the speaker did not endorse it — only saying it would be part of the discussion. The mayor’s proposal would only expand access to pre-kindergarten, not education for younger children.

Representative Antonio Cabral, a New Bedford Democrat, has filed a bill that would also use the convention center fund to expand universal pre-kindergarten throughout the whole state, not just in Boston.

So far, Governor Charlie Baker has not indicated which of these proposals, if any, he could support.

Walsh’s plan would require a change in state law, and when asked about that idea last month, the governor was noncommittal.

RelatedTito Jackson calls for city defense fund for immigrants

Questioned Wednesday about the speaker’s plans, Baker said through a spokesman that he supports improved training for educators.

Baker’s budget proposal for next year includes a $7 million increase for early childhood education centers, plus additional money to increase pay for unionized child-care providers. The budget also includes $1 million to improve the state’s information technology infrastructure — a proposal that coincides with the business committee’s recommendations, according to a statement from Baker that was provided by spokesman Brendan Moss, but advocates say the state would need far more than that to make real improvements to the state system.

There are about 10,000 state-licensed early child-care centers in the state, and they have the capacity to serve more than 240,000 children, according to the report from DeLeo. About 58,000 children from low-income and at-risk families receive taxpayer subsidies to attend such programs, and another 15,000 are on a waiting list.

Business leaders at the event Wednesday said they consider early education vital to producing the college-educated workforce needed for the future.

High-quality pre-kindergarten increases the likelihood that a student will graduate high school by 31 percent, attend college by more than 80 percent, and secure employment by 23 percent, the report said.

The report estimated that an investment of $16,000 to $18,000 per child annually in early years returns a total public benefit of $700,000 to $800,000 over the lifespan of that child.

“It’s a workforce development issue, and it’s a business imperative,” said Jim Rooney, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Wayne Ysaguirre, chief executive of the Nurtury early childhood education center, explained how difficult it is to retain good staff at his new facility in Jamaica Plain. His center receives assistance from the state to employ some of its workers at a pre-set pay.

One teacher, he said, worked four months before leaving for a job with Cambridge public schools because she couldn’t afford to pay her Boston University student loans on a $25,000 salary.

Ysaguirre said more funding would not only improve teacher retention but also improve the curriculum and services they can offer children.

“This is the first time in a long time that I am hopeful,” he said.


Globe forgot all about the $18m pay raise.

"State senators Thursday called for bold criminal justice reform on issues ranging from repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, to restricting the use of solitary confinement, to offering more services for offenders suffering from drug addiction. The lawmakers, speaking to reporters in a gathering convened by Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, said they are tired of incremental change and foot-dragging and believe they have enough momentum this year for action. “The criminal justice system . . . is broken, it’s deeply broken,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, one of about a dozen senators who have filed criminal justice reform bills this session. The senators characterized the reforms as a matter of inequality because people of color and low-income residents are disproportionately incarcerated. It is also a financial imperative, they said, because it is expensive to keep people behind bars....."

At least the news wasn't all bad:

"Before the Patriots wrapped up their fifth Super Bowl title, team owner Bob Kraft had some other local business to which to attend. Kraft is part of a small band of some of the region’s top CEOs, the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, and heads the group’s international trade and marketing committee. And, pointing to exports from the state valued at more than $25 billion in 2015 and more than 111,000 jobs directly supported by goods exports, Kraft and some other members felt they needed to impress upon legislators the importance of trade. “I’ve consistently tried to help this group attract and retain foreign businesses and attract new industries to the state,” Kraft said in a telephone interview. “Given the world we’re in and given the costs of operating in this area are a little higher, we have to continue to foster our ability to compete on the export markets with things that are unique to us,” Kraft added, citing medical devices, life-science products, and precision manufacturing. Kraft and the partnership’s chairman and former Raytheon CEO William Swanson met with state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg to press for the creation of an export development committee in the Legislature. At a second meeting, this one with House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Swanson was joined by Putnam Investments CEO Robert Reynolds, vice chairman of the partnership. Kraft joined them by phone from Washington, where he was attending President Trump’s inauguration. Kraft’s relations with Beacon Hill have not always been so rosy. The Krafts’ efforts in the 1990s to secure land and infrastructure for a new stadium dissolved into recriminations between the team and state and Boston officials, and it looked briefly as if the Patriots would relocate to Connecticut (a central figure in keeping the Pats in Massachusetts: an up-and-coming NFL executive by name of Roger Goodell), but both Rosenberg and DeLeo signed on to Kraft’s exports pitch and, easy as a 25-point comeback in the second half, a new panel was born, officially the Joint Committee on Export Development. Marblehead Democratic Representative Lori Ehrlich and Lowell state Senator Eileen Donoghue were named co-chairs. “I love this region, and I want this region to win every way we can,” Kraft said."

Those were better days for Bob.

Mass. is enforcing its environmental rules less

Expect more corruption and patronage to surface soon, and after a couple of months, still nothing until:

"Economists say a $1b state budget cut may be needed" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  June 07, 2017

Top Massachusetts economists are warning that sluggish tax revenue growth means policy makers will have to chop as much as a billion dollars out of next year’s budget — cuts that could squeeze programs for the poor and the sick and increase calls for raising taxes.

The top budget officials from the Senate, House, and governor’s office huddled with economic experts in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, trying to reckon with years of less-than-projected tax revenue.

Already the state is facing a budget gap of nearly half a billion dollars this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That will ripple into the fiscal year that begins in July, probably requiring cuts to the bottom lines of the spending plans already passed by the Senate and House.

Eileen McAnneny, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, predicted legislators will have to slice between $750 million and $1 billion from their $40.3 billion budget.

You need a billion dollars

I can get you a billion dollars

I know where that kind of money can be gotten.

Can get you back on track even as they eat your lunch and fail to leave a tip (it's a bit over a billion).

Lawmakers may be tempted to use fiscal sleights of hand and to explore other avenues to avoid making difficult or deep cuts, as they have done in past budget crunches. For example, lawmakers could reduce their expectations about how many poor people will end up using state health care. Or they could take money from trust funds meant to address problems like cleaning up underground gas tanks.

Still, cuts to the budget for next year may be unavoidable.

“The state is going to have to start tightening its belt,” said economics professor David G. Tuerck, president of the conservative-leaning Beacon Hill Institute and one of the experts who spoke in Wednesday’s closed-door meeting.

He said that is likely to mean cuts in health and human services programs, which make up more than half of state government spending. Those include Medicaid, the joint state-federal health program for the poor and disabled known as MassHealth.

“We spend pretty lavishly on poor people in the state,” he said. “How much will the poor suffer? It’s impossible for me to guess. We have huge budgets that provide medical care and other services to the poor, and we may have to pull back around the edges.”


He said he expected the total Massachusetts economy to grow by about 2.8 percent this year through December, but warned that is just “sputtering growth” by historical standards and would mean weak tax revenue receipts.

So, he said, legislators may start looking for new sources of money — higher taxes.

Advocates warned against making cuts.

“We think it would be foolish to cut MassHealth,” said Brian Rosman, policy director at Health Care for All, an advocacy group. “This is people’s health we’re talking about. It’s not a luxury. It’s critical for the economy to function for people to be healthy.”

Meanwhile, economists said there’s no crystal ball for seeing the state’s fiscal future.

Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economics and public policy professor at Northeastern University, said that when it comes to Massachusetts’ future tax revenues, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty.

Much of it has to do with “what investors are doing with disposing of their assets or keeping them in anticipation of a favorable tax-law change,” said the professor, who was one of the experts at the State House meeting. He was referring to a prevailing theory that weak revenue from capital gains taxes — levies on investment profits — in several states has to do with investors waiting for the GOP-controlled Congress to pass tax changes before cashing out.

One way to look at revenues going forward is to be cautious, predicting that the fiscal year ahead will be like the last two, he said.

Another: People may change their investment behavior, leading to a boost in capital gains taxes and more money for the state to spend overall.

“Who knows?” he said.



Coming out of the meeting, Representative Brian S. Dempsey, chairman of the House’s budget-writing committee, offered words that seemed aimed at tempering the expectations of both lawmakers and members of the public who are hungry for more or new funding on programs across the government.

“This [economic] recovery has been very, very modest,” said Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat, but just as Beacon Hill leaders have adjusted spending to match revenues in the past, so, too, will they this time, he said.


Does that mean residents should expect more modest upticks in funding from their state government?

“We’re going to have to make some adjustments,” he said, “so certainly, in terms of level of expectation around budget items, certainly they should be adjusted, based on what our revenues actually are.”

One translation of which might be: The likely belt-tightening won’t be without some discomfort.

Just don't touch the over $1 billion in corporate tax subsidies.


This all comes as the state fell short on tax revenue, way short, again, so I gue$$ it would have been a bad time to ax the sales and income taxes as legislators race to find new funds, including new fees on businesses.

Oh, here is your lavish health plan:

"State taps 18 provider groups for MassHealth overhaul" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Globe Staff  June 08, 2017

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said Thursday that it has chosen 18 networks of health care providers and insurers, from Boston to the Berkshires to launch the biggest redesign of the state Medicaid program in more than two decades.

They include the state’s largest hospital systems: Partners HealthCare, Steward Health Care System, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lahey Health, and UMass Memorial Health Care and others.

Community health centers and community hospital systems, such as Signature Healthcare and Southcoast Health, also will participate. So will Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance, organizations that already serve large populations of patients on Medicaid.

The networks, called accountable care organizations, or ACOs, will include about 900,000 people in the state Medicaid program, or MassHealth, which covers low-income families and individuals.

The goal of the ACOs is to contain costs and improve patients’ health outcomes by better coordinating their care. The thinking is that by making sure patients get adequate primary and preventive services, they can avoid costly procedures and hospital stays.

In this model of so-called accountable or value-based care, providers get paid more when they help patients stay healthy and meet a set of quality scores. Providers who score lower on quality measures are paid less.

This is a change from the traditional fee-for-service model of medicine, in which doctors and hospitals earn more for every service, test, and procedure, regardless of outcomes.

One might even call it rationing.

“We know the current fee-for-service system leads to gaps in care and inefficiencies,” MassHealth director Dan Tsai said in a statement. “The ACOs we selected demonstrate a strong commitment to improving care for the members they serve and will be held to high standards for quality and access of care.”

Some of the medical providers will partner with insurers, such as Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Health, while others will contract directly with the state.

No other state is moving as aggressively as Massachusetts to shift its Medicaid program to accountable care, said Thomas Barker, a lawyer at Foley Hoag who formerly worked as general counsel of the national Medicaid program. “This is the state saying we’re progressing along, we’re not slowing down.”

The networks are scheduled to launch by January. State officials said they eventually want this care model to cover the majority of people on MassHealth.

In all, MassHealth covers 1.9 million people, including the elderly and people with disabilities. It accounts for about $16 billion in annual spending, which is split between the state and federal governments.

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration is restructuring the MassHealth program after striking a deal with former president Barack Obama’s administration last November. That agreement authorized $52.4 billion in spending over five years, including $29.2 billion from the federal government.

State officials said they’re confident that Massachusetts will get those funds, even though Republicans in Congress and President Trump have proposed huge cuts to the broader Medicaid program.

In a statement, Baker said the restructured MassHealth program will “promote integration and coordination to benefit patients, while holding providers accountable for their quality and cost.”

Dr. Eric Weil, an executive at Partners HealthCare’s Center for Population Health, said that to better manage patient care, Partners — the parent company of Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals — is increasingly sending health care workers to patients’ homes.

“We see this as a huge opportunity to improve the quality of care that we deliver to our most complicated patients,” Weil said.

A key to coordinating patients’ care is keeping them within set networks. So a patient in Boston Medical Center’s ACO, for example, probably would not go to a Partners hospital, except in rare circumstances.

“There’s no incentive for us to disrupt care,” said Dr. Alastair Bell, BMC’s chief operating officer. “We want to make sure people end up in systems of care that promote continuity, that promote coordination.”



Hope they do a better job than the last guy

"The Massachusetts Medicaid program recovered more than $80 million last year through cases settled by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. That is one of the largest amounts ever recovered for the program in a single year, Healey’s office said Wednesday. Medicaid, known in Massachusetts as MassHealth, is the public program that provides health coverage for poor and low-income residents. Massachusetts spends more than $15 billion a year on the program, which covers about 1.9 million people. Its costs are split between the state and federal governments. “Medicaid is 40 percent of the state’s budget and it must be protected,” Healey said in a statement. The attorney general’s office investigates doctors offices, pharmacies, drug companies, and other organizations that submit false bills or otherwise try to defraud the Medicaid program. The money recovered in 2016 is largely the result of 29 civil settlements, including 19 multi-state agreements, Healey’s office said. The largest settlement came last May with a subsidiary of the drug company Pfizer Inc., which agreed to pay nearly $68 million to the state to resolve allegations that it engaged in an illegal scheme to reduce the amount of rebates it was required to pay the Medicaid program."

What do you do when the health companies are the ones looting the $y$tem?

"Massachusetts health care providers routinely order wasteful and unnecessary medical tests and procedures, driving up costs, according to a new report from the state Health Policy Commission. The overuse of medical tests and procedures is a concern nationwide. “Screenings, surgeries, and lab tests are all important aspects of keeping people healthy,” said Rich Copp, a spokesman for Boston-based Partners, the parent of Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals. “We’ll take a closer look at the data in this report, but decisions about medical care will always be made as part of the doctor-patient relationship.” The report was dated but still helpful, said Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association....."

The extra costs and unnecessary tests were mostly from Partners, which charges 3x as much for the same service.


Mass. drops its online tax-filing system, turns to commercial services

Baker administration floats alternative to health care levy

North Shore Medical Center to cut 200 jobs

Baker to propose new spending to improve Bridgewater State Hospital

Advocates hailed his proposal to remove all prison guards from the interior of the facility and replacing them with a specially trained private security force, and that's a shift so keep quiet, will ya'?

Also seeOne word has blocked a pregnant workers’ protection bill

That's how Bob sees it anyway, and problem solved

Nice to know that unions still have clout, 'eh?

Sustaining our education-fueled economy by investing in kids first

Yeah, right, they care about the kids.

"Officials, residents pack State House hearing to debate immigration bill" by Claire Parker Globe Correspondent  June 10, 2017

The hearing focused on a controversial immigration bill, called the Safe Communities Act, which has become a flashpoint in the statewide debate over whether Massachusetts should become a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

It already is. This is just whether it will be "official" or not. For the usual imagery and illusion attached to the politics.

Ninety-three state lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors of the bill, and according to the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Center, more than 100 nonprofits and community organizations have endorsed it. Testimonials at the hearing sparked disagreement and questions from what appeared to be a divided legislative committee.

Even if the bill reaches and passes the Legislature, it will probably face a Baker veto. As more cities, states, and college campuses across the country have adopted the “sanctuary” designation in the wake of Trump’s election — and the administration has threatened to cut federal funding from localities that do so — the term has become increasingly politically fraught.....


They have support in some quarters.

"A group representing some of the country’s biggest e-commerce companies, including eBay and, has sued the state in an effort to block a plan that requires online retailers to collect sales tax. The state’s new policy will take effect July 1, unless a judge grants NetChoice’s request for an injunction....." 

$tate legi$looters were counting on that dough.

"Race horse fund gets much-needed second look" June 11, 2017

Back in 2011, the state established a fund to bail out the sagging horse-racing industry, a group that seems to have more connections than customers. Even with that boost, the thoroughbred industry’s woes have continued; the state’s last thoroughbred track, Suffolk Downs, in East Boston, is slated to close this year or in 2018. The fund has swollen to $15 million, and state gambling commissioners have been struggling to find ways to spend the cash responsibly. The balance grows every month, fattened by a portion of the taxes collected at the slots parlor in Plainville.

Unfortunately, Plainridge casino revenue keeps dropping (that is considered a modest success) and a battle is brewing in Taunton, with the big winner being John Fish (the deal is a coup and a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”).

Related: "Gambling revenue at Plainridge Park Casino surged in July, making it the slot parlor’s best month since last August. Gross gaming revenue in July was nearly $13.9 million, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, up from $12.3 million in June. It was the slot parlor’s third highest monthly haul since it opened in June 2015. Revenue at the Plainville slot parlor dropped last fall before rebounding this spring. The casino paid $6.8 million in taxes, bringing its total to more than $88 million to date. In a statement, the gaming commission said it was “pleased that the state’s gaming industry continues to contribute millions in new revenue, hundreds of new jobs and significant local vendor opportunities to the benefit of the Commonwealth and its citizens.”

Our saviors!

Also see: "Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s $4.2 billion Macau resort is drawing lackluster numbers of new tourists and may be taking business from local rivals, said analysts who are tracking activity in the casino’s first few days. The part of the casino floor catering to mass market customers at the Wynn Palace “felt slow” relative to other recent openings, Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen said in a research note Monday. The Wynn Palace, the most expensive property yet from billionaire Steve Wynn, opened on Aug. 22 amid a slump in gambling in Macau." 

I just bet on my last race.

Now, breaking from their past reluctance to butt heads with the horsemen and their Beacon Hill allies, lawmakers have proposed redirecting the money from horses to more publicly minded causes, like aiding human trafficking victims, bolstering state parks, or funding municipalities.

It’s a definite sign of progress that legislators like Karen Spilka, Mark Montigny, and Bradley Jones have broached changes to the horse-racing fund. The money in the fund isn’t huge, in the context of the state’s $39 billion budget, but unwinding the special-interest giveaway embodied in the 2011 legislation would represent a victory in its own right.

There’s certainly a place for government support for businesses. The state supports life-science companies and aids businesses through state economic development agencies. But most of those grants are awarded competitively and support some broader public good. As a general matter, state aid should be aimed at helping build businesses that can eventually stand on their own, rather than keeping dying ones on artificial life support indefinitely. When Massachusetts lured General Electric to Boston, for instance, it didn’t promise to cover its losses in perpetuity.

What losses?

With allies like House Speaker Robert DeLeo, though, horse racing in Massachusetts has enjoyed a special deal from the state. The stirrings on Beacon Hill are a welcome sign that the Legislature might be ready to rethink the state’s priorities....

Or not.


When they say it's not just the money, it’s the money, the revival of labor unions would be a  cataclysm, and the free college idea is cartooni$h

The hard truth is..... you are to be supplanted.

My baby takes the morning train and..... ooooh.

Hey, don't run away and hide. It never made the ballot.

"‘Ghostbusters’ got more than $25 million in tax credits last year" by Mark Shanahan Globe Staff  June 13, 2017

Something tells us Governor Charlie Baker isn’t going to like the latest figures related to the state’s tax credit program for film and TV projects.

They’re preliminary — in other words, unofficial — but numbers provided to us by the state Department of Revenue show that TV and movie projects received more than $61 million in tax credits in 2016, and more than a third of that total — $26.7 million — went to the producer of “Ghostbusters,” the big-budget feature starring Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon.

That politically-correct bomb cost state taxpayers nearly $27 million as the subsidy for Hollywood rises each year?

The $61 million for 2016 is not substantially higher than past years. Indeed, in 2014, eligible productions received $64.5 million in tax credits, according to the state Department of Revenue. Dozens of projects received tax credits last year, most of them in more modest amounts.

Meanwhile, we are told budget cuts are needed and valued tax loot is coming under projections!

State Senator James Eldridge, a Democrat from Acton who’s been a critic of the tax credit program, said he remains dubious of the overall economic value to the state. “It’s one of the most generous in the country and I don’t think residents and taxpayers get much of a return on it, whether that’s jobs or money spent in the local community,” said Eldridge. “At a time when we’re cutting funding for the homeless, the environment, and education, why are we not looking at multiple corporate tax breaks, including the film tax credits?”

Yet somehow it never, ever goes away and even more money is poured into it.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Production Coalition disagrees.

“Since its expansion in 2007, the Massachusetts film and television production tax incentive program has been a clear success,” said David Hartman. “It has made Massachusetts a leading filmmaking destination hosting over 175 major productions, creating thousands of jobs and supporting countless small businesses in cities and towns across the state.”

Likewise, Chuck Slavin, a local actor and SAG-AFTRA member who’s had parts in several made-in-Massachusetts movies, believes the tax credits have been good for the state.

“They’ve allowed me and other residents to keep the dream going here at home,” Slavin said. “We need to keep the Mass. film industry moving forward. It would be a shame to lose active workers, and its economic impact to other states.”

They are both feeding at the trough, of course, and I wonder how much tax loot was shelled out for the bomb that was Detroit.


The Marathon myth received $16 million of the $90 million state subsidy (I don't know how much Chris Evans got), and what was interesting is there were no Wonder Woman box office receipts in my Globe the week when sales were down about half.

Maybe this would have helped:

"Sales tax holiday debate is returning to Beacon Hill" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  June 15, 2017

Everyone loves to save money, and if you can do it by skirting taxes, all the better.

So pay attention here. It’s time again on Beacon Hill for the will-they-or-won’t-they summer drama known as The Sales Tax Holiday Debate. Legislative leaders typically play dumb, right until the end, and then announce the holiday for the second weekend in August.

That’s the way it always happens. Or almost always. Since the state’s first sales tax holiday in 2004, Massachusetts lawmakers skipped it once during the recession (2009) and then last year during a time of budgetary pressures. Merchants worry about a replay of last year’s July cancellation of the tax holiday, so this year, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts sent out a plea to its members on Tuesday, urging them to lobby legislators for the holiday’s return — particularly with the increasing competition from e-commerce vendors. Several tax holiday bills will be up for a public hearing next week before the Legislature’s revenue committee.

A recent Federal Reserve study concluded that the tax holiday had a moderately positive impact on retailers’ revenue for the month. Sellers of big-ticket items — appliances and furniture — benefited the most. But many state leaders remain skeptical that the gains are worth the estimated $25 million in foregone sales tax revenue.

Unfortunately for the retailers, lawmakers are staring down a budget hole of more than $400 million.

I know where you could have found about $60 million of fill.

Every dollar counts, but the same can be said for many Main Street stores.....


Bought some cookies, did you?

"As shopping moves online, a growing share of our purchases go untaxed. That sounds fine, unless you like having good schools and safe streets. These must be paid for somehow, and tax-free online shopping makes it harder to come up with the money..... "

"Could a tax on the rich be the political kryptonite that weakens Charlie Baker’s seemingly invincible status as one of the most popular governors in the country? Some Democrats seem to think so. Lawmakers on Wednesday voted to place a constitutional amendment calling for the so-called millionaire’s tax on the 2018 ballot, and Democrats immediately pounced on the issue as a political weapon that could be wielded against Baker and other Republicans running for state office next year....."

Like a bunch of money junkies, and it is just your government in action I gue$$.

"N.H. House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed on an $11.7 billion two-year spending plan, and members are expected to sign off on the deal Thursday. The compromise bills — the spending plan and a companion bill making necessary policy changes — will then go back to the full House and Senate for a vote. Republican negotiators said the deal addresses critical problems such as mental health care and the opioid drug crisis. Democrats complained that it cuts taxes for businesses while leaving too many others in need. (AP)

Time to take leave:

Lawmakers consider giving workers paid leave

Yeah, let’s not leave paid family leave up to a ballot initiative in a democracy (what an elite $cum is $he). Screw the will of the voters and all that other illusionary imagery, and let the elites make all the decisions.

State Senate chamber, last renovated in 1898, will soon get a face lift

A $14.1 million construction contract that ballooned to around $23 million by the time it was finished.

There was to be an audit, but the legi$looters were late for the ferry.

"The Massachusetts Department of Transportation outlined a six-year agreement Monday that would scale back state funding for the 17-acre downtown park from $2 million a year to $750,000 by 2020, while raising $1 million a year through a voluntary tax on the office towers and hotels that line the park....."

If it's voluntary, it isn't really a tax, is it?

Oh, about that sales tax holiday:

"Amid budget concerns, lawmakers consider nixing sales tax holiday again" by Claire Parker Globe Correspondent  June 20, 2017

Faced with a $439 million budget gap, state lawmakers are considering whether to cancel an annual sales tax holiday in August for the second year in a row.

Business owners, lawmakers, and retail industry representatives offered testimony at a public hearing Tuesday at the State House on several sales tax-related bills, including four that aim to reinstate the holiday.

Almost every August since 2004, lawmakers have granted consumers a two-day reprieve from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax, in an effort to incentivize local spending and give Massachusetts retailers a boost during a slow month.

They were supposed to drop it down to 5% again once the economy recovered from the Grand Depre$$ion, but they never followed through on it and voted to keep it at 6.25 because you never miss your nickels and dimes when they are poured down the black hole of patronage and corruption. You are already paying it, and no one is complaining!

The state has canceled the tax hiatus only twice: in 2009, at the height of the global recession, and last July, when lawmakers expressed concerns about revenue shortfalls. A Massachusetts Department of Revenue report found that the state lost $25.5 million in forgone tax revenue from the last holiday in 2015.

Isn't that Heffernan's office?

After Baker got angry, the Globe dropped the subject.

The Joint Committee on Revenue heard testimony on four bills during Tuesday’s hearing: two that would make the sales tax holiday permanent, and, if those fail, two that would safeguard the holiday in 2017 and 2018.

Last week, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts urged members to lobby lawmakers to restore the holiday, particularly as they face increasing competition from sales-tax-exempt online vendors.

“The sales tax holiday is something that it’s not a question of whether we can afford to do it now — it’s a question of whether we can not afford to do it,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the committee. “We’re seeing too many dark storefronts.”

Anthony Goodh, who owns BoConcept furniture store in Cambridge, said his sales doubled in past years during the tax-exempt weekend, which he described as better for business than Black Friday.

“There’s something about not paying taxes that makes people crazy,” he said.

Small businesses like his have come to rely on the holiday, Goodh told the committee. “Last year, I think we felt side-tracked. We were all expecting it . . . and then it didn’t happen, and we were all really affected by this,” he said.

No one testified against the bills Tuesday, but lawmakers are treading cautiously on the subject. At the hearing, state senator and committee member Kathleen O’Connor-Ives raised concerns about big businesses based in Massachusetts taking advantage of the holiday, and Senate committee chairman Michael D. Brady said, “There’s a larger discussion on both sides, ” but Beacon Hill leaders remain noncommittal. Earlier this year, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg declined to commit to a sales tax holiday in August.

Stan, we hardly knew ye (at least his pension got a boost), and go have another drink, Mike (Senate poured the booze down the sink on him)!

“The sales tax holiday legislation will be reviewed as it goes through the process,” Seth Gitell, a spokesperson for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, wrote in a statement.

Governor Charlie Baker told reporters Monday that he is open to the idea of a holiday this August.

“I think we should take a look at it and consider doing it,” he said. “It’s very tough to be in retail these days, and I think it’s something that’s worth consideration.”

Lawmakers will need to report one or more of the bills out of committee before the Legislature makes a final decision.



"The private foundation, created from the fortune Amos Hostetter amassed as the cofounder of Continental Cablevision, is now worth $1.7 billion. It will distribute about $80 million in grants to charitable causes this year....."

That's a real kick in the teeth, huh?

Why do they have to ask her?

"A Worcester dentist pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he groped a patient during a procedure, authorities said. Dr. Nikhil Patel, 54, of Shrewsbury, is facing one charge of indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, a spokesman for Worcester County District Attorney’s office said. He was arrested Monday in his office at 130 Lincoln Street in Worcester. The victim, a 35-year-old woman, had a Monday morning appointment with Patel, who said she had been his patient for a long time. She left the dentist’s chair in the middle of a procedure after she said he inappropriately touched her several times, Worcester police said in a statement. The woman went to the police immediately, police said. Patel was released on bail Tuesday and ordered to stay away from the victim as the case continues. He is due back in court on September 19 for a pre-trial hearing."

Looks like a Swaffording, so run as fa$ as you can for a seat that costs $25,000 at Baker's $ummer fund-rai$er -- all donations tax-free!

"Future MBTA retirees would receive reduced pension payments and would have to work longer to earn the maximum benefit under a proposal to be unveiled at the transit authority’s board meeting Monday. The plan is the latest effort to shore up the MBTA Retirement Fund, which officials say is on a weak financial footing because retirees outnumber active workers, a situation compounded by generous benefit packages and mediocre investment returns in recent years. Brian Shortsleeve, acting general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said his plan would also bar unpaid sick time from being credited to workers’ retirement. The T’s pension contract with the union is set to expire next June, and any changes would most likely have to be negotiated....."

The president of the union called Shortsleeve a “bean counter,” and that pen$ion check arrived just in time.

Imagine where we would all be were it not for the concern of the caring chosen ones:

"Editorial ‘Pay-for-success’ proves a boon to social services June 26, 2017

A GROUP OF investors has made a big bet — not on a company, but on a local nonprofit, the Jewish Vocational Service.

Related"nonprofits provide new ways for corporations and individuals to influence

And jou see where the $$ is going, right?

With an infusion of $12.4 million from the investors, the organization will offer vocational English-language lessons to about 2,000 immigrants and refugees in Greater Boston. If they’re successful — that is, if the students learn, and are then able to move on to higher salaries over the next three years — the investors will get the money they invested back from the state, plus a profit of up to $2.6 million.

If the organization fails, though, so do the investors: They’ll lose their ante if the program doesn’t meet agreed-on goals.

More than 40 investors have taken the wager, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ donor-advised funds, the Boston Foundation, Blue Haven Initiative, the Boston Impact Initiative, and the Shapiro Foundation.

The arrangement is the state’s third “pay-for-success” deal, and the first of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration. Pay-for-success financing is an innovative approach to paying for social-service projects that might otherwise languish amid tight state budgets. The state only pays if the intervention meets its targets, eliminating the danger that taxpayer money will be wasted.

Pay-for-success got its start in Massachusetts in 2014, when the administration of then-Governor Deval Patrick struck a deal with Roca, a Chelsea nonprofit, aimed at keeping about 1,000 at-risk young men out of jail. Nationally, jurisdictions have signed 17 such deals. They have been especially attractive in criminal justice, where results are relatively easy to measure; the new immigrant-education program that the Baker administration hammered out with the vocational-services nonprofit is the first of its kind. A third-party evaluator, Economic Mobility Corporation, will judge the results and decide whether the investors get their money back.

Pay-for-success programs first took root in the United Kingdom about a decade ago, and most American examples remain in their early stages. Two developments since the Patrick administration’s initial deals, in 2014, though, have helped bolster the case for the pay-for-success model.

The first is the apparent success of the Roca program. Preliminary indications suggest that the nonprofit is at or close to meeting its goals.

The second positive development, ironically, was a setback. In 2015, New York City’s $7.2 million pay-for-success anti-recidivism project at Rikers Island jail ended in failure; the investor, Goldman Sachs, walked away with nothing. While it was a disappointing result, it showed that pay-for-success isn’t a loan in disguise, and that the risk assumed by investors is real.

“It’s not jury-rigged,” said Tracy Palandjian, whose organization, Social Finance, put together the new program in Massachusetts. “These projects actually transfer risk.”

The possible use of up to $15 million in taxpayer money to repay the investors is appropriate, since a better-educated workforce serves the Commonwealth’s goals, but by shifting the program’s risk to investors, the state has ensured that taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill if the program turns out to be ineffective.


The head is Cindy Friedman, and one of the directors is Chuck Schumer's gay brother?

The Globe was right back at it the next day:

"Some urgency, please, on Beacon Hill" June 27, 2017

Important deadlines are just days away on Beacon Hill — and the Legislature needs to get its act in gear to meet them.


2019 is the ninth year running that they didn't get the job done on time?

The "urgency" is gone, if it was ever even there.

The new budget is due on Friday. There’s now considerable talk that conferees won’t complete that task in time; indeed, both chambers have passed a one-month budget for July to prepare for that eventuality. That wouldn’t be a catastrophe — “one-12ths,” as they are known, have certainly been pressed into service before — but if the Legislature had completed lots of other work so far this year, some delay on these two issues might not matter much, but legislatively, this has been anything but a productive spring. Tellingly, one of the few pieces of legislation that has moved smartly along was the big raise for the speaker and Senate president and their legion of leadership lieutenants.

This state's citizen are such suckers!

Queried about what it would say if the Legislature can’t bring its deadline work to fruition in a timely way, both House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg sidestepped.

“Ask that question again next week,” replied Rosenberg.

It’s certainly possible that this will wind up being a productive year. Still, in the recent past — specifically, 2015 — a languid pace, particularly in the DeLeo’s top-down, tightly controlled House, found many important bills piled up at session’s end, with a lot left hanging and undone.

All the better to sneak things through without you knowing until it's too late.

Legislative leaders should fight the tendency to postpone action to the last moment, whether those deadlines come at mid-year or the end of the session. A properly paced, well-orchestrated, productive legislative schedule is the kind of thing the public has every right to expect of two leaders pulling down the handsome pay that DeLeo and Rosenberg now earn.....


They say such things every year, so pass the salt shaker.

Also see:

"A Massachusetts Department of Transportation electrician arrested Wednesday for allegedly driving under the influence in Providence has been suspended without pay after he reportedly struck multiple cars in his state-owned vehicle after leaving a North Attleboro job site, according to an official’s account. Rhode Island State Police arrested the man, identified in e-mails between senior MassDOT officials as Robert Chaves, on suspicion of drunken driving in the vicinity of the Lower South Providence neighborhood. MassDOT officials were notified of the arrest at around 12:25 p.m. after Chaves was ordered off a job site Wednesday morning when he got into a verbal altercation with a state contractor over work, a MassDOT official said (SHNS)."

"The state Lottery Commission on Tuesday morning voted unanimously to give Michael Sweeney, who has served as executive director of the Lottery for about two years, a raise to $150,000 a year, retroactive to July 1, 2016. Sweeney’s annual salary had been $138,500 since he began working at the Lottery in 2015 and his new salary represents an 8.3 percent raise. State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who recommended the raise to the commission’s compensation committee, said that the Lottery is on track to generate record-setting profits when fiscal year 2017 ends later this week, surpassing $1 billion in net profit for the first time ever, despite a 2.5 percent decline in total Lottery sales (SHNS)."

And yet, for some reason, budgets need to be cut even though there are so many concerns that need addre$$ing!

"Massachusetts’ minor miracle: We’re still rich and thriving, despite the last crash" by Evan Horowitz Globe Staff  June 28, 2017

Well, not all of us. 

In fact, damn few of us!

Massachusetts is doubly blessed: Not only are we one of the richest states in the union, but we’re also among the most economically resilient, having bounced back quickly from the recession of 2007-2009.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday released its latest data on the minor Massachusetts miracle, confirming that we remain the second-richest state (behind Connecticut), with an average income of $66,000, and if the thought of coming in second leaves you feeling bitter toward Nutmeggers, don’t fret. Massachsuetts may soon be number one. As recently as 2009, average incomes in Connecticut were 17 percent higher than in the Bay State. The gap is now half that.

Why are we gaining ground? Because Massachusetts isn’t just rich; we’re also on the economic move.

We also $tole GE from them with hundreds of millions in subsidies for a corporation that routinely reports billions in profits (or used to) while paying no taxes, which looks like a lemon now, but.....

Since 2013, average incomes in Massachusetts have risen roughly 4 percent per year. Even after adjusting for inflation, that means incomes today are 15 percent higher than before the economy cratered in 2007. Only eight states can boast a better performance.

Then why are budgets needing to be cut?

To give a sense for Massachusetts’ economic strength, consider this chart. It plots average wages and recent growth for every state. Score high on both measures, and you’ll end up in the top-right — precisely where Massachusetts lands.

There is one big caveat. Average incomes tell us nothing about distribution. It’s possible for a state to have a high average incomes and even higher inequality, leaving all economic gains concentrated among the wealthiest families, and we know from other sources that Massachusetts is indeed among the most unequal states.

But don't let spoil the illusion of rock-solid, blue liberalism (the only reason gay marriage was legalized was to collect the fees) and the conventional myth of Ma$$achu$etts!

In this case, though, workers up and down the income ladder seem to be benefitting from our recent growth spurt. Low-wage workers have seen their paychecks grow faster than high-wage workers, partly due to the rising minimum wage.

This guy no longer hucks crap for the Globe. I think he was promoted to the Washington ComPost.

Whether we can maintain this economic pace is an open question, but over the past decade Massachusetts has proved to be one of the brightest spots in the US economy.

What if it is all a vast exaggeration?

Between the large paychecks, the well-educated workforce, and the explosion of professional fields — from life sciences to software engineering — Massachusetts has made itself an enviable spot for individuals and companies in search of opportunity.

It's Taxachu$etts no more (if you are a wealthy or corporate interest anyway), while we can't even get a sales tax holiday!



Distracted driving is killing us. Here’s one way to stop it.

Mass. Senate passes hands-free cellphone bill for drivers — again

Still working on it as of 2019, so you have had close to a two-year reprieve.

"Adjuncts seek better pay, benefits through legislation" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  June 29, 2017

In higher education, they’re the equivalent of gig workers: part-time professors who power many of the area’s colleges, cobbling together teaching assignments each semester at one or two universities at a time.

Now, many are demanding that state legislators ensure they are paid adequately for their work and receive similar health care and retirement benefits as full-time professors.

Dozens of adjunct professors crowded into a room at the State House Thursday wearing buttons that proclaimed “equal pay for equal work” to make their case and back legislation that would dramatically increase their earning.

“We are paid poverty wages to do very important work,” Michele Nash, an adjunct professor at Springfield Technical Community College, told a panel of state lawmakers, urging them to support legislation that would also offer more protections for part-time public and private university professors.

Form a union!

Adjunct professors used to be working professionals who would teach an occasional university class, but colleges and universities, trying to reduce costs, have increasingly come to rely on them for everyday teaching. Adjunct professors now make up anywhere between a third to two-thirds of the faculty at Boston-area colleges.

It's all about the money when it comes to education, and that should be your first le$$on.

Many said they teach similar classes to full-time professors but earn far less and receive less in benefits. The legislation, proposed by Representative Thomas Stanley of Waltham, would increase their pay to be similar to that a full-time instructor on a per-course basis. It would also require colleges to notify adjuncts earlier if courses are dropped and partially pay them for last-minute cancellations.

The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, which represents 58 schools, said the legislation is likely to increase the already skyrocketing cost of education. It also comes as higher education institutions are facing potential cuts in funding from the federal government in research and financial aid.

“It’s not good for students and the affordability and cost of college,” said Richard Doherty, president of the association.

Adjuncts are attempting to bypass the traditional collective bargaining process by going through the Legislature to get their pay and benefit increases, he said.

They heard you, now get out.

Officials with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which is in the midst of negotiations with its adjunct faculty over pay and health insurance, said the university leadership has not taken a position on the legislation yet, but UMass Lowell defended its compensation plans for adjuncts.

“Adjunct faculty teach about a quarter of all courses offered at UMass Lowell and play an important role at the university, but comparisons to positions at different campuses with different job responsibilities, job descriptions, and titles inaccurately conveys an equivalence that does not exist,” said Christine Gillette, a UMass Lowell spokeswoman.

It’s unclear how much of an increase adjuncts would receive in their salaries if the legislation passes, because full-time professors aren’t paid by the class and have other responsibilities, such as establishing curriculum and helping set student admission standards, but the annual pay difference between full-time and part-time professors can be vast.

Adjunct professors earn between $2,900 to $5,500 to teach one course, depending on the college campus, according to Service Employees International Union Local 509, which represents human service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts.

Many don’t receive health care benefits through their job, and if they can contribute into a retirement plan they don’t always qualify for an employer match, advocates for adjuncts said.

Then sign up for MassHealth, if you can decoding the changes.

The average annual salary of a tenured professor in New England was $120,559 in 2016, according to a yearly report from the American Association of University Professors. Meanwhile, universities on average pay part-time professors $20,508 annually, usually to teach about two or three courses a semester, according to the study.

What about the president's and administration pay?

The association noted in its report that even adjuncts who teach multiple courses at several universities at the same time would struggle financially.

Amy Todd, who now teaches full time at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she spent several years as an adjunct, sometimes teaching at three different local campuses in a single day. The pay was so meager that she qualified for federal food subsidies, she said.

She means food stamps, and she must certainly know about this:

"Amid an unprecedented financial crisis, the university has hired at least seven people with connections to state government and politics as administrators with salaries between $81,000 and $222,000 in the past year and a half, records show. The hires include the former head of the state Democratic Party, a former legislative aide, and a former state commissioner of environmental protection. Together, the seven people earn nearly $1 million. A UMass campus spokesman said in a statement that hiring is based on merit, and the hires underscore UMass’s reputation as a place where the politically connected of Beacon Hill can land a job with a single phone call. It’s an attractive place to work in part because the UMass system is part of the state retirement systemso state employees can continue to earn toward their pensions, which are based on their three highest years of pay and their number of years of service. And the campus’s location is for many more appealing than traveling to the other campuses in Lowell, Dartmouth, Worcester, or Amherst."

Those are the same people saying they have to cut the budgets and increase tuitions.

While she was fortunate to have gotten a more permanent job after several years, many more professors remain part time for decades, she said.

“There is a myth that adjuncting is temporary,” Todd said. “ But these jobs are not temporary.”

They are lucky to have any gigs at all, and good luck!


Maybe this will learn them something:

"Lawmakers asked to hit up lobbyists, companies to fund national confab" by Jim O’Sullivan Globe Staff  June 29, 2017

Tapping lobbyists, special interests, and an array of blue-chip corporations, Democratic legislative leaders are raising seven-figure sums to bankroll a national conference of state lawmakers in Boston later this summer.

According to an e-mail recently obtained by the Globe, the companies targeted for solicitation include a host of those with business before the Legislature: retailers, banks, telecommunications firms, insurers, utilities, and a wide range of health-care providers.

That means someone leaked it to them, and how is that for conflicts of interest and big money corruption in politics?

The e-mail’s author, Senate majority leader Harriette Chandler, listed companies that have already agreed to funding, as well as those that are “in play” — potentially ripe for the giving, as organizers seek to raise roughly $2.2 million for the nonpartisan, five-day event. The document advertises special access to the week’s events for donors, and perhaps more importantly, a chance to stay on the radar of local decision-makers.

It's $tarting to look like extortion!

Members of the Mass. Biotechnology Council have committed, collectively, $350,000 and the council itself kicked in another $50,000, according to the e-mail, which was sent in March. Other prospective donors of $100,000 or more on Chandler’s “hard commitment list”: credit unions; Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company; AECOM, the multinational engineering firm; and DraftKings, the daily fantasy sports company headquartered in Boston.

They just kicked back some of the state tax subsidies so the Democratic leaders can throw a party!

Other companies considered “in play,” according to Chandler’s e-mail, included Liberty Mutual, Budweiser, Google, Bank of America, State Street, General Electric, Fidelity, Verizon, and Airbnb.

Look at 'em. Corporate liberali$m at its best.

Looks like Putin is right!

In total, about 60 companies were listed as either committed or targeted for financial donations. They represent entities with innumerable matters over which state policy makers could hold sway — both regulatory and legislative.

It's a $HAKEDOWN (cue music).

For instance, as top lawmakers negotiate how to deal with Governor Charlie Baker’s request for changes to the state’s health care rules, the Mass. Association of Health Plans, the Mass. Hospital Association, Partners HealthCare, Steward Health Care, several insurers, and an insurers’ trade association are all enumerated as potential contributors.

In addition to the MassBIO umbrella group and a national pharmaceutical trade group, at least five pharmaceutical companies are also on the list. Baker last week asked lawmakers to approve a five-year, $500 million life sciences initiative.

$100 million a year to BIG PHARMA!

Lawmakers are also considering how to regulate and tax short-term home rental companies. At least two of them, Airbnb and Stay Alfred, are also included as targets.

By the end of 2018, both are now been heavily taxed.

Under “hard commitments,” Boston-based New Balance ($50,000) and Boston Beer ($75,000) are among the top donors.

New Balance supported Trump until recently (and just got a cool million in tax loot).

Scheduled for Aug. 5 to Aug. 9, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual meeting is expected to draw some 9,000 state lawmakers, staff, and “people interested in public policy,” according to the “NCSL Fundraising Packet” distributed by Chandler, a Worcester Democrat. Its unsigned cover letter invites “you and your company and/or clients to participate in this monumental conference.”

What is the carbon footprint going to be on the $hindig?

When asked about fund-raising for the conference, Chandler’s office said via e-mail that the conference would generate $10 million in economic activity and take up more than 12,000 room nights. No taxpayer dollars would be spent, a Chandler spokeswoman said. She did not specifically address the contents of the e-mail.

The last time the annual meeting visited Boston, in 2007, the state allocated $1.5 million to help bankroll the event.

Another subsection of the packet lists “activated lobbyists” — those already enlisted in the fund-raising cause. Among them are Daniel F. Cence of Solomon McCown, Martin Corry of Corry Associates, Julie Cox of ML Strategies, Michael Morris of Beacon Strategies Group, and Frank Shea of Bay State Strategies Group. Other lobbyists not included in the e-mail told the Globe that they, too, have raised money for the cause.

The e-mail itself stirred consternation among lawmakers and lobbyists, who expressed concern that the e-mail becoming public could draw unwanted attention.

“I was disappointed to see the e-mail in print over the general State House e-mail [system],” House majority leader Ronald Mariano, Democrat of Quincy, told the Globe. “I didn’t think it should’ve been sent out that way.”

Yeah, you have no right to know what your government is up to in deep-blue Ma$$achu$etts, even if you pay for it all!

Legal counsels for both the House and Senate obtained signoff from the state Ethics Commission in February on a resolution authorizing lawmakers to solicit funds to offset NCSL costs, according to a separate e-mail provided to the Globe.

Like I said, it's a $hakedown and extortion racket.

The resolution, adopted by both chambers in March, allows lawmakers to “utilize state resources, including staff, to solicit donations,” as long as the aides do not solicit directly. In ornate legislative language, the measure contends that the event will “provide an opportunity to market Massachusetts . . . and generate millions of dollars in economic activity” and for the state to “highlight and share its own public policy success and innovations.”

Lawmakers representing host states are routinely pressed into raising funds for NCSL events, said officials familiar with the events. In 2007, legislative officials said lawmakers were not involved in the fund-raising — and certainly not to the extent they have been active this year.

As part of the fund-raising efforts for this NCSL confab, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg earlier this month hosted a luncheon at the University of Massachusetts Club, less than two blocks from the State House. The event was well attended by lobbyists.

DeLeo, said two attendees, said the state would not contribute any funds from the operating budget, and thanked the contributors.

Mariano, a close DeLeo deputy, said the fund-raising push, with little over a month before the event begins, was still short of its $2.2 million target, but hoped to close the gap in remaining weeks.

“We’re shy of that, but we’re going to make one last push, I think, and see if we can get there,” he said.

The rewards for donors, at least in title, appear tantalizing. For $100,000, sponsors attain “Old North Church” status. On a sliding scale, lesser amounts earn “Faneuil Hall,” “Paul Revere House,” “Bunker Hill,” “Plymouth Rock,” “Fenway Park,” “Boston Common,” “Boston Garden,” and “Public Garden” designations.

“Old North Church” sponsors are promised among other perks, airport arrival transportation service, six invitations to an event with NCSL leaders and another six to the NCSL president’s reception, VIP tickets to other events, an advance list of meeting registrants, and priority placement of hospitality suites.

Events listed publicly on the NCSL website include gatherings at the Lawn on D, Google’s Cambridge offices, a tour of the State House, and a reception at Fenway Park,

According to NCSL, the confab kicks off with a session featuring DeLeo, Rosenberg, and Baker, moderated by former governor William Weld and entitled, “From Politics to Statesmanship.” Other speakers include John Bolton, the former representative to the United Nations; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; national pollster Frank Luntz; and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Excuse me while I put my eyeballs back in my head. 

Are you kidding me?


"“The Retailers Association of Massachusetts on Thursday waded deeper into its exploration of a possible ballot question in 2018 to lower the state’s sales tax, releasing an online survey intended to test the appetite of Bay State merchants for a campaign that could begin almost immediately. The board of the retailers association has authorized its staff to conduct member, legal and voter research and ‘engage in opinion leader discussions’ about the possibility of pursuing a ballot initiative. And they’ll have to act fast. Aug. 2 is the deadline for petitioners to submit language and at least 10 signatures from registered voters to the attorney general for review for possible placement of initiative petitions on the 2018 ballot...."

No, what goes up in Ma$$achu$etts stays up, sorry.

Also see:

"The people have spoken: ‘West Mass’ is no more

Only cost you $85,000, Massachusetts taxpayers. 

Maybe it is time to secede and join New Hampshire or Maine.

"Mass. to begin fiscal year without full-year budget in place" by Jim O’Sullivan and Michael Levenson Globe Staff  June 30, 2017

No kidding?

Massachusetts will begin the new fiscal year without a full-year budget in place after lawmakers left the State House Friday unable to reach agreement on the details of a spending plan.

Lawmakers have struggled to reach an accord largely because they are facing declining revenue projections that could force them to slice as much as $1 billion from the roughly $40 billion spending plans approved by the House and Senate this spring.

Can we claw back some of the tax subsidies?

After haggling behind closed doors, House and Senate negotiators left for the weekend, saying nothing about the sticking points that remain. If they can reach an agreement, the soonest the full House could vote on a budget would be Thursday.

State lawmakers have already passed a stopgap, $5.15 billion interim budget to keep state government operations running — a practice that happens almost annually to give lawmakers more time to negotiate as the end of the fiscal year approaches.

WTF have they been doing for six months besides sitting on their asses full of tax loot?

During a Friday afternoon interview in his office, Baker downplayed the significance of the Legislature’s failure to pass a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“If the budget process slips a week, it’s not that big a deal. It’s important, though, that we reach some agreements on this stuff and begin implementing 2018 fiscal,” Baker told the Globe.

Budget deliberations this year have been more opaque and complicated than usual, due to a number of factors, both internal and external.

Are you ready for the damn excuses now?

Economists have pegged the potential structural deficit for the fiscal year that begins Saturday at potentially close to $1 billion. That number has proved hard to pin down in part due to uncertainty around revenue numbers for June, a significant month for state tax collections, traditionally ranking behind only April.

Both parties have also agreed that the revenue estimate upon which each branch built its budget was too optimistic. This year’s 4.3 percent growth rate projection, too, proved overly optimistic.

Is that any way to formulate a budget?

I'll just tell myself I will make a million dollars next year, and if I don't I'll worry about it later!

Legislative leaders have grumbled that the Baker administration has not revised its own estimate for fiscal 2018 revenues, hobbling their efforts to reach a compromise, but Baker said Friday he preferred to let lawmakers come up a revenue projection for the new fiscal year, based on the advice they received from outside economists.

Not really interested in the $elf-$erving blame game and pa$$ing of the buck, either.

Adding to the legislative logjam, Baker last week laid out a large basket of changes to the state’s Medicaid program, called MassHealth, and policy changes that have concerned some providers and advocates. Those proposals have not seen any public debate.

Volatility in Washington has also worried lawmakers.

The state Republican Party has ripped Democratic lawmakers for prioritizing their own pay raises earlier in the session, and then accomplishing little in the subsequent six months. The pay package that Democrats pushed through provided huge salary increases — 45 percent or more for some — to the state’s legislative leaders, judges, and other top officials, but the governor on Friday declined to criticize lawmakers for their action on the pay hike and inaction on the budget.

“I would like to see more get done, but having been around this process for a long time, I accept the fact that it’s back-end-loaded and I think the session will ultimately be judged, as most of them are, in their entirety,” he said.

On the marijuana bill, the House and Senate are trying to reconcile significant differences as they tinker with a referendum that passed with support from 1.8 million voters last November.

They left you a roach clip.

The House plan would increase the total tax rate on retail marijuana sales from a maximum of 12 percent under the referendum to a mandatory 28 percent. The Senate plan would leave the 12 percent rate in place.

The House bill would give municipal officials, instead of local voters, the power to ban marijuana shops and farms in their municipalities. The Senate bill would leave that power with local voters, as the ballot question did, and the Senate plan provides mechanisms for sealing and expunging certain marijuana-related criminal records. The House plan has no such measures.

Lawmakers have already moved back the timeline to open marijuana retail outlets to July 2018.....

Are they open yet?

After smoking pot for six months, they began to snort chocolate and see trolls under the bridge.


At least they were not alone in missing the deadline:

"Legislators in New Jersey and Illinois were working to reach state budget compromises Saturday after both states missed Friday night deadlines for new budgets. New Jerseyans were feeling the impact as a state government shutdown that took effect Saturday, [while] in Illinois, lawmakers returned to work Saturday after failing Friday to prevent the state from starting an unprecedented third consecutive fiscal year without a budget. Without a budget, the state comptroller will be unable to cover basic services ordered by courts, road construction and Powerball ticket sales could halt, and the state’s credit rating could be downgraded to ‘‘junk.’’ The fiscal morass is the longest of any state since at least the Great Depression, with Illinois ringing up a $6.2 billion annual deficit and a $14.7 billion stack of past-due bills....." 

Some cities have already filed for bankruptcy. Will Illinois be the first state (or will it be Connecticut)?

Turns out 11 states were lacking budgets, with Christie getting scorched in New Jersey.

The Globe says that is not how to lead, and cites angry Mainers who won’t talk to each other and have been told to stay strong in the wake of the 4 tornadoes as legislators work into the evening to try and end government shutdown and make a deal.

At least you can get something to eat up there, so what'll it be?

"Federal prosecutors say a Portland, Maine, company has been put on probation for illegally importing nearly 50,000 pounds of sea urchins. Prosecutors said ISF Trading Co. will be on probation for a year and must pay a fine of more than $550,000 and forfeit nearly $300,000. The company buys seafood from Maine and Canadian suppliers, processes it, and sells it. Court records say ISF bought urchins from a Canadian supplier that wasn’t authorized to export to the United States. Records say ISF brought the urchins into the country under the false label of another Canadian supplier. Prosecutors say the processed roe of the 48,000 pounds of sea urchins was worth more than $170,000. ISF owner Atchan Tamaki said importing the urchins was a mistake that won’t happen again."

They sell 'em to the Chinese as a delicacy.


So what did they do the previous year?

"$39.1b state budget plan avoids dramatic cuts" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  June 29, 2016

The Legislature is poised Thursday to enact a $39.1 billion state budget that avoids dramatic cuts by relying on a series of financial maneuvers to close a big gap in expected tax revenue for the fiscal year that begins Friday.

The budget, which lawmakers say includes no new taxes or fees, will be austere in some respects — by recent Massachusetts standards, anyway. For example, the University of Massachusetts system will see just a 1 percent increase in funding, likely to mean significant hikes in student costs for the 2016-17 academic year, but there will be modest increases in spending on the troubled Department of Children and Families and state-funded programs to address the scourge of opioid overdoses, lawmakers said. Local aid, which cities and towns use to help pay for municipal programs like police and trash pickup, will see a modest uptick. So will funding for K-12 education.

“I’m proud that, in the midst of a tough fiscal climate, we came to agreement on a fiscally responsible budget that minimizes cuts and protects our most vulnerable residents,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

Earlier this week, officials projected revenue for the coming fiscal year would be hundreds of millions of dollars below previous expectations, based partially on worries that taxes on stock market profits would crater.

Lawmakers, who announced the budget agreement Wednesday, say they’ll close the $750 million revenue hole by:

■ Projecting that $200 million in tax revenue, meant for the state’s rainy day emergency fund, won’t show up and thus won’t be counted as spending.

■ Changing fiscal assumptions. They expect more revenue from fees, and fewer poor and disabled people to use the state’s massive Medicaid health care program.

■ Paying some Medicaid bills in the subsequent fiscal year.

■ Assuming the state’s automatic income tax rollback, which is premised on strong economic activity, doesn’t take place — saving the state $80 million.

■ Counting on $100 million in efficiencies in government procurement — that is, more frugally buying goods and service for the state.

■ Expecting that a combined $60 million that would have automatically gone to the state’s school building authority and the MBTA will not, because of lower growth in sales tax revenue.

■ Making some other specific cuts throughout the budget, characterized by lawmakers as modest. They include nips and tucks across government, including to information technology. Sheriffs will see what is effectively a cut in their budget, likely to draw their ire.

“The agreement reflects our belief that we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars while keeping the Commonwealth moving forward,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka, the chamber’s budget chief and a Democrat of Ashland.

Bond rating agencies, which effectively determine how much Massachusetts pays to borrow money, frown upon languid responses by states to worsening fiscal situations. So lawmakers emphasized their quick reaction to the more constrained tax revenue projections.

“The most important thing is that today we take action,” said the House’s budget chief, Representative Brian S. Dempsey of Haverhill.

So where does most of the $39.1 billion budget go? Forty-one percent of the budget is poised to go to Medicaid, 14 percent to health and human services, 14 percent to local aid, 6 percent to education, and 6 percent to debt service.

Massachusetts policy makers often plug budget holes with what some outside observers describe as “gimmicks.” But the budget-writers argue that such fiscal sleights of hand are preferable to cuts that would disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable residents of the state.

It's a $hell game, folks, and not to be taken seriously!

The budget unveiled Wednesday also includes some policy changes. For example, it will limit T fare increases to 7 percent every two years, a tighter cap than the 5-percent-a-year limit that currently exists.

“I think it’s a significant step forward toward having reliable, predictable fare increases that people can prepare for,” said Rafael Mares, a vice president with the Conservation Law Foundation and a transportation expert.

T fares will still go up, as expected, on Friday.

Not much has changed in three years, huh?

State finance law mandates a balanced budget be approved by the Legislature and the governor each year. That means projected revenues will be enough to cover authorized spending.

After hearing from economic experts, House, Senate, and gubernatorial budget leaders in January projected revenue would grow 4.3 percent in the fiscal year that begins Friday.

So using that estimate, the governor proposed a $39.6 billion spending plan, and the House and Senate each passed a $39.5 billion plan, though with slightly different spending priorities, but this month officials said the January revenue estimates were far too rosy — to the tune of nearly $1 billion. The Massachusetts economy appears strong, they said, but tax revenues over the past three months have been weaker than expected, and stock market volatility, which has increased substantially since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, means revenue from capital gains taxes — levies on investment profits — will likely be lower.

The thing is setting records by the week!

The budget poised to be enacted Thursday will increase spending by roughly 2 percent over the current year.

When Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, gets the bill, he’ll have choices. Among them: signing it into law or vetoing certain spending, but whatever happens, it won’t be the final word on how taxpayer dollars are allotted for the fiscal year, which runs through June 2017. Lawmakers are certain to adjust the budget with other spending bills — either adding spending if the money is available or making more cuts if the economy sputters, but Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, who supports higher taxes, warned Wednesday evening, “We cannot cut our way to prosperity.”

Nor can you tax your way there, Stan!

Although Massachusetts has careened from one budget mini-crisis to another in recent years, bond rating agencies see its fiscal house as among the better-run in the country.

I $ee the Globe saved the be$t for la$t.

One agency, Moody’s Investors Service, said this month that the state’s “strong financial management practices and demonstrated willingness to balance its budget through spending cuts, revenue increases and use of reserves” was commendable and why Massachusetts has the second-from-highest rating.

They rated the MBS crap AAA, so why should anyone take their opinions seriously -- as they testified to Congre$$!


So what were they doing the first six months?

I was told no new taxes nor sex abuse cases as Baker signed a $326m supplemental budget, then proceeded to $have off $49m with a Friday news dump before dropping you off safely at home.

"Representative Gloria Fox of Roxbury couldn’t resist recycling one of the most stubborn myths in Massachusetts politics. Fox was discussing how the state could finally elect a more diverse Legislature. She acknowledged that the problem is complicated, but suggested that some of the answer is obvious. “You’ve got to have districts that people of color have an opportunity to run and win in,” Fox said. The makeup of the Legislature is a long-standing sore point, at least among politically active people of color."

Then she is calling for quotas, right?

"Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, discussed a number of issues with Boston Globe reporter Joshua Miller for the newspaper’s interview series “Political Happy Hour” at Suffolk University. Rosenberg had kind words for Governor Charlie Baker, a first-term Republican, who he said is doing “a terrific job.” He said “it’s fine” when asked about his relationship with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat. He and DeLeo, he said, discuss policy over meals and weekly leadership meetings, where there is “a lot of interesting conversation."

RelatedFor Baker, DeLeo, Rosenberg: a challenging year ahead

In retrospect, it was more so for Stan.

For Baker, it was all about fixes as he kept a hands-off policy regarding probation misconduct and unveiled $5m for job training to attack unemployment, all part of his $900m plan to grow the economy that DeLeo can't see.

"Mass. facing $635 million budget gap, officials say" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  January 27, 2016

For the second straight year of his young administration, Governor Charlie Baker will face a sizable budget gap.

Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore said Tuesday that Massachusetts is staring down a shortfall of $635 million for the fiscal year that begins in July. The gap is likely to mean cuts for a few state agencies, only modest increases for a few others, and effectively flat funding for the rest of state government.

Baker will announce the specifics of his nearly $40 billion spending plan at a news conference Wednesday, but whatever the details, they are sure to disappoint some liberal lawmakers and advocates, who are pressing for dramatic new spending on the MBTA and early education — spending that would almost certainly require new taxes.

Given the state of both in 2019, maybe they should have li$tened then.

“I think Baker is focused on running the government as effectively and efficiently as possible, and that’s a very good thing,” said Noah Berger, president of the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “But I think the problem he’s going to come up against more and more is that solving some of our big problems like fixing our transportation system, making higher education more affordable, strengthening our public schools, and expanding pre-K require revenue as well as reforms.”

He looks like a prophet now (of course, he says the same things every year).

Baker, though, who pledged not to raise taxes or fees, said state spending was increasing at an unsustainable rate when he took office. He has repeatedly pitched his leaner budgeting as a necessary corrective.

Then he did with his grand bargain that took away time-and-a-half overtime.

“You got to get to the point where your spending is going up at a rate that’s consistent with the growth in your economy,” he told reporters at the State House Tuesday.

Baker administration officials say obligatory spending increases include $424 million more for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program; $227 million more for other health and human service programs; $127 million more in debt service; and $75 million more for the Group Insurance Commission, which oversees health insurance for state and some municipal employees, retirees, and their dependents.

The debt holders are always first in line, while MassHealth spending is held to 5%.

While the Democratic-controlled Legislature has the last word on appropriating taxpayer dollars, the size of the final budget that becomes law is unlikely to stray too far from what Baker proposes Wednesday. That’s because the governor and the Legislature have already agreed on the state’s expected income and because tax increases are off the table.

Budget gaps on Beacon Hill are not new. The state has faced a shortfall every fiscal year since the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, and while the projected gap is smaller than previous years — and smaller than the shortfall earlier predicted by a Beacon Hill watchdog — yet another deficit will add fuel to a larger, more divisive debate.


On one side is Baker, who says residents are tired of being nickeled-and-dimed by state government. With him are his fiscally conservative allies, who insist that government must learn to do more with less and that tighter budgets often make for a more efficient public bureaucracy.

Especially when it wasted on patronage and feather-ne$ting!

On the other side are progressive legislators and activists, who argue that more revenue is desperately needed for state government to do big things and invest in future generations, like fixing the beleaguered public transit system.


Democratic Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature did raise the sales tax in 2009 and the gas tax in 2013. A broader fight is likely to come to a head in November 2018.

That month, both Baker, who is expected to run for reelection, and a referendum to raise income taxes on the wealthy are likely to be on the ballot.

The grand bargain took care of that, and the uncertain bill in the Looti$lature won't take effect until 2023 at the earliest -- if voters approve it.

State Senator James B. Eldridge, perhaps the chamber’s most outspoken liberal, said, “We’ve never addressed that lingering structural deficit” by raising the income tax in the recent past, so there are inevitably efforts to cut key parts of the budget every year.

“It’s an extremely frustrating cycle,” the Acton Democrat said. “And I really hope that over the next couple years we can have a more comprehensive conversation.”

Try blogging about it year after year!


"Boosts, curbs in Baker’s $39.6 billion budget" by David Scharfenberg and Joshua Miller Globe Staff  January 27, 2016

Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday unveiled a $39.6 billion budget proposal that would add 281 workers to the state’s child protection agency, add recovery beds for opioid addicts, and make good on a campaign pledge to change the state’s welfare system.

Then what the hell happened?

The Republican governor also pledged to slow the rise of state health care spending on the poor as part of an effort to bridge what administration officials have pegged as a $635-million budget gap.

“Getting state spending under control,” Baker said at a news conference flanked by top officials, “is essential to the state’s economic health going forward.”

The governor’s proposal drew a range of reactions from advocates, activists, and lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which will have the final say over state spending.

Attorney General Maura Healey, perhaps the highest-profile Democrat in Massachusetts, thanked Baker on Twitter for proposing new money for law enforcement to combat drug trafficking and curb the supply of illegal opioids.

The state Democratic Party, though, panned the budget as a “status quo” document, lacking vision.

Perhaps the strongest criticism came from advocates for the poor, who savaged Baker’s attempt to cut welfare payments for the disabled.

“To do something that is going to hit families that are headed by a severely disabled parent, and pauperize them even further, would put children at dramatically increased risk of homelessness, hunger, and illness,” said Deborah Harris, senior staff attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, but Jeff McCue, commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance, said the state would take the estimated $29 million in savings and pour it into job training, transportation to and from work, and child care.

All $ounds great nearly four years ago, huh?

“It’s a pretty strong menu of true stabilization efforts for the working poor,” he said, adding that the services would promote self-sufficiency.

Harris said the job supports are worthy programs, but the disabled people losing cash assistance would have little use for them because they cannot work, but many advocates praised Baker’s push to spend more on the beleaguered Department of Children and Families, which has come under fire for the injury or death of several children under its supervision in recent years.

They were under fire even then!

“With the release of this budget, Governor Baker has yet again shown his steadfast commitment to protecting the children of the Commonwealth,” said Erin G. Bradley, executive director of the Children’s League of Massachusetts, in a written statement.

The governor’s budget, for the fiscal year that begins in July, includes $12 million for 281 new hires at DCF, including scores of social workers, 22 supervisors, and five regional substance abuse coordinators, among others.

The administration has been moving, separately, to replace a patchwork of department policies with what it describes as a clear, standardized playbook. The new rules, for instance, require criminal background checks in all cases of parents accused of abuse and neglect.

One of the biggest drivers of state spending is MassHealth, the state’s health program for the poor and disabled. The Baker administration has made curbing costs there a central part of its effort to keep the budget in balance.

So Hollywood can receive more tax loot!

Officials have spent months verifying the eligibility of MassHealth recipients and culling recipients who do not qualify for the program.


"The program fell victim to a collision between soaring real estate prices and inadequate funding of mental health care."

"The Massachusetts Division of Insurance has launched an investigation into the human resources software company and benefits broker Zenefits Inc., joining regulators across the country that are raising concerns about whether the company’s employees are properly licensed and trained to sell group health insurance."

The budget plan released Wednesday aims to continue that effort and move more people into cost-saving managed care plans, among other efforts. All told, the administration hopes to save almost $300 million.

Baker’s plan includes no new taxes or fees, and Citizens for Limited Taxation called the proposal “sweet music to the ears of the taxpayers” in a news release, but Beacon Hill watchdogs said some of the fiscal maneuvers in the spending plan were cause for concern, including Baker’s plan to help plug the budget hole with $150 million meant for the state’s emergency rainy day fund. That is what’s called one-time money — cash that can’t be easily replicated from year to year.

And it makes the bankers happy.

The Baker administration has vowed to reduce the state’s reliance on such money and trumpeted that Wednesday’s budget proposal had made important strides in that direction.

Baker’s fiscal restraint has contributed to soaring public approval ratings, but he faces increasingly vocal opposition from liberal activists and lawmakers.

It's all in the outreach.

On Wednesday, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature’s education committee, said the governor had failed to live up to a campaign promise that he would increase K-12 spending at the same rate as the annual growth in state revenue.

“I will say unabashedly: I’m very disappointed,” she said.

She is taking a position of defiance!

Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the governor, responded that “the administration is pleased to have increased the investment made in our public schools year after year now, despite billions in inherited budget deficits.”

Baker also promised during his 2014 run to increase local aid to cities and towns, a pledge he keeps with this budget. It would funnel $42 million in new money to municipalities, to be used for services like police and trash pickup.

Another Baker campaign refrain was overhauling welfare.

Promises, promises.

The change he proposed Wednesday had been pitched before. In 2009, in the throes of the Great Recession, Governor Deval Patrick put forward a similar cut, but the Democrat ran into opposition from lawmakers and advocates.

Under current law, the state does not count federal disability benefits as part of a family’s income in determining eligibility for its Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, which provides cash assistance to families with children and to women in the final months of their pregnancies.

RelatedNo unity on bill to grant women equality in pay

The war for equal pay for women  in Ma$$achu$etts has begun.

The state does count veterans benefits and other public payments, though, and officials said including disability payments in the calculus is a matter of fairness.

The administration is hoping its push to change the rules will fare better than Patrick’s because it has proposed redirecting savings to supports for the poor, rather than simply using them to fill a budget hole.


"Mass. economy follows pace of US" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  January 29, 2016

The Massachusetts economy downshifted significantly at the end of last year, felled by broader weaknesses in the US and global economy, the University of Massachusetts reported Friday.

Even the beginning of 2015, marked by the record snowfall and harsh winter, proved a better quarter than the end of the year, according to the report, published in the UMass economic journal, MassBenchmarks. 


Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University economist who prepared the estimates, said he expects the slowdown to extend into this year. “It will be good growth, but lower growth,” Clayton-Matthews said.

The Massachusetts economy is feeling the impact of global slowdown affecting both emerging economies and developed nations. Oil prices have plunged in recent weeks over concerns about weaker demand. China, a key engine of global growth in recent years, announced earlier this month that its economy expanded at the weakest pace in 25 years.

It's the same old bull$hit, year after year!

Also on Friday, the Commerce Department reported that the US economy grew at a tepid 0.7 percent rate for the fourth quarter. Consumer spending weakened, companies cut back on investment, exports declined, and state and local governments curbed spending in the last three months of 2015, the Commerce Department said.

That was the OBAMA ECONOMY!

While the plunge in oil prices means lower gasoline prices, it isn’t providing a significant lift to consumer spending.

“It’s helping in dribs and drabs.”

In Massachusetts, the turmoil in financial markets is having an effect, said Clayton-Matthews. Wages in the fourth quarter declined at an 6.9 percent annual rate from the previous three months, which Clayton-Matthews blamed in part on lower-than-usual bonus payments in the city’s large financial services sector.

“If there’s a bad year on Wall Street, it effects wage and salary income in the state,” he said.

It wasn’t all bad news. Job growth in Massachusetts and the nation have been strong....

Then talk turns to what will the the Federal Reserve do.


Time to hydrate before the audit and pardon:

Madison Park High is underperforming, state says

Fixing Madison Park High, which just got another dose of bad news

Sewage spills prompt lawsuit in Plymouth

Just as you were getting to retirement.

"New data shows a weaker Mass. economy in 2015" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  March 10, 2016

New data paint a starkly different picture of the Massachusetts economy over the past two years, indicating that job growth slowed sharply in 2015 and contradicting earlier estimates that heralded it as a banner year for the state’s labor market.

See how much things can change in six weeks, and the lying is SOP!

The revisions suggest that job creation in this expansion peaked in 2014 and the state is heading into a period of slower and likely diminishing job growth as the Massachusetts economy nears full employment — generally viewed as a unemployment rate of less than 5 percent — and baby boomers retire.

The record snowfall in the first few months of last year also curbed job expansion....

They will use every excuse in the book!



"Mass. unemployment rate drops to 4.5 percent as more state residents felt optimistic about their opportunities to find work in February, and in a second positive development, US Labor officials revised the employment outlook in Massachusetts for January. Initially, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the state had lost 2,500 jobs that month, but a revision issued Thursday had the state adding 1,200 jobs in January; however, other economic data suggest many workers are still struggling in an economy in which the nature and terms of employment has changed considerably."

At least businesses were doing fine, right?

"Sales tax collections trended upward, and employers added thousands of new jobs each month, making the state economy look fairly strong in 2015, but the Retailers Association of Massachusetts said it saw a 34 percent surge in members who dropped out of the organization because they went out of business. The statistic was particularly noteworthy because the number of closure-related dropouts held steady from 2011 through 2014, in the 130 range annually, before rising to 174 last year, said Jon Hurst, the association’s president. “We were taken aback by it,” said Hurst, whose statewide group has roughly 3,500 members, most of them mom-and-pop shops and other small businesses, including restaurants. “It’s a little scary. I’m kind of concerned that there’s a real profitability issue. Too many of them are going out of business, and new entrepreneurs aren’t coming in to replace them.”

Had enough of the illu$ion yet?

Also see:

Armed with tax breaks, Acacia to add 100 jobs

They got a warm welcome from investors, too, as the lab’s operations will move to Minnesota over the next nine months while cutting 30 from its staff.

Economy grew faster in Mass. than in US for first quarter

And while Massachusetts’ economy is performing well, it may be masking some problems and it “looks a bit bifurcated” as consumer spending shrunk by 6.3 percent in the first quarter.

Curtain won’t fall on state’s film tax credits, at least not yet

It’s hard to know exactly how much the state is spending this year on the film program: The state Department of Revenue’s most recent report on these tax credits came out last month, but the figures in that report are more than two years old. The agency reported that Massachusetts paid out an estimated $42 million for film tax credits in its 2014 fiscal year. The program also generated nearly $10 million in new state revenue in the 2013 calendar year, when 12 feature films were shot in the state and about 100 other projects took advantage of the credits. “We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Crawford said. “[But] this is good news for the hundreds of people who are currently working on movies in Massachusetts and the hundreds of others who are hoping for more film business to come to the state.”

The curtain never falls, as the ever-increasing share of loot is rolled over from one year to the next.

Boston can learn a lot on Brooklyn’s waterfront

Like how to build for rising seas?

Few states match Mass. in income inequality

At least someone is out there fighting it.

"A Leominster plastics manufacturer and a staffing company must pay $1.4 million in wages and damages to 566 employees who were denied overtime, the US Labor Department said Tuesday. United Plastics and ASI Staffing Group Corp., the company that supplied contract labor, were found to have denied overtime pay at two work sites, in Leominster and Sardis, Miss. An investigation by the department’s wage and hour division found that ASI Group avoided paying employees who worked over 40 hours a week by logging overtime hours under separate company names, and some or all of the overtime hours were paid at straight-time rates. The wage violations occurred between November 2011 and October 2014, the department found. The companies also failed to keep legally required records of their employees’ hours and pay rates, according to the department. The judgment was filed in US District Court in Boston."

Just don't drive while drugged, although you will be able to keep your license (out of love, readers) if you get behind the wheel.

State strips ex-probation commissioner, deputy of pensions

They are now suing for reinstatement.

Senate candidate dogged by ethics issues

Special Senate election attracts diverse field of seven

 Winthrop official takes 7-way state Senate race

State Senate candidate sued for 2011 collision with police cruiser

Says he was drunk, and the hospital made him pay more.

Senate panel would bar states from labeling GMO foods

GOP fields few challengers to Democratic incumbents on Beacon Hill

"State paid hundreds of thousands to deceased people, report says" by Andy Rosen Globe Staff  May 04, 2016

The State Retirement Board paid more than $687,000 in pension benefits to 105 dead people because it used outdated death data for more than a year, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

The error, which also led to about $271,000 in underpaid death benefits for members of the state employee pension system, was the focus of a report by the Office of the State Auditor that also called for the agency to step up oversight.

The retirement board placed blamed on LexisNexis, the contractor tasked with scouring death records maintained by the Social Security Administration.

Officials also said they had recovered $608,785 worth of the erroneous payments and restored all of the underpaid benefits.

“We are confident that it has gotten resolved,” Nicola Favorito, executive director of the retirement board, said in an interview.

Who cashed the checks?

The office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump said the problem, which ran from March 26, 2014, to August 31, 2015, happened because LexisNexis did not tell the state about new requirements to access the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.

Without current data, the state continued making payments to 105 dead pensioners. For the same reason, the state did not increase payments to 43 members who had set aside money to be paid to beneficiaries when they died but whose beneficiaries died before them.

The death of another beneficiary went unnoticed for nearly nine years, the audit said.

They are still waiting for the autopsy to be completed.

The retirement board disputed some of the numbers in the report....



Bill to limit noncompete deals includes a surprise catch

Also see:

Mass. Senate receives subpoena in Joyce probe

Mass. House is subpoenaed in Brian Joyce probe

Milton scrutinizing Joyce’s house, property tax bill

Joyce defends home renovations

We are told he committed suicide because he cheated on his property taxes.

I gue$$ he won't be spilling any state secrets from a body bag.

"State officials say thousands of Massachusetts taxpayers have taken advantage of a tax amnesty offer. A two-month amnesty during which individuals and businesses who owe back taxes can pay off their debts without paying penalties comes to an end on Tuesday. The state Department of Revenue said that once the deadline passes, there are no plans to offer another amnesty in the near future. That means delinquent taxpayers could face stiff penalties — even criminal prosecution — if they continue to avoid paying taxes they owe. Revenue Commissioner Michael Heffernan said the agency is about to launch a new computer system that will improve tracking of unpaid taxes."

And with that, he went to brunch.

House sidelines campaign finance bill

With clock ticking, Mass. legislators’ to-do list is long

Better start paddling:

"With the Legislature racing to finish its business before the current session ends, some bills are bound to fall by the wayside — which is where many of them belong, but other pieces of pending legislation shouldn’t get lost in the scramble. In rough order of importance, here’s the Globe’s take on how Massachusetts legislators should set their priorities before going on vacation.

Zoning reform
dental care
anti-shackling legislation
Criminal records
child custody laws
A proposal to raise to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco products
a brewery bill

Here are some ill-conceived pieces of legislation they can skip:

A proposed fracking ban is a feel-good measure that will accomplish nothing
Lyme disease
private ambulance companies

Yeah, the Globe is all in favor of fracking, and that is a prescription for trouble.

Drum roll, please, for the worst bill of all: legislation mandating GMO labeling for foods. About two-thirds of all food sold in the United States contain genetically modified ingredients. Despite the unfounded hysteria GMOs provoke, they’ve been used safely for more than two decades. People who don’t want to consume GMO products can buy non-GMO food, which is labeled as such. The bill would enshrine unscientific paranoia into law and be an embarrassment to a state that’s home to so many leading scientists. Nuts — organic or otherwise — to that."

The Globe is all for fracking and GMOs, huh? 

That's an embarrassment!

Dumped into study, terror watch list gun bill draws new interest

Chelmsford’s Kronos lands $8m in state subsidies for Lowell relocation

Two key changes made to the bill limiting noncompetes in Mass.

State Representative Garrett Bradley to resign

Was over patronage and the laundering of illegal campaign contributions through his law firm as the investigation picked up steam.

So are we:

"In Boston, the Fed’s latest survey of businesses, called the Beige Book, found that labor markets continue to tighten and restaurants and retailers, in particular, are having a hard time filling positions. One restaurant industry contact told Fed officials that the Massachusetts dining industry is facing its worst labor shortage in nearly 35 years and called it a “crisis.” Restaurants are already sharing workers to cover shifts and some owners are reconsidering expansion plans, the industry official said. “A severe labor shortage is said to restrain hiring and expansion in Massachusetts’ restaurant industry,” according to the report. The survey offers policy makers some reassurance that the US economy remains stable despite the Brexit vote and depressed hiring in the spring, but most companies that sell products overseas don’t expect severe negative impacts."

Meaning it's an absolute pos, and I had nothing left to gove after the mixed me$$ages to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees -- unless the jobs are being set aside for them.

"Mass. economy outperforming US with steady growth" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  July 29, 2016

The Massachusetts economy kept steady in the second quarter of the year, despite lagging consumer spending, slowing growth elsewhere in the world, and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the University of Massachusetts reported Friday.

The state’s economy grew at an annual rate of 3 percent, a notch better than the 2.9 percent expansion in the first three months of the year. Bolstered by still healthy economic sectors, such as health care, education, technology, and professional services, Massachusetts continues to outperform the nation, according to the report, published in the UMass economic journal, MassBenchmarks.

Massachusetts employers continued to add more jobs, with unemployment at 4.2 percent, the lowest level in 15 years. The state’s workers are also seeing their incomes rise, with wages and salary up 3.7 percent from the second quarter of 2015 as the labor market tightens and companies offer more money to hire and retain employees.

“We’ve had moderate growth,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a senior contributing editor of MassBenchmarks and a Northeastern University economics professor.

However, the national outlook was more sobering.

The US Commerce Department reported Friday that the national economy grew at a disappointing annualized rate of 1.2 percent during the second quarter of this year, compared to 2.6 percent during the same period last year. That follows an even more tepid performance during the first quarter when the US economy grew at a mere 0.8 percent. The sharp slowdown in recent months is likely to raise worries that the recovery may be losing steam.

That was the strong economy Obama left Trump!

“It’s still challenging times out there in the economy,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

In the second quarter, businesses in particular pulled back dramatically in the face of continued global uncertainty and weakness in the energy sector. Businesses shrank their inventories and investments by nearly 10 percent.

By contrast US consumers were more confident in the economy, increasing their spending by 4.2 percent.

“The fundamentals are still positive for consumer spending and the housing market,” Bullard said, but, “we’re not getting much help from the other components of the economy.”

In Massachusetts, consumer spending improved slightly from the first quarter, growing by 0.8 percent. During the first three months of this year, Massachusetts consumers cut their spending by 6.1 percent, according to MassBenchmarks.

A decline is automobile sales is dragging down consumer spending in Massachusetts, Clayton-Matthews said.

Clayton-Matthews said he expects the state’s economy will slow slightly through the rest of the year, expanding at 2.9 percent in the third quarter and 2.2 percent at the end of the year. Slower growth in China, a wave of baby boomers retiring from the labor force, and uncertainty about the upcoming presidential election will likely continue to dampen economic growth and business confidence, according to MassBenchmarks.


And yet we are still in a precarious financial position as casinos emerged as the surprising savior -- despite another dash of austerity by Baker that will spread the pain by raising college tuitions and cancelling the sales tax holiday.

They call it a haircut, and there is nothing you can do about it other than spread the word as the bills emerge. The online lottery is still years away, and the odds are worse than you think despite the temptation for lottery officials as state lawmakers are mulling legalization of online gambling because it represents not only the future, but the present.

State Senate backs tough action on wage theft

Bill seeks more flexibility in beer distribution

Courts cut online access to criminal cases

The defense lawyers were “looking for an explanation.”

‘True Islam’ campaign comes to State House

Baker vetoes $1.2m of funding for new early-voting program

Veterans’ protections signed into state law

State House, Senate leaders at odds over noncompete agreements

Legislature should override Baker’s arts veto

You can forget the sales tax holiday, though.

State’s pay equity bill enters home stretch

"Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday signed a supplemental budget with money for private attorneys who represent indigent clients in criminal and some civil litigation. The attorneys have gone without pay for several weeks while a supplemental budget for Committee for Public Counsel Services to cover expenses from the last fiscal year made its way through Beacon Hill lawmakers and onto Baker’s desk, attorneys said. Ordinarily, the governor initiates the year-end supplemental budget, said Mara Dolan, communications director for Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, but by last Thursday, Baker had not done so, she said, so the Legislature initiated the process; Baker filed his supplementary budget later that day. The delays have created serious financial strains for many attorneys who concentrate their practices on representing indigent clients, lawyers said Friday. One attorney who asked not be named said he is owed $12,000 that he needs to pay his bills."

He then abruptly went on leave, after which the legi$lootors restored $100 million.

Baker wants to sell part of State House lawn

Baker defends proposing State House lawn easement for developer

Governor drops condo easement at State House

He was only trying to be a good neighbor.

And as if giving tax loot to Hollywood wasn't bad enough:

"OK’s $5m in tax credits for Mass. theater shows" by Jon Chesto and Katie Johnston Globe Staff  July 08, 2016

The controversial film tax credit program has long been a source of tension, with some on Beacon Hill championing it as key to a thriving industry and others denouncing it as a waste of taxpayer money.

Now state lawmakers are proposing extending similar credits to high-profile theatrical productions staged in Massachusetts, with the House voting Thursday to include the legislation in a broader economic development bill.

The move comes as Governor Charlie Baker has criticized the film tax credit program and unsuccessfully tried to pare it.

Unlike the movie credits, those for plays and musicals would be capped at $5 million per year. The program would expire on Jan. 1, 2022.

That's $5 million they don't have for social services or other things -- all so some richers can be entertained.

Eligible theatrical productions could get tax credits equal to 35 percent of their Massachusetts payrolls, as well as credits equal to 25 percent of other expenses, including transportation. (The salaries of out-of-state actors wouldn’t be eligible, another difference from the film tax credits.)

“This is a boost for our creative economy here in Massachusetts, and particularly Boston, and it’s long overdue,” said Representative Nick Collins of South Boston, who pushed the amendment alongside Representative Paul McMurtry of Dedham.

A similar tax credit was included in an economic bill that the Legislature passed in 2014, but it was vetoed by then-Governor Deval Patrick.

Josiah A. Spaulding, chief executive of the Citi Performing Arts Center, which operates the Wang and Shubert theaters, said the program would bring more big, lucrative shows to the area.

“These tax credits will make Massachusetts a more attractive destination for pre-Broadway productions, national tour launches, and world premiere performances — further strengthening the state’s cultural economic engine,” he said in a statement.

Are you sick of the $elf-$erving slop yet?

Collins said the cap has been increased from $3 million to $5 million and eligibility has been widened to include not just pre-Broadway productions, pre-off Broadway productions, and “Broadway Tour” launches but also premieres of original stage productions, and productions staged in auditoriums with as few as 350 seats could be eligible, compared with a previously proposed minimum of 600.

Another change Collins cited: Beneficiaries would need to deposit an amount equal to 15 percent of their tax credits into the Massachusetts Cultural Council Facilities Fund. The council, in turn, would use the money to address workforce development and the sustainability of the Massachusetts live theater industry.

It's called a kickback.

Collins said a number of other states, including Louisiana and Rhode Island, have enacted similar tax credit programs, siphoning away high-profile productions that may have come here.

Senator Jamie Eldridge, Democrat of Acton, said that he and a number of his colleagues are against the theater tax credit and are considering filing an amendment to limit the film tax credit and other tax breaks as well.

“I think there is a very strong recognition in the Senate that at a time when we just cut $413 million out of the state budget, and we’re looking ahead to possible further budget cuts by Governor Baker, to expand or to add new tax breaks is not fiscally responsible,” he said.

Remember, this was three years ago!

Representative Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat, noted that the state Department of Revenue found that each new local job created by the film tax credit cost the state nearly $110,000.

“If the goal is economic stimulus, if the goal is cultural stimulus, there’s just a terrible return on investments from tax credits of this sort,” Kaufman said. “I like theatrical productions and good movies as much as anybody. The question is whether the taxpayers should be funding them. And my answer is a clear no.”

Even if the proposal survives the Senate, it faces the possibility of a veto when it arrives on Baker’s desk. Baker spokesman Billy Pitman declined to comment on the tax credit, saying only that “all legislation reaching the governor’s desk will be carefully reviewed.”

Lawmakers adjourn from formal sessions for the year on July 31, making it essentially impossible to overrule any vetoes past that date.

“It’s a different bill, a broader bill, a more impactful bill [than the one Patrick vetoed],” Collins said. “I’m hoping that this governor sees the merit in it.”

I'm $ure he did.


RelatedDrop the curtain on theater tax credit

But not on Hollywood! 

"State stays mum on film tax credits before 2011" by Emily Sweeney Globe Staff  July 20, 2016

When we heard that “Black Mass,” which starred Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, snagged $12 million in film tax credits for filming here in Massachusetts, it got us thinking: What about other films? Like, say, “Knight and Day,” the big-budget flick (and box office flop) starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz? Scenes from that movie were shot in Boston, Bridgewater, and other locations in the state in 2009; it had an estimated budget of $117 million — more than twice than that of “Black Mass.” Surely it received more in tax credits, right?

Honestly, I didn't mind forking over the money for Black Mass. That was a very good movie (even without Mueller), and solidified Johnny Depp's status as one of the handful of great actors of his generation. I thought he was Whitey.

Alas, we may never know. The state won’t say how much in tax credits “Knight and Day” received. In fact, state officials refuse to disclose that information for all feature films made in Massachusetts between 2006, when the state began offering film tax credits, and 2010.

How do we know this? We recently submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records of film tax credits from that period, and the state Department of Revenue declined our request.

A DOR spokeswoman kindly provided us an explanation: Six years ago, a law was passed to make such information public, but only for productions that received tax credits after 2010.

“The reporting requirements are effective for credits awarded or issued beginning Jan. 1, 2011,” she said. “The reporting requirement was not in effect for the period of years you requested.”

This was also confirmed by Roger H. Randall, the tax counsel from the DOR’s Litigation Bureau. In response to our FOI request, he wrote: “There is no provision in that new statute that makes it retroactive. . . . Therefore, the Department is prohibited from disclosing information related to tax credits prior to 2011.”

File under: Classified Information.


Going to be $trangled for more, too.

Also see:

Don’t let the earned income tax deal die on Beacon Hill

Court queries legal teams in appeal of probation case

"Two-year session ends in a weekend crunch" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  July 28, 2016

Call it the Last-Possible-Minute Legislature.

With many major bills to pass and the clock winding down on their two-year formal legislative session, which ends Sunday night, Massachusetts lawmakers are poised to convene for an extremely rare double-weekend session and are certain to burn the midnight oil.

I will bet they don't get it done.

On the docket: legislation to regulate ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft; an economic development bill that includes items ranging from infrastructure grants to tax credits; legislation to restrict noncompete agreements in Massachusetts; a bill aimed at streamlining state oversight of municipalities, which includes disputed language on liquor licenses; and legislation that would spur utilities to buy large amounts of electricity from hydropower sources in Canada and enter into long-term contracts for new offshore wind projects.

All those bills have been separately passed by both chambers, but in different forms, so they were sent to joint House-Senate conference committees for a few members to hammer out differences.

Those deliberations are closely held, so lobbyists, activists, and journalists are keenly waiting to see what the final bills will look like, but in a State House known for its oppressive opacity, under the rules, the committees don’t have to release their final versions until 8 p.m. the night before the vote. So expect the State House to be buzzing — but not in the boozy way — late Saturday night.

Lawmakers are not just gluttons for punishment, ruining a lovely summer weekend for fun. Because of the back-to-back political conventions, legislating that would have normally been done last week and this week was put off to the weekends, and the final rush is partly human nature too.

“In terms of the last-minute crunch on some major bills,” said Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “I think that both sides dig in very deeply until the end to try to see if the other one will give in on this point or that point.”

DeLeo, who leads a chamber seen as more conservative than the Senate, said what made the process different from previous years is there is more divergence between the two chambers’ bills.

“There’s probably a lot more to go through before we would come to a resolution,” he said, appearing to allude to sometimes simmering tension between the 160-person House and 40-person Senate.

Still, resolution will come by, give or take, 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning.

Then lawmakers will rush to the campaign trail in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election. Well, it might be more like a meander – many don’t have opponents.


The proposal to tax nonprofits alarmed some as tax collections fell for first time in 3 years and as insiders turned to lobbying careers -- potentially costing them a lucrative fishery as lawmakers give them the OK:

"Last-minute lawmaking for the Mass. legislature" by Jim O’Sullivan Globe Staff  August 02, 2016

Now they are more than a month late.

Every second counted this weekend on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers said the wall clocks in the House Chamber showed two different times, the roll-call vote printer depicted a third, and their cellphones relayed still another.

“It’s sort of like ‘The Three Stooges,’ ” said Bradley Jones Jr., the House minority leader. “Everybody’s got a different clock.”

Some 19 months into their session, lawmakers waited until the last minutes to enact major pieces of legislation, with little time for members to review the bills and many advocates sidelined in the final decision-making.

The Legislature’s rush to finish work on bills years in the making included major policy changes that were negotiated behind closed doors with sweeping implications for the state’s energy industry and ratepayers, ride-hailing companies and taxis, and community development and job training. Rank-and-file lawmakers had, at some points, mere minutes to read over the agreements before they were hurried for a vote and sent to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk.

They don't even know what they are voting on, it's all whatever DeLeo dictates.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Baker said the Legislature’s transparency had increased over the years, in part because of technology, but said he was stumped about how to pull back the curtains from the sausage-making of passing legislation. The final vote was cast shortly after the midnight deadline on Monday morning.

“I don’t have a good answer for the question about the end-of-the-session squeeze,” the governor said. “That’s happened as far back as I can remember, and I’ve been paying attention to this for over 20 years.”

At the end of the last two-year legislative session, in 2014, a similarly frenetic set of meetings in the final days gave passage to bills designed to tackle the opioid-addiction crisis, tighten gun laws, and suspend the state sales tax for a weekend. The 2009-2010 session ended in acrimony, with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo at odds with Governor Deval Patrick’s administration over legislation sanctioning casinos. The bill reemerged the next year and became law.

“Delaying the resolution of major issues until the final days of the legislative session is a time-honored tradition that has gone on over all the decades that I’ve been involved in Massachusetts government,” said Michael Widmer, who last year stepped down after 23 years as the president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed advocacy group. “But recognizing that there will always be some kind of rush in each legislative session, there is no reason why more of the major bills can’t be resolved before the final two weeks.”

State House veterans say the vanishing days on the calendar can prove a useful incentive for lawmakers to coalesce behind frequently contentious bills.

“There’s sort of an inherent part of the process, for people to want to use the clock to their perceived benefit,” said Jones, a North Reading Republican first elected in 1994.

In addition to the policy measures, the Democrat-run Legislature voted this weekend to override many of Baker’s vetoes to the state budget, restoring a total of more than $200 million, but top legislative officials concede privately that Baker is expected to use his executive budget authority to cut much, if not all, of that spending.

Three major bills — regulating ride-hailing companies, requiring utilities to contract with more hydro- and wind power, and a measure aimed at economic development — all received final votes after midnight. Some members said they did not reach their homes until 4 a.m.

It's there own fault!

Lawmakers will continue to meet in informal sessions, when an individual member’s objection can block a bill from advancing.

Many long-sought measures failed to reach the finish line this weekend, among them a ban on handheld cellphones while driving, a measure loosening the state’s rules on workers’ noncompetition contracts, a transfer of authority over liquor licenses from the state to cities and towns, the creation of a paid family and medical leave program for workers, and a boost in the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21.

This year’s finale was made more difficult by deteriorating relations between House and Senate leaders, leaving several key bills on the table, even though both chambers are led by Democrats, and the July national conventions of both major political parties, drawing lawmakers to Cleveland and Philadelphia in the final two weeks of July, added further distractions.

The frenzied final hours prompted some senators to accuse the House, led by DeLeo, of being beholden to big-business interests.

That's why they wait so long, so you won't see what is in there.

“I think the House’s operating procedure is: Do as little as possible and still be able to say you did stuff. I just think that’s where Bob’s at,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat. “A convenient and unnoticed byproduct of that is that doing as little as possible happens to line up with the priorities of the governor and some of the special interests, business groups in particular.”

Senator Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat who like Downing is not seeking reelection, echoed the criticism, arguing that the Senate had paid closer attention to the working and middle classes.

“The idea of public policy is to blend all of the interests, which includes business, but it also includes the bottom-uppers, the workers, the citizens,” Wolf said Monday. “In my six years there, more attention has been paid from the House side to the top-down, the business owners, the investors.”

Through a spokesman, DeLeo declined to comment.

“I don’t think that Speaker DeLeo’s style is limited at all,” said state Representative John Fernandes, a Milford Democrat, defending the leader of the House. “What he has is an inclusive approach to legislation, not a frivolous approach to legislation.”

Relations between the House and Senate began souring notably last year, after state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg started implementing parliamentary reforms he said would increase transparency, while also granting the state Senate more power in legislative committees.

House leaders bucked, and friction built in a series of skirmishes over large-scale bills on charter-school expansion and energy, as well as smaller legislation, such as an inter-chamber battle over a tightly targeted veterans’ benefits bill.

Some of that frustration bubbled over on Saturday, when Rosenberg blamed the House for slow-walking many of the Senate-backed measures.

He said the Senate had been “promised” bills like an energy omnibus “last year and then in the first quarter of this year, and then in the second quarter of this year,” according to the State House News Service.

“We got it three weeks ago,” Rosenberg said.


Baker didn't say he would sign it.


Legislature overrides Baker veto on Lyme treatment coverage

Winners and losers in the last-minute legislative circus

It's the citizens that are always the losers.

Startups, venture investors frustrated as ‘noncompete’ deal evaporates

Nashoba winery, Eataly get boost from lawmakers

A modest proposal for taxing nonprofits

A triumph long in coming in fair pay fight

Uber fee plan may confound Charlie Baker

State Senate majority whip resting after brain surgery

Why are there Detroit police cars in Dorchester?

To collect Hollywood tax credits!

Baker will sign Uber, Lyft legislation

Does new law mean real pay equity for women?

Tax-free back-to-school shopping over as states cancel reprieves

The stores went ahead and did it anyway.

Online lottery backers to try again on Beacon Hill

To fix noncompete rules, we need more talk, fewer tweets

"Governor Charlie Baker signed an energy bill Monday that would make Massachusetts significantly more reliant on hydropower from Canada, as well as wind power. The bill requires the big utilities — namely Eversource and National Grid — to buy as much as 1,200 megawatts of “clean energy.” Most of this would likely be in the form of hydropower produced by big dams in Canada, but on-shore wind farms in northern New England and upstate New York could also bid for the electricity. The bill also compels the utilities to sign long-term contracts with offshore wind-farm developers for as much as 1,600 megawatts of power, a priority for House leaders who hope to spur the creation of a new industry in the state. Baker had pushed for the hydropower purchases, although the Legislature ended up approving half of what Baker initially sought."

He really charmed the pants off of them, huh?

Uber now lets Boston riders book a car in advance

Key Baker aide, Jay Ash, seeks top Cambridge job

Do you know where he is working now?

"Regulations governing daily fantasy sports issued by Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey earlier this year have been written into Massachusetts law. Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill Wednesday codifying the rules, which include a minimum age of 21 for participating in the online contests. Baker said giving the regulations the force of law is good for the state’s burgeoning ‘‘innovation economy’’ as well as the fast-growing fantasy sports industry. Baker said it was important to establish guidelines under which companies like Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel can operate."

That comes as "New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature have sought to legalize sports gambling to help prop up the struggling casino and horse racing industries," but it doesn't add upliar, and the details remain fuzzy!

Caucus seeks to connect Asian-Americans, Beacon Hill

Here are five reasons for the two utilities to celebrate:

The nation’s first offshore wind farm takes shape off R.I.

It must have been the $3.3m in tax subsidies that did it.

Laws to shed light on drug pricing strategies probably won’t work

"Police do not have to give a Miranda warning to suspected drunk drivers before they take a breathalyzer test, the state’s highest court ruled Monday in a decision that left intact a 27-year-old legal precedent. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that the chemical breath test is not a “critical part” of the criminal investigation of a suspected drunk driver and, as such, does not trigger the protections against self-incrimination enshrined in the state and federal constitutions...."

You may want to hold off blowing until they fix the machines.

"The Massachusetts unemployment rate fell slightly in July, reaching its lowest point in almost 15 years, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday. The unemployment rate for July was 4.1 percent, and the state’s public and private employers added an estimated 7,300 jobs for the month. The last time the Massachusetts unemployment rate was at 4.1 percent was September 2001. The largest gains came in the professional, scientific, and business services sector, which added 4,600 jobs in the month. Leisure and hospitality employers added 3,200 positions, and the financial sector added 1,300 jobs. The construction sector also added 600 jobs. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate also remained lower than the national average, which has hovered at 4.9 percent in recent months. The US Labor Department also revised its June estimate for Massachusetts up by 1,200, to 17,600 new jobs for the month. About 146,100 state residents remain unemployed. The education and health services sector lost 1,200 jobs in July, and information services lost 300. Manufacturing employment fell by 200 jobs in the month."

Then why all the budget cuts?

Does Mass. have the best economy of any state?

I'm not going to belabor the point any longer as I set you free before going after you.

IBM received $2.5 million in state tax breaks even as state revenue growth is slower than expected

What a crime:

"While the rest of the country saw blockbuster gains in their paychecks in 2015, household incomes in Massachusetts rose at a much slower pace, according to data to be released by the Census Bureau Thursday. Usually, Massachusetts outpaces the nation, with better school test scores and lower unemployment rates, but Massachusetts also made less progress in reducing poverty and saw the wages of full-time, year-round male workers stagnate, compared to those in the rest of the United States. The state data released Thursday are based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and the methodology and results vary somewhat from the agency’s national household income data....." 

After a while, you start tuning out the lies, I mean, mixed me$$ages.

"The state Legislature on Thursday quickly passed a supplemental spending bill aimed at closing the books on fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, in part by drawing up to $60 million from the state’s Convention Center Fund to use for general spending purposes. The spending bill emerged from the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday morning and with a skeleton crew on hand it cleared both branches without debate. It is based on a bill Governor Charlie Baker filed in July. A Ways and Means Committee aide said the bill’s net cost to the state is $26.6 million but line items in the legislation add up to far more than that and include $168 million for the office of the secretary in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, for instance. The $26.6 million bottom line assigned to the bill does not include spending that is covered by federal reimbursements. A total spending estimate was not available. The bill’s advancement comes as Baker and legislators struggle to keep spending and revenues in balance in the face of tax collections that have fallen short of even downwardly revised projections. “We’re very pleased that the Legislature got the message and acted quickly. This is a significant victory for older people, and we hope we can count on the governor,” said Mass Home Care executive director Al Norman....."

That means layoffs could be coming:

"Nine hundred state employees have accepted an offer to retire early or voluntarily leave their jobs, helping to save the state $82 million over the next two years and avoiding widespread layoffs, officials said Wednesday. The buyout program was launched in October to address the state’s projected $294 million budget gap. Officials attributed the shortfall to weaker-than-expected sales tax revenue and the Legislature failing to fully fund several programs. Jim Durkin, legislative director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 93, which represents about 35,000 public sector workers in Massachusetts, reacted tepidly to Wednesday’s announcement. “Obviously this is a far more palatable alternative than massive layoffs, but it is not a cause for celebration by any means, particularly for people who rely on . . . human services programs,” Durkin said. He said human service agencies are “stretched pretty thin right now” and that “once these positions are gone, they’re gone for good.”

You can always step through the revolving door and become a lobbyist:

Facing illness, former Speaker DiMasi is released from prison

Judge ends home confinement for ex-speaker Salvatore DiMasi

He looks sick and it's good to see those around him concerned -- although I now feel I was fooled!


Time to clean up what was left over from 2015:

Application simplification would bring welcome change

Five students sue to lift state’s charter school cap

Where is there a constitutional right to a quality education?

At least the school buses are running more on time (except they are not if you look at the graph that didn't make your web version! On time is down 4%, and it gets worse the later you wait).

Cap on charter schools wrong, Baker tells rally

What next for Governor Fix-It?

Fixing the zoo.

Hardwick woman pleads not guilty in child abuse case

Plan calls for another board to eliminate useless state boards

Baker wanted to expand them even as he faced an uncertain path in the Legislature. 

Rules, governor’s agenda among reasons for fewer votes on Beacon Hill

They get behind closed doors and in solitary confinement and it's amazing what they can get done:

"Impersonating a veteran or active military member would warrant jail time under a proposal the House is poised to consider Wednesday, a week before Veterans Day. State Representative John Velis, a Westfield Democrat and captain in the Army Reserve, filed the legislation to make it a crime to falsely represent oneself as an active member of the military or a military award recipient in order to gain financial advantage. Anyone convicted under the proposed statute could be punished with up a year in jail or a fine of $1,000 (State House News Service)."

Hopes high for fungus-free State House holiday tree

They watered it too much.

70 years on the job, but no regrets for Ruth Ford

Democrat captures seat in special state Senate election

They were ready to master democracy and then ISIS hit Paris and it's been nonstop ever since. 

Mass. legislators scramble to save public-art funding

Charter school backers rally near State House

They sputtered nothing but negativity and were held for 72 hours before being sent to vocational school:

Could Polito be the one to break the curse?

Baker-backed bill would streamline oversight of municipalities

Senior adviser to Charlie Baker will leave state government

Baker announces projected $120 million in federal snow aid

One year in, governor stresses outreach to foes

A Republican descending on a deep-blue Beacon Hill!

Charlie Baker is a very popular work in progress

For Charlie Baker, the hardest part may be ahead

Environmental groups give Baker administration a ‘C’

Charlie Baker’s passion for selfies pays off in many ways

The shtick is also good politics.

BYOB may be gaining momentum in Boston

What is happening to the state’s rainy day fund?

The state may lose its cherished AA+ bond rating?

Fixing Beacon Hill’s House-Senate breakdown

"Watchdog says state may face $1 billion budget gap" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  December 23, 2015

State officials are warning of tough spending decisions ahead, as a top Beacon Hill watchdog cautioned Tuesday that Massachusetts could face a $1 billion budget gap in the upcoming fiscal year.

They say that every Chri$tmas!

Though the economy and tax revenue continue to grow at a steady clip, the state faces a twofold challenge: ballooning costs for health care and other needs that are colliding with years of one-time fiscal gimmicks, the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said.

In a separate interview, Governor Charlie Baker’s budget chief cautioned that the state has “gotten to the point where we have to make really hard choices.” Kristen Lepore, administration and finance secretary, said Massachusetts must wean itself from one-time sources of money and align spending with recurring revenue brought in by taxes, fees, and other sources. She indicated that legislators and residents should gird themselves for belt-tightening across state government.

She declined to endorse the $1 billion figure, but said, “Mass. Taxpayers Foundation has a lot of credibility in this area.”

The projections are likely to mean that leaner times are coming in the fiscal year that begins in July, with many government agencies seeing small or no increases in their budgets, and given that Baker has pledged not to raise taxes or fees, it could mean there is no large pool of money available to substantially increase spending on big-ticket programs prized by some legislators, such as early education.

God forbid we ever have a real downturn.

Lawmakers are already anticipating a hard balancing act between longer-term fiscal considerations and funding state services that range from aid to cities and towns to addiction prevention to law enforcement.

“It’s going to be a very tight year,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I think it will be tough for everybody.”

Present company excepted, of course.

Although the state has not arrived at an official number yet, outside analysts predict Massachusetts will bring in just over $1 billion more in tax revenue next fiscal year than this one, but much of that money is already spoken for by increases in mandatory costs, from paying interest on the state’s debt to local education aid.

They are not managing it right then!

Representative Brian S. Dempsey, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, underscored another outlay that is large and getting larger next year, adding $200 million for public employee pension obligations.

Adding that money plus other mandatory costs, he said, “the billion gets spoken for fairly quickly.”

Health care spending, particularly on the state’s Medicaid program, which serves the poor and disabled, is expected to increase at a pace far exceeding inflation.

“MassHealth is obviously one of the biggest challenges that we continue to face and that continues to be a major pressure point for us,” Dempsey said.

The Taxpayers Foundation estimated that the state relied on $619 million this year in “one-time” funds, money that doesn’t come back year after year. In all, the foundation estimates a budget gap — the difference between estimated revenue and obligatory spending — at between $800 million and $1 billion.

To be sure, such warnings have become a frequent part of the yearly Beacon Hill ritual of figuring out how to spend about $40 billion of taxpayer money, and the reality does not always turn out to be so dire.

In recent years, lawmakers have been able to fill budget holes by using one-time cash from the federal government, by draining or diverting money from the state’s rainy day fund, by pushing off bills until the next year, and by selling state assets, like a local courthouse, but many of those options are no longer available or are increasingly tenuous.

“It’s safe to say there’s a sizable gap for fiscal year 2017, and the problem is there are limited options to address it,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

In particular, there is growing pressure for Massachusetts to beef up its rainy day fund, meant to be an emergency bulwark against extreme cuts to state services if the economy turns south. In the fiscal years that ended in June 2013, 2014, and 2015, the state withdrew or diverted an ever-increasing amount of money, totaling $2.2 billion, from the fund, according to a recent report from the foundation.

Analysts outside Massachusetts have taken notice. Three Wall Street credit rating agencies this year reaffirmed the state’s bond rating, second from the highest, a ranking that means the state can borrow money at a lower cost. Fear of losing the silver-plated rating can provoke swift action from Beacon Hill.

One of the rating agencies sent up a warning flare in late November. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services changed its outlook for Massachusetts from stable to negative. That means the rating may be lowered over the next two years, which could make it more expensive for the state to borrow money — with millions more in debt payments every year.

S&P based the change on “a decline in financial reserves over the past several years despite a prolonged period of economic expansion and generally positive revenue trends,” but, it said, the state’s outlook could be upgraded if Massachusetts reverses its trend of rainy day fund reductions.

David Hitchcock, senior director with Standard & Poor’s and a top analyst of Massachusetts finances, said several other states have seen a “softening” in revenue in the last six months.

“But I don’t think this is really a revenue problem for Massachusetts so much,” he said. “There seems to be some unexpected spending issues.”


They just can't say NO!

Unless it is the working poor, and think about that for a minute. 

Working poor. 

Should you be poor if you work? 

I know we “still have a long way to go to make sure that everyone who works for a living can earn a living, but, "fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as most US workers continue to enjoy job security, the Labor Department said Thursday....”

What a lie, huh?

"State gave $58 million in film tax credits in 2014" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff  December 21, 2015

Movies about a group of hustlers, a vigilante, and a foul-mouthed teddy bear took in the vast majority of the nearly $58 million in film tax credits that Massachusetts issued in 2014.

The state gave film credits to more than 110 projects last year, from cheese puffs commercials to children’s programs and reality television series, but about 65 percent of the controversial tax credits, which Governor Charlie Baker unsuccessfully tried to dismantle earlier this year, went to the big Hollywood productions, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Revenue.

“The Equalizer,” a remake of a 1980s television series featuring Denzel Washington as a former secret agent fighting the Russian mob, was the biggest winner in the state’s tax program, with $15.5 million in credits. “Ted 2,” about a talking teddy bear who curses like a sailor and speaks with a Boston accent, followed close behind with $14 million in tax credits. “American Hustle,” which filmed many of its scenes in Worcester, received $8 million in tax credits.

The state provided 72 percent more in tax credits last year than it did in 2013, when film companies received $33.7 million.

The film tax credit, with some exceptions, pays for 25 percent of wages and production expenses for films, commercials, and TV shows shot in Massachusetts, and those productions do not have to pay sales taxes. The program has long had critics, who say its costs outweigh the benefits to the Massachusetts economy.

And yet they took your one-day holiday away!

Baker called for phasing out the subsidy in his budget proposal in the spring, arguing that the program failed to generate enough economic activity in Massachusetts to justify the tens of millions in revenue lost to the state treasury.

For example, the revenue department estimated that in 2012 Massachusetts paid out an estimated $77.8 million in credits that generated $304 million in spending by movie, television, and advertising productions. However, the department said, two-thirds of that spending took place outside of Massachusetts; $101 million occurred in the state, but the tax credit survived after advocates and workers in the film industry argued it was necessary to keep jobs in Massachusetts and to ensure the state’s burgeoning production industry survives.

At what cost to us!?

“The movie business is a business, and it’s going to whatever state has the incentives,” said Margie Sullivan, president of the Massachusetts Production Coalition, a trade group.

$elf-$erving $will!

While a large portion of the subsidies go to big movies, the economic impact has trickled down and created an environment in which state residents can launch post-production companies and visual effects businesses that are thriving, she said. “What Massachusetts has created is an industry here, and it’s employing thousands of Massachusetts residents,” she said.

They are pi$$ing on us!

Unlike most other tax credits, film tax credits can be sold back to the state or to other companies to convert into cash. In the vast majority of cases, the credits are sold to insurers, banks, and other firms that use them to reduce their own taxes.



‘Winter is coming’ at Hollywood PR

Movies with Mass. appeal opening in 2016

Tom Brady’s movie ‘uniform’ up for sale

The TB12 diet, nap time, and other pro-athlete anomalies

Tom Brady fits football and hockey into bye weekend

"Massachusetts filmmakers assailed legislation filed by Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday that would reduce the state’s film tax credit program, saying that it would hurt small businesses and force workers to leave the state. Baker’s bill, which was filed with his $39.6 billion budget proposal, would reinstate the film tax credit program’s original $7 million cap per project — a cap that was lifted in 2007 — and make the credits no longer “refundable,” a mechanism by which filmmakers can cash in unused tax credits." 

It would have saved the state $43 million a year during a record-breaking year for Hollywood.

New push to make ‘Roadrunner’ official state rock song

Thus 2015 ended with a cloak of surveillance over the $80 million $et a$ide for Hollywood!