Thursday, April 30, 2009

GOP Lawmakers Save Taxpayers Millions, the Majority Spends Them!

While the majority of the House is busy spending your money and raising your taxes, Republican lawmakers continue to offer innovative, cost saving initiatives. And tonight, our Democratic colleagues even joined us in that effort.
We filed an amendment that encourages medical facilities to return unused, unexpired medication. This effort would save the Commonwealth at least $20 million annually, as nursing homes in Massachusetts alone are known to waste millions of dollars in unused prescriptions. This concept will also lead to a decrease in overall health care costs in the state.

While we are proud this amendment was adopted, we continue to be disappointed in the Majority Party’s lack of interest in other major cost saving measures and reforms.

Earlier tonight, we made an effort to amend the current Pacheco law. According to a study by the Pioneer Institute, the Pacheco Law requires private contractors to essentially jump through hoops in order to have their services utilized by Massachusetts. That same study concluded that the Commonwealth is the only state in the nation that has virtually outlawed the privatization of public services. Currently, contracts under $200 thousand don’t need to go through the intense application process. Our goal tonight, was to raise the threshold to $5 million in order to save the Commonwealth money, and make state government work more efficiently. That proposal was overwhelmingly rejected, despite the fact that the simple language change could save the state at least $20 million a year. In recent years, Virginia enacted a similar effort and it saved the state $100 million in the first year.

These are real cost saving measures our caucus is proposing regularly. We offered more than $350 million in cost savings programs and reforms and so far all have been rejected except for the medical waste proposal. If more were accepted, perhaps all this tax talk would come to a hush.

Budget Continues to Grow, Revenues Not So Much!

The House Ways and Means budget continues to expand today. In fact, nearly $400 million has already been added to the FY10 budget this week alone. However, the Majority Party is using new taxes to justify the increased spending. As you know, on Monday night, the House overwhelmingly approved an increase to the sales tax, a move the Democrats say will bring in $900 million. What they are neglecting is that revenues have been dropping consistently month to month. For this reason, Republican lawmakers today made a motion to postpone further debate until the April tax collection data is released.

Seems reasonable, right? Apparently not. That motion was rejected and we expect the House to add another $200 million dollars to the budget before the night is over. This despite the fact that much of the new spending will be unsustainable.

Keep checking for your latest budget details.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Republicans Offer Real Reform, Democrats Reject It

Republican lawmakers today offered an amendment that would have saved the Commonwealth upwards of $160 million annually or just over $1 billion over five years. Apparently the majority of Democrats are not interested however, in accomplishing real reform this budget season, since the amendment was overwhelmingly rejected.

On the first night of budget debates, Representative Carl Sciortino said the Republican Caucus has no real solutions or alternatives to dealing with the state's financial problems. This comment came just minutes before he and most of his colleagues voted to increase the sales tax. Our Democratic colleagues say they are making the tough choices (raising your taxes) while we sit back and do nothing. Offering a proposal that would save the state $160 million annually is hardly doing nothing. The amendment we offered today, which received the support of about a dozen of our Democratic colleagues, would have shifted all MassHealth members to managed care plans.

Today, 24% of MassHealth members are in the fee-for-service system, whereas 27% are in PCC (Primary Care Clinician) plans. Not only would this move save money, but it would also result in better medical care for MassHealth members. Fifteen states have already ended their PCC program in order to have MCO plans.

Saving money and providing better health care to our state's residents is an easy choice. Why our counterparts in the House chose to vote down this amendment, we'll never know!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Majority of Democrats Reject D.C. Office Cut

The following article was just posted by State House News Service, just moments after the Democratic-controlled House rejected a Republican proposal that would have saved the state $400,000. One of our Democratic counterparts even referred to the line item as a "measly" $400,000. Sure, Massachusetts taxpayers are being asked to dig deep and share in the burden, but apparently that concept doesn't apply to the Governor's spending habits.

House members voted 49-107 to reject a Republican amendment to eliminate a $400,000 line item for Gov. Deval Patrick's Washington D.C. office. Republicans argued that the office should be paid for out of the governor's own budget and that much of the work was already performed by the state's Congressional Delegation. Proponents of the office said the state reaped many times the investment in the Washington office, which helps secure grants, coordinate Medicaid reimbursement negotiations and helps garner stimulus funding. When Rep. David Linsky suggested that the office returns $10,000 to the state for every $1 investment, Rep. Angelo Scaccia launched into a satirical tirade. "If we put in more people down here, for every dollar we put in, we get nearly $10,000," he said. "We can solve all of our financial problems. I’m going to offer a further amendment that we put $10 million in here. We can relish a billion dollars"

More Press For Republican Lawmakers

The coverage of yesterday's sales tax vote and Republican press conference continues. Below are mutliple reports filed last night by various news outlets.

Click here to see WBZ-TV's Ron Sanders' story.

For Channel 5's Janet Wu's coverage, click here.

And to read the coverage in the Telegaram & Gazette, click here.


House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement tonight after the adoption of an amendment to increase the state’s sales tax.

Disappointment and disillusionment does not even begin to describe how my caucus and I are feeling following tonight’s adoption of the amendment to increase the state’s sales tax. For those Democrats who stood beside us, we applaud and appreciate their efforts to do what is right for the citizens of the Commonwealth. For those who support this ridiculously regressive tax increase, I say shame on them.

We are in the midst of a deep economic recession, and while the federal government is putting money back into the economy, Democrats here in Massachusetts are reaching into taxpayers’ pocketbooks and wallets and grabbing whatever they can get their hands on. Since the beginning of the economic downturn, the Commonwealth has lost thousands of jobs, and if this sales tax increase goes into effect, we can expect thousands of others to lose their jobs as well.

As of the debate and vote tonight, not one meaningful reform has been signed into law and put into motion. We, as a governing body owe it to the hard working taxpayers of Massachusetts to accomplish real reform first.

Monday, April 27, 2009

NECN Covers Republican Press Conference

NECN's Allison King was at the Republican press conference regarding the proposed sales tax increase earlier today.

Click here to see her story.

Republican Lawmakers on WBZ-TV

The press conference held today by Republican lawmakers was featured on WBZ-TV during the noon newscast.

Click here to see the story by WBZ's Sera Congi.

Majority Rejects Tax Free Revenue Initiative

The majority of House Democrats rejected a tax free revenue initiative today. The Republican Leadership Office filed an amendment that would have directed the Commissioner of Corrections to adopt policies and procedures establishing an optional maximum daily fee of $5 to be paid by inmates for room and board. The charge would have based on a sliding scale determined by the prisoner’s ability to pay.

The amendment had the potential to generate several million dollars annually without increasing taxes on Commonwealth residents. More than 40 Democrats voted with Republicans on this amendment.

House Republicans' Message Spreading Like Wildfire

The Boston Globe and Boston Herald just posted new articles to their respective websites regarding the House Republicans' press conference held earlier today. House Republicans are standing united against all proposed tax increases including the sales tax proposal.

Click here to read the article in the Globe.

And here to see the Herald article.

Governor Supports GOP Position

Today, the GOP caucus called on Governor Patrick to announce publicly that if a sales tax increase passes in the House, he will veto the bill, and that is exactly what the Governor has just done. Governor Patrick has just distributed a statement and below are a few excerpts from the letter.

"This afternoon, as the House considers its budget proposal for FY10, members will be asked to consider an increase in the sales tax. Without final and satisfactory action on the several reform proposals before you, I cannot support a sales tax increase and will veto it if it comes to my desk."

"Before we consider any broad-based tax increase, we must first regain the public's confidence in government's ability to steward public funds wisely. That's what our reform agenda is about. On that front, we have unfinished work."

Sound familiar? The Republican Caucus may be small in numbers, but today when it spoke, the Governor listened. We'll let you know if the Democratic-controlled House does the same.

House Republicans Hold Well-Attended Press Conference

House Republicans held an extremely well-attended press conference today outside of the House chamber. Every television station in Boston, the Boston Globe, Associated Press among other media outlets were all in attendance. Republican lawmakers were joined by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts and NFIB. The group said an increase in the sales tax would have a devastating effect on the state's economy and drive business to neighboring tax free states and the Internet.

Minority Whip Brad Hill, seen in the above picture, showed several photos of businesses in Ipswich that recently closed due to the economy. Hill said the state will see more businesses closing up and fleeing the state if a higher sales tax is imposed.

The Beacon Hill Institute estimates that an increased sales tax would cost the state more than 10,000 jobs and millions of dollars in investment.

Budget Debate Begins Today in the House

Dozens of revenue proposals are up for debate in the Massachusetts House of Representatives today. An increase to the state's sales tax appears to be the tax du jour for the Majority Party.

Check in throughout the day as we will be updating the blog often to keep you informed about the happenings in the House.

Click here to watch the debate live online.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Budget Season Round Four: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Since the economic downturn began, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Last month in Massachusetts alone, employers slashed more than 20,000 jobs. That statistic is daunting and yet a Democrat on Beacon Hill has filed an amendment that would lead to the loss of even more jobs in the struggling manufacturing industry. Representative Peter Kocot of Northampton has proposed removing the single sales tax factor apportionment for manufacturing companies like Raytheon. Currently, Raytheon among others, receive a certain set of tax incentives to help bring new business and keep old ones here in the Commonwealth. While small businesses are certainly a driving force behind Massachusetts’ economy, big manufacturing corporations bring a lot of jobs in to the state in one fell swoop. If the state fails to keep these vital tax incentives for manufacturers, we will lose major industries to nearby states that are willing to grant economic stimulators to large employers.

Massachusetts has been praised for pioneering a universal health care program. While it is important that every citizen has access to affordable health care, there are many areas for improvement in the state’s program that could save the Commonwealth millions of dollars every year. Today, 24% of MassHealth members are in the fee-for-service system, whereas 27% are in PCC (Primary Care Clinician) plans. Moving all of MassHealth members would save Massachusetts between $690 million and $1.05 billion over the next five years and would also result in better medical care for MassHealth members. Fifteen states have already ended their PCC program in order to have MCO plans and we hope making Massachusetts the sixteenth will lead to great cost savings while improving health care for thousands of Bay State residents.

Be sure to stay with all week as budget debate gets underway first thing on Monday. We'll have updates throughout the day on Monday as the House takes up dozens of tax and revenue proposals. You can also watch your Republican lawmakers debate on the House floor live right here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Budget Season Round Three: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Over the last two days, we’ve discussed two tax proposals up for debate next Monday, the income tax and the gas tax. The tax du jour however, is the sales tax, perhaps the tax that could have the most immediate and significant damaging effect on the state’s economy, small businesses and families alike.

According to a study recently released by the Beacon Hill Institute a Massachusetts sales tax hike would cost the state 10,000 jobs and more than $40 million in investment. The retail industry currently employs 18% of all workers in Massachusetts. During a bad economy, the last thing we want to do is put more people out of work. We also want to encourage new business to come to the Commonwealth, not dissuade them, which is exactly what a steep increase in the sales tax will most definitely do. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts recently announced that tax free reported an 18% increase in 2008 4th Quarter sales. Furthermore, the same company is expected to report a 15% increase in 2009 1st Quarter sales. Meantime, retailers in Massachusetts are seeing the polar opposite. Small businesses are laying off employees, reducing salaries and even worse closing their doors all together. If small businesses can adapt and adjust to a weakening economy, why can’t the state do the same thing? The Majority party needs to learn to live within its means, cut wasteful spending and tighten its belt. Consumer spending is at an all time low, and until it picks up, the economy will continue to struggle. Increasing the sales tax would be adding a roadblock on the road to economic recovery.

We are always talking about reducing waste and inefficiency in state spending, and we believe the medical waste proposal filed as an amendment to the budget can certainly do just that. The amendment we filed encourages medical facilities to return unused, unexpired medication. This proposal could save the Commonwealth at least $20 million annually, as nursing homes in Massachusetts alone are known to waste millions of dollars in unused prescriptions. This concept will lead to a decrease in overall health care costs in the state. It is important to think outside of the box and come up with innovative ideas that have the potential to lead to savings for the Commonwealth. Instituting a new tax or raising currents ones is the easy way out. However, coming with alternative ideas and solutions to the state’s problems that do not involve asking the taxpayer for more money shows the general public that you understand the hard times we’re all facing.

Check out www.thecapitolviewlive .com tomorrow as we discuss a Democrat proposal that would drive major manufacturers out of Massachusetts and a Republican amendment that will shift all MassHealth members to managed care plans which could save the Commonwealth up to $1 billion over five years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Assistant Minority Leader to Appear on Jordan Levy Show

Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson will be appearing on the Jordan Levy show at 3pm. The House Ways and Means budget, the various tax proposals and the state of the Commonwealth's economy will all be issues discussed today.

Click here to listen to the show live online.

Budget Season Round 2: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We’re kicking off round two with an issue that sparked our interest to launch last month’s Hardship Listening Tour, and that is the effort to increase the state’s gas tax. Beacon Hill has long been controlled by tax happy Democrats and here we are in the midst of a long and tough recession and they want to reach into your pocket once again. And for what? To continue pouring your hard earned money into a broken transportation system.

There has been much talk up here at the State House about increasing the gas tax and the legislator who proposed the idea during this budget season is Representative Kay Khan. The Newton Democrat wants to add a new outside section that requires the gasoline tax be no less than 29 cents more than the quarterly tax set for that date. Read that again, and you will see it says no less, which means at least 29 cents! So basically, this opens the door for an even higher gas tax. Increasing any kind of tax in this current economy should not even be an option. The House and Senate recently passed transportation reform bills. Both are now in conference committee and the final version will likely contain many positive reforms, some of which our caucus proposed. After a bill is signed into law, we should give those reforms an opportunity to succeed before telling the taxpayers we need more money. There are provisions in both bills that will likely save the Commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars. Let’s see those reforms enacted first.

Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day are often on the receiving end of much criticism and ridicule, and rightfully so. That is why our caucus is proposing doing away with the observation of these two “hack holidays.” While we understand this is not necessarily a big money saver, it will certainly go a long way in restoring the public’s confidence in its elected officials. Having Suffolk County offices open on these two days will provide greater efficiency and productivity as well. There have been several negative instances that have broken the public’s trust. Ethical improprieties, wasteful spending and continued occurrences of patronage have made it hard for Commonwealth citizens to believe their legislators are looking out for their best interests. We believe eliminating these two holidays will be a positive step in the right direction and hope to continue making strides to regain the public’s confidence.

Tomorrow on, a sales tax hike vs. an amendment to eliminate prescription drug waste.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Budget Season: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As you know, budget season is upon us and as we dive into the process, we are very quickly finding amendments filled with pet projects, pork and outrageous tax increase proposals. Over the next week or so, we will be highlighting various amendments we disagree with and explain alternative options we have filed. In round one of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” it is Income Tax Hike vs. Employee Furloughs.

The amendment to increase the state’s income tax was filed last week by Representative Matt Patrick. Patrick, a Falmouth Democrat is proposing raising the state’s income tax by 1% which would bring the tax to 6.3%. This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, back in 2000 Massachusetts residents went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted to roll back the income tax to 5%. The will of the voters was ignored then and is clearly being overlooked now with the filing of this amendment. Additionally, we are facing extremely difficult financial times, and taxpayers can truly not afford to pay any more taxes. It is incredibly audacious of supporters of this amendment to think that Bay State residents should continue to foot the bill for mismanaged programs and agencies. Leave the income tax rate where it is and cut the waste instead. Remember, this is just round one of revealing the tax happy ways of Beacon Hill Democrats. More tax increase proposals to come!

Now to the good! The Republican Leadership Office has filed an amendment that will save the Commonwealth millions of dollars. We are facing a fiscal emergency of a magnitude and scope not seen since the Great Depression. The declining economy, the current budget crisis requiring a reduction in funding to essential programs and services and the probability of future budget deficits are all contributing to this current situation. The amendment we filed requires furloughs of all state employees other than judges (who are encouraged to work 10 days without pay) and those subject to collective bargaining. The furloughs would be required as follows: for each employee whose annual compensation is less than $50,000, three days; for each employee whose annual compensation is $50,000 or greater but not more than $79,999, five days; for each employee whose annual compensation is $80,000 or greater but not more than $99,999, seven days; for each employee whose annual compensation is $100,000 or greater, nine days. Employees may choose to take unpaid days off, work and defer pay, or work and collect additional vacation days to be used no earlier than fiscal year 2011. The expression, “Do as I say, not as I do” is not going to cut it given the current state of our economy. It is imperative that the consequences of these financial conditions be mitigated as soon as possible through a shared burden and sacrifice.

Be sure to visit tomorrow as a massive gas tax increase goes head to head with repealing some well known “hack” holidays.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good Ideas Become Amendments

The House took up pension reform this week and GOP lawmakers were successful in getting several amendments adopted. One of the amendments came as a suggestion from Pepperell Town Treasurer Michael Hartnett.

Currently, law requires that all retirement systems in the Commonwealth be fully funded by 2028, which means that they have an unfunded liability of zero at that date. With the recent downturn in the economy and the steep fall in the value of many investment portfolios, the 2028 deadline may be difficult for many cities and towns to meet They will be forced to increase their allocation to their retirement funds at a time when many municipal budgets are strained. It was for this reason that the state system pushed its fully funded deadline from 2023 to 2025. Therefore, we felt it necessary to give municipalities the same leeway, and so this amendment pushes back the deadline to be fully funded from 2028 to 2030.

This is just one more effort to reduce the burden on already strained municipal budgets.

Forget Milk, We've Got Pork!

A bare bones House budget that accurately reflects the current economic situation, was released only a couple days ago. However, legislators are already rushing to file amendments to add hundreds of millions of dollars into the budget.

Click here to read today's Boston Herald article about the pork rush!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Amendment Materializes After Listening Tour

The Hardship Listening Tour was enlightening to say the least. Hundreds of Commonwealth citizens came out and voiced their concerns and had extremely useful suggestions and ideas.

In fact, an amendment being filed from the Republican Leadership Office materialized thanks to one of the tour participants. As you may know, military veterans can obtain specialty plates. The idea was devised so that the proceeds of the plate purchases can go to helping the Soldiers’ Homes. However, little does the public know that some of the proceeds have been recently funneled into the general fund, which is certainly not the intended destination.

Unfortunately, currently reservists are not allowed to get the special license plate if they have not served at least one day in wartime. So, the amendment being filed by the Minority Leader will strike the wartime language so reservists who want a license plate have access to that opportunity. Furthermore, the amendment will say that the proceeds cannot be used for allocation in the general fund and all money must go to its intended cause.

We have a great appreciation and respect for our state’s veterans as they sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom and liberties. The very least we can do is allow all veterans an opportunity to purchase a specialty plate. They’ve earned it!

If you have any legislative ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. We are always open for ideas and suggestions.

Jones Commends the Cutting of Commonwealth Corps Funding

House Minority Leader Brad Jones is today commending House Ways and Means Chairman Charley Murphy for cutting the line item for the Commonwealth Corps, a paid volunteer program.

For months, Republican lawmakers have been concerned about the Governor's priorities as he refused to reduce funding to this program. The state cannot afford to pay volunteers for community service when vital human services programs are being cut drastically.

According to, volunteer is defined as a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. So, the Commonwealth Corps program, while well intended is certainly not a priority.

Good for Charley Murphy for recognizing this, but why is the funding for the Governor's D.C. office still in the budget?

Minority Leader Appears on WCVB-TV

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on WCVB-TV last night. The House Ways and Means Committee released its budget yesterday on the same day that the Senate President said casinos will be up for debate this year.

Click here to see what Jones had to say.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

GOP Lawmakers Request Comprehensive Investigation

Republican Representatives Robert Hargraves (Groton) and Richard Ross (Wrentham) have requested that the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee launch a comprehensive investigation into the workings of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The request comes just days after massive traffic backups on the Turnpike, which the agency attributes to staffing issues.

“Cash strapped drivers are having a hard enough time as it is,” said Representative Hargraves, the Ranking Republican on the Post Audit and Oversight Committee. “They are being bombarded with increased toll and tax proposals and yet when they drive on the turnpike, any resemblance of efficiency is lacking.”

Given the public’s demand for fiscal responsibility by its government and the Legislature’s mission to be good stewards of the public trust, Representatives Hargraves and Ross say the investigation should look into all issues related to staffing and funding. Additionally, the two Republicans say all policies that may be impeding the smooth flow of traffic and compromising the safety and satisfaction of drivers who use the Massachusetts Turnpike should be included in the investigation.

“It is incredibly audacious that the Governor thinks the taxpayers should contribute one more of their hard earned dollars to a broken system that is no longer working,” said Representative Ross. “If this investigation is indeed launched, I believe we will see example after example of waste and inefficiency and will further support the need to dissolve the Turnpike sooner rather than later.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GOP Amendments Strengthen Pension Reform Bill

Amendments offered today by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and his Republican colleagues strengthened the pension reform bill that was taken up in the House today.

Representative Jones filed more than a dozen amendments and had half of them adopted. The following is a list of some of the amendments adopted:

1. Eliminate “23 and out.” MBTA employees can currently retire after working for 23 years, regardless of age. Under Jones’ amendment, workers must put in 25 years and must be 55 or older before retiring.

2. Calls for a defined contribution study. A special commission must study the costs, savings and benefits of moving new employees to a defined contributory retirement system, similar to a 401k.

3. Prohibit state contractors from simultaneously collecting a pension and paycheck from the state.

“No bill is ever perfect,” said Representative Jones. “However, with the adoption of several GOP amendments, the bill is stronger now than when we entered the chamber earlier this morning. Pension reform has long been the big elephant in the room and taking it on in the manner we did today is a major accomplishment. I am hopeful the final version will be as strong, if not stronger.”

Majority: Felons Deserve State Pensions

House Democrats once again rejected the opportunity to pass real reform during today’s pension debate. Republican lawmakers offered an amendment that would take away pension payments for those who have been convicted of a felony on or after the effective date of the legislation. During the debate one democratic lawmaker argued that if he made a mistake while perhaps in another state, he and his family shouldn’t be penalized! Since when is committing a felony a mistake? It is not only outrageous that this amendment was rejected, but incredibly hypocritical, considering it was a well known democrat who originally suggested the idea. Is it because it was offered by a republican that is was rejected? That is likely the case.

Apparently, real reform isn’t a priority of the Majority Party in the House. If it was, this amendment would have been unanimously adopted.

House Misses Out on Important Opportunity

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement today moments after the House rejected several amendments, including one that would put an end to outrageous pork barrel spending.

House Democrats missed out on several important opportunities today as we negotiated the rules for this year’s budget deliberations. I, along with my Republican colleagues proposed a whole host of amendments that would have made the budget process more responsible and transparent. However, the Majority Party neglected those ideas in an alarming and swift manner.

The House rejected several GOP amendments including; banning budget earmarks, requiring amendments to feature summaries and fiscal notes, banning the use of consolidated amendments and prohibiting amendments that increase revenue, either through taxes or fees. In a time where families are being forced to significantly cut their spending habits, I would expect that the Legislature would be cognizant of the situation the Commonwealth is in and get its house in order sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, the tax and spend mentality is alive and well on Beacon Hill and until there is more of a balance in both chambers, one party control will continue unchecked.

Watch the Pension Reform Debate Live

The Massachusetts House of Representatives is taking up a pension reform bill today. The debate is expected to begin around 11:00am. Republican lawmakers have filed a number of amendments that will make the bill stronger.

Click here to watch your Republicans in action.

Need Any More Evidence?

If you weren’t on the roads this Easter Sunday, consider yourself lucky, because there were massive backups all over the Turnpike. And according to Pike Chief Alan LeBovidge, the traffic jams were your fault! That’s right, LeBovidge said yesterday that drivers need to take more responsibility and get Fast Lane transponders. The Boston Herald reports that several Mass Pike toll takers called out sick on the holiday, therefore leaving only one working cash lane at one of the many busy plazas. Apparently, the Turnpike is not allowed to call in employees to work overtime when workers call in sick. As if last weekend’s situation wasn’t bad enough, LeBovidge told the Herald commuters can expect more of the same on Memorial Day weekend.

Just more evidence supporting why the Turnpike needs to be dissolved.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pension Reform Bill to be Debated Tomorrow

April is proving to be a busy month up here on Beacon Hill. The House has already taken up ethics and transportation bills, but tomorrow a pension reform bill will be debated on the House floor. The Republican Leadership Office plans to offer a number of amendments.

Here is a list of some of the amendments we will be offering and an explanation of what they do:

1. Takes away pension payments for those who have been convicted of a felony on or after the effective date of the legislation. The member loses his pension payments for the period of his incarceration and cannot at any time recover those lost payments.

2. Base pension payments upon the lifetime earnings of a member to ensure they receive a retirement allowance that is appropriate given their retirement contributions and service history. Currently, pension is based on a person’s highest three earning years. This amendment says the pension payments will be an average of the member’s salary history with the state.

3. Prevent individuals from receiving exorbitant retirement allowances, by prohibiting any retirement allowance from being more than four hundred percent of the average retirement allowance in the state. The average retirement allowance will be determined each year.

Be sure to visit to watch the House debate live.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

When Will it End?

Today's Boston Herald revealed what most of us already know. If you are a friend or supporter of Governor Patrick, chances are you have a high paying state job or are about to be tapped for one.

So the question is, when will it end? Families across the Commonwealth are facing tremendously tough times, they're cutting back on spending and being forced to significantly reduce their budgets. Why isn't our Governor doing the same thing? Candidate Patrick campaigned against "cronyism" on Beacon Hill and yet Governor Patrick seems to be handing out plum jobs left and right.

Click here to read yet another revealing article about the Patrick Administration.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pension Reform Needed Now

The House recently passed a transportation reform bill, but next week lawmakers will take on pension reform. As if we needed more proof that the pension system is inefficient and wasteful, an article in today's Boston Globe offered further support to that argument.

According to the Globe, "Four MBTA officials who retired under the agency's generous pension plan were then rehired under contracts to do their old jobs, earning large consulting checks even while they continued to receive their full pension payments, according to public records."

To add insult to injury, Massachusetts residents who depend on the MBTA for public transition found out today that service will be drastically cut due to a $160 million deficit.

Republican lawmakers will be offering a number of amendments to the bill next week. Be sure to check back on Tuesday to watch the House debate live right here.

Boston Herald Praises GOP Transportation Proposal

The editorial page of the Boston Herald today praised an amendment that was offered by the Republican Leadership Office during Tuesday's Transportation Reform debate. The proposal, which will pave the way to end the practice of paying MassHighway employees with borrowed money was adopted by the House unanimously. This amendment will transition employees' salaries from the capital budget to the operating budget and is projected to save the Commonwealth more than $500 million over the next 20 years.

Click here to read the full editorial in the Boston Herald.

Peterson: Major Reforms in House Transportation Bill

Assistant Minority Leader George N. Peterson, Jr. released the following statement in regard to the passing of the Transportation Reform bill.

The House took tremendous steps last night in reforming what has been a very inefficient transportation system. The Legislature is often criticized for being all talk and no action; however, nothing could be further from the truth in last night’s showing of true bipartisanship.

The bill passed last night will dissolve the Turnpike Authority, transfer MBTA employees over to the GIC for health care and eliminate the so called 23 and out rule that currently allows MBTA workers to retire with full pensions at a very young age. These reforms combined with a number of others is expected to save the Commonwealth anywhere between $2 and $4 billion over the next twenty years.

Additionally, I am very proud of one specific GOP amendment offered in the House last night that will allow the state to pay Mass Highway employees through the state’s operating budget. Currently, the salaries of those employees are paid using borrowed money, a practice that even the Governor has called a “budgeting gimmick.” This particular amendment will likely save Massachusetts upwards of $500 million.

There is a time and a place for partisan politics, and last night’s transportation debate was neither. I hope the efforts of the House will go a long way in restoring the public’s confidence in its elected officials.

Staff Profile: Melissa Cavanaugh, Legal Counsel

Melissa Cavanaugh, Minority Leader Brad Jones’ Legal Counsel has spent much of her adult life working at the State House. In fact, Cavanaugh began working in the Republican Leader’s office as an intern back in 2000. Intrigued by government and law, the North Andover native went on to attend law school at Suffolk University, where she graduated with a JD in 2006.

Cavanaugh’s experiences on Beacon Hill range from being an intern for now retired Representative Mary Rogeness to being an office assistant while attending law school full time. Now, the married attorney conducts legal research on various issues of concern to the Minority Leader and the caucus. When the House isn’t in session, you can find Melissa reading and analyzing pieces of legislation filed by other members. She offers a legal interpretation of the language to the Minority Leader and in some cases she throws in her own opinion on a particular issue. Additionally, Cavanaugh researches and drafts legislation in the areas of Public Safety, the Judiciary, and Ethics. Because of her legal expertise, she played a significant role during the Joint and House Rules Debate and Ethics Legislation. A jack of all trades, she also works with the Budget Director and Policy Analysts to analyze the state budget.

Cavanaugh says her father, who is a small business owner is the kind of person she thinks about when reflecting back to why she got involved in state government. She says she always noticed the impact of government, both good and bad, on the lives of hard-working citizens. Cavanaugh wanted to get involved to hopefully impact the lives of those hard-working citizens, like her dad, in a positive way. As far as her education is concerned, she went to law school because she felt that it would give her the tools necessary to help people in ways that they simply cannot help themselves.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Case You Missed It: Jones Appears on the Michael Graham Show

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on the Michael Graham show, just hours before the House took up a comprehensive transportation reform bill. An amendment offered to the bill quickly became a source of controversy yesterday as a Democratic representative made a proposal that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Click here to hear the discussion between Jones and Graham.

GOP Caucus Pleased Their Message of Reform Resonated in the House

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement today in response to the passing of the Transportation Reform bill:

While my Republican colleagues and I don’t necessarily always see eye to eye with our Democratic counterparts in the House on the role of government, we all agree that providing an efficient transportation system is not only a priority but a necessity. Today, our message of reform first resonated in the House and the proof is in the passing of this Transportation Reform Bill and the adoption of many GOP amendments.

Included in those adopted amendments is a proposal that would save the Commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years. The effort paves the way for the Commonwealth to pay Mass Highway employees through the state’s operating budget as opposed to the current practice of using borrowed money to fund salaries. The Transportation Finance Commission recently dubbed a very similar proposal as the second largest identified reform.

As these reforms are put into place, we hope that any further discussion of increasing revenue will be taken off the table, as we must give time for these changes to be implemented. The many problems facing the state’s transportation system did not happen overnight, and unfortunately, they will not disappear that quickly either. We must allow these reforms an opportunity to succeed. Today, Republicans and Democrats alike worked in a bipartisan manner to restore the public’s confidence in the Legislature’s ability to put the needs of its constituents before party politics.

The bill passed today by the House and the Senate’s bill passed last month will now go to conference committee. I hope the final version will maintain the tough language and comprehensive reforms proposed by both Chambers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Transportation Reform Bill Up for Debate in the House

The Transportation Reform bill is up for debate in the House today. GOP lawmakers have filed a number of amendments that will protect taxpayers and tollpayers. All together, 200 amendments were filed and the debate is expected to be thorough and comprehensive.

Click here to watch your Republicans in action.

Jones to Appear on Michael Graham Show

House Minority Leader Brad Jones will be appearing on the Michael Graham show this morning at approximately 11:10am.

Click here to listen to his appearance live on 96.9 WTKK.

GOP Lawmakers Looking Out for Taxpayers

The Massachusetts House of Represenatives will today debate a piece of legislation relative to transportation reform.

GOP lawmakers have filed a number of amendments that would protect Massachusetts taxpayers and their wallets specifically. However, Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) filed an amendment that would make it easier for illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses.

Click here to read what House Minority Leader Brad Jones had to say about the amendment.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hardship Listening Tour Still Making an Impact

The Hardship Listening Tour wrapped up last week and yet the GOP-sponsored tour is still making an impact.

Click here to read a new article from Nashoba Publishing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Boston Globe Questions Patrick's Actions

The backlash continues today over Governor Patrick's botched handling of the Senator Marian Walsh fiasco. The Boston Globe's Adrian Walker questions the Governor's actions, saying, "this fiasco was like Christmas for cynics."

Senator Walsh was originally offered a $175,000 a year salary for a position at HEFA that has been unfilled for more than 10 years. This decision was not received well by the public or the press. A week later, amid a storm of controversy, Walsh's salary was reduced to $120,000 a year. Still, the public outrage continued. So, needless to say Senator Walsh has decided to take her name out of the running, however the controversy seems to continue on.

Click here to read Walker's piece in today's Globe.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Transit Reforms Overdue

Assistant Minority Whip Elizabeth Poirier, Represenatives Jay Barrows and Richard Ross and Senator Scott Brown wrote a guest column, which was published in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle today.

Click here to read what the GOP lawmakers have to say about transit reform.