Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pension Puke

Dang, it seems like it's everywhere...pension corruption. It's not really everywhere. In fact, many hard working retirees barely scrimp by...but these legislators that have feasted at the public trough need to be stopped.
Masslive reported these little pearls on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye!

Hello Massachusetts legislators,

Please read the Western Massachusetts Casino Task Force Mission Statement and meeting Minutes before you consider supporting class III gambling in the Commonwealth. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has provided technical and administrative support for our work. We are local officials, most unpaid with a single agenda to protect our communities.

Truth to Larry

Here's a little observation to Mr. McDermott, publisher of the Springfield Republican newspapers. His editorial is below my comment which may be found at Masslive.

COMMENTS (1)Post a commentPosted by kcnorbut on 04/19/09 at 8:50AM

Mr. McDermott,

It would be helpful if the Republican would hold the western MA delegation including Congressmen and Senators accountable for the state and federal budgets. Specifically, you list four areas of change in your editorial "No business as usual in BayState budget", without any substantive recommendations to achieve those goals. Many unfunded/underfunded mandates are generated by Congress, particularly those in the critical areas of education, environment and public health. Without inclusion of that piece of the budget puzzle, state and local budget issues are perceived to exist in a vacuum; which is a false premise. To assume that local government can pay for the Quinn Bill, or not if they want, it is simply naive. I must assume that you are aware of the chaos that would bring to local budgets and collective bargaining. Are you suggesting that police officer pay can simply drop by tens of thousands of dollars without any consequence? The state legislature created the method for increasing police officer salaries, they must design an equitable solution to reform the system. Dumping the problem created by legislators on local government (which has much less fiscal and personnel resources) is wrong. What does change "public and agency expectations" mean?

State officials including the legislative leadership of Speaker DeLeo and President Murray need to be held accountable for their continued protection of Beacon Hill's budget bloat at the expense of local aid. Special interest groups and connected individuals have a stranglehold on state and federal legislative bodies. This "leadership" has not even had the will to close telecom tax loopholes, while the average household support of these corporations increases exponentially on an annual basis.

It would be helpful for your paper to use the power of information to disclose to the public what legislators actually do for their pay. Why did the Republican not question the western MA delegation when it almost unanimously rejected Governor Patrick's proposed gas tax hike with what it plans to submit for a solution to the horrific condition of our infrastructure? Why has the Republican not held the entire western MA delegation accountable for allowing the infrastructure in the region to decay and crumble over the past 2-3 decades? Why does the Republican not challenge the entire western MA delegation to take leadership in proposing solutions that are favorable to our region and quit the whining that western MA is not getting a "fair shake"? Why did the Republican not expose the utter lack of productivity of the legislature from August 1, 2008 through March 2009 (informal session and do nothing first quarter of the year)? If most of us did not work or underperformed for that length of time we would not have been paid and certainly fired.

We need leaders, not followers.

Kathleen Conley Norbut

No business as usual in Bay State budget
by Larry McDermott - Publisher, The Republican Sunday April 19, 2009, 5:00 AM
Why is it that often the simplest things are the most difficult for us to understand and accept?

The commonwealth is broke. That's right. Massachusetts is broke. The money that it collects and puts in the bank isn't enough to cover the bills. Right away, someone is going to say that the state isn't broke. It has a "rainy day" fund. That's what you and I would call a "savings account." That's right, there is a savings account, but that doesn't mean we aren't broke.

This day of reckoning has been coming for several years, and there have been numerous warnings by third-party observers such as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Those observers also have been pleading with the state for years to make dramatic change by reducing its expenses, but that didn't happen.

Now that we are broke, the pain is going to be much greater than it would have been if the warnings had been heeded by the Legislature.

Two years ago - almost to the day - state House lawmakers were getting ready to debate their own version of the state budget, just as they are today. The House's budget proposal was to spend $26.7 billion. That included all of the earmarked appropriations for specific programs all over the state. Earmarked programs are what legislators consider the bread and butter in their home districts, and that's what gets them re-elected. Two years ago, Gov. Deval L. Patrick's proposed state budget largely avoided those earmarks.

The House ignored the governor's proposals as well as the warning of Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, who said at that time that it was important to "hold the line on spending and (reject) the temptation to add to the bottom line in any significant way because we are already drawing on reserves."

As governor, W. Mitt Romney also urged legislators to drop the earmarks, to no avail. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee then, state Rep. Robert A. DeLeo, met with our editorial board back then and made no apologies about earmarks being added back to the state budget. He said they were needed for economic development efforts and for organizations that serve children, the homeless, veterans, and others in need.

Fast-forward two years to today and another state House budget has landed on the kitchen table, but this one is more like a bowl of chicken noodle soup without the chicken, and almost everyone sitting at the table is in a fist-pounding mood because the earmarks are gone. The new House Ways and Means Committee chairman is Rep. Charles A. Murphy of Burlington, and he met with The Republican's editorial board Thursday. With him was state Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington, who ranks No. 3 on Murphy's committee.

The House budget on the table now, without the earmarks, is $27.44 billion. Two years ago, the House budget was $26.7 billion with earmarks.

"In our view, this is a budget based in reality," Murphy told the board. But, he admitted, hundreds of amendments were being filed even as we spoke that, if approved, would restore the earmarks. This time, he said, that can't happen.

Murphy was talking like a man who understood there couldn't be any chicken in the chicken noodle soup because we didn't have any chicken. He was moving faster before the editorial board than a man juggling red hot coals. He said:

Quinn Bill funding? No longer a sustainable model. Let the cities and towns pay for it if they want it.

Regionalization? Stop talking about it. Do it.

Unfunded mandates? Stop them.

Public and agency expectations? Change them.

In other words, he said, the state has to change how it does business.

Already, Murphy said, he was being pilloried for his comments, with some people saying "lives would be lost" and that this would be on his hands.

As with everything, time will tell whether Murphy and his boss, now House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, will stick to their guns or drop those red hot coals.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mass Commission on Status of Women

Dear Rep. Ashe and Senator Brewer:

Please support funding for the MCSW. It is devastating to see the cuts proposed in the House budget when the leadership to enact reasonable tax increases and close corporate tax loopholes is absent.

There is no leadership in continued budget cuts coupled with casinos proposals that will ultimately further depress our region as solutions to the current fiscal challenges. This is a sad, embarrassing and desperate time in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts House Ways and Means FY10 Budget released this week eliminated all operating funds for the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

Please call and urge your Representative to support the amendment to the MA House Ways & Means 2010 budget, line item 0950-0000 and restore funding for operating cost of the Commission on the Status Women.
Your legislator should contact Representative Alice Wolf at: 617.722.2810 and sign on as a supporter by NOON TODAY (Friday 4/17).

The mission of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is to provide a permanent, effective voice for women across Massachusetts. The Commission stands for fundamental freedoms, basic human rights and the full enjoyment of life for all women throughout their lives.

The purpose of the Commission is to advance women toward full equality in all areas of life and to promote rights and opportunities for all women. The Commission exists to provide a permanent, effective voice for women across Massachusetts.

The Commission is Empowered by legislation to:

* Study, review and report on the status of women in the Commonwealth;
* Advise executive and legislative bodies on the effect of proposed legislation on women;
* Inform leaders of business, education, health care, state and local governments and the communications media of issues pertaining to women;
* Provide referrals and serve as a resource of information on issues pertaining to women;
* Identify and recommend qualified women for positions at all levels of government;
* Promote and facilitate collaboration among local women's commissions and among women’s organizations in the state;
* Serve as a liaison between government and private interest groups concerned with issues affecting women.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Citizen Committee

What makes Massachusetts different than many of the states that have legalized slots and class III casinos? Are we smarter, dumber, more wizened or just too stuck in our Yankee ways to go the way of the majority of states that have legalized predatory gambling? I don't know the answer. I just know that we have citizens who are willing to think about the issue, have the skills to research the issue and separate the corporate marketing messages from data.

Tonight the Palmer Citizens Committee chaired by a pro-casino resident will report their findings to the Town Council. I have included some excerpts from the findings on fiscal impacts on education that mirror the report that I generated and was published by Spectrum Gaming, commissioned by Governor Patrick. The sub committees are comprised of a mixture of pro/anti and agnostic casino residents. The feelings of the members really do not matter however, because the bottom line is there is never adequate mitigation for slot parlors and casinos.

Contingency Plan(2.) for Palmer School System should Casino
become reality (based on 2008 costs):
1. New Elementary School with a capacity of 1,000
- Estimated construction cost: $ 40,000,000.00
2. New Middle School or High School with a capacity of 1,000
- Estimated construction cost: $ 40,000,000.00 - $100,000,000.00.
3. Each additional student entering the Palmer School System will add $10,804.00
(2007 budgetary $’s) to the annual school budget
4. Faculty competent in various foreign language(s) to teach in the E.L.L. program.
Should this program have to be expanded as much as some of the Ct. surrounding
towns to the casinos where as many as 29 foreign languages are utilized to teach(3.),
the estimated cost would be:
$ 58,000.00 (per teacher/year @ current compensation rate) for 29 additional
Teachers (1 language/teacher) would represent $ 1,682,000.00/year in additional
teacher salaries on an annual basis.
Dr. Fournier: Additional comments:
Risk of Losing Grant-in-Aid: If the casino becomes reality, it may jeopardize
Palmer’s standing in the way of grant-in-aid from the state as we will no longer be
considered needy and thus lose that funding.

Lack of State and Federal Aid for New School Construction:
Should Palmer be required to build new schools to accommodate anticipated
enrollment increases due to the casino impact, there is no current funding available
through the state like there was in the early 1990’s when Palmer built a new high
school and elementary school with 77% state funding. It is now based on a formula
of approximately 60% state funding when available. The Stimulus package that
was just passed by Congress calls for funding “repairs and improvements” to existing
structures. There is no funding budgeted for “new construction” at this time.
Mitigation Funding not anticipated from the State: If the casino becomes reality with
its associated impacts on the education system in Palmer, then Fournier doubts very
much that the state will come through with mitigation funding for our education

Mohegan Sun should bare the burden: If the casino becomes reality with its
associated impacts on the education system in Palmer, then Fournier believes it is the developer who should be responsible for the mitigation funding. It should not fall back on the Town of Palmer.

Or our backs either!