Tuesday, June 30, 2009

GOP Leaders: Patrick Just Doesn't Get It

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei issued the following statement in reaction to various components in Governor Patrick’s recently filed supplemental budget.

The ink isn’t even dry on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, and already Governor Patrick is proving once again that not only are his priorities incredibly misplaced, but his words don’t match his actions.

Families and businesses across the Commonwealth are struggling, teachers and police are facing layoffs, but don’t worry, the Governor plans to restore funding to his Washington, D.C. office. In addition to wasting $400,000 of taxpayer money on this luxury, Governor Patrick also plans to renew a controversial tax credit that is used as an incentive to attract Hollywood filmmakers. This is just another example in the laundry list of misplaced priorities in the Governor’s agenda. He has no problem signing a dramatic 25% increase to the state’s sales tax which will not only harm hardworking families, but will also drive businesses out of the Commonwealth at the cost of thousands of jobs.

And just to add insult to injury, Governor Patrick has hinted that a gas tax may be “necessary” to continue funding essential services to the Bay State’s residents. The Republican Caucus offered hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings this budget season, most of which were rejected by our Democratic colleagues. We will not allow the public to be fooled by all of the reform talk coming out of the corner office. Yes, some reforms have been accomplished, but we still have a long way to go.

Governor Says No to 2009 Sales Tax Holiday

Yesterday, Governor Patrick signed the FY10 budget, which was jam packed with new tax increases, including a whopping 25% sales tax hike. While addressing the media, Governor Patrick was asked if struggling Bay State residents should expect a sales tax holiday this year. The Governor said a 2009 sales tax holiday is not likely this year given the current economic times.

This is where Republican lawmakers sharply differ from the Governor and the tax happy Democratic-controlled Legislature. While they see the sales tax holiday as missed revenue for the Commonwealth, we see it as much needed relief for financially tapped taxpayers. Last year, taxpayers saved $16 million over a two day period as thousands packed the malls and local shops looking to save a few dollars. Not only did our hard working families keep a few extra bucks in their pockets, but businesses benefited greatly as the sales tax holiday often takes place during the lull in summer business.

The sales tax holiday is something our state’s residents have grown to depend on and this year, the Republican Caucus is trying something a little different. We have filed a bill that would provide a sales tax holiday on energy efficient appliances. There are real benefits to owning energy efficient appliances; however, until recently the cost has dissuaded people from purchasing them. By providing a sales tax holiday on these items, not only are we taking positive steps to protect the environment, but we are also helping consumers save money in the long run.

After the sales tax increase goes into effect, local businesses will suffer as consumers head north to New Hampshire or even make a “B line” to the tax free internet. We are discouraging the spirit of entrepreneurialism here in the Bay State by making it almost impossible for new businesses to flourish and current ones to stay afloat. A sales tax holiday on energy efficient appliances would provide just a small glimmer of relief for struggling families and businesses in a state that has become incredibly unwelcoming to businesses and difficult to live in for families.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jones Appears on NECN's "Weekly News Quiz"

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on NECN's "Weekly News Quiz" on Friday and held his own against Senator Anthony Gallucio (D-Cambridge) and Tarah Donoghue, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Republican Party.

Click here to see which political figure pulls off the win!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Governor Patrick: Against the Sales Tax, Before He Was For It

Well, the Legislature has passed what have been dubbed as three sweeping reform bills. Therefore, apparently Governor Patrick, who was against a sales tax hike, is now not only for it, but will sign the FY10 budget containing it and several other tax increases very soon.

Governor Patrick appeared on Fox 25 this morning, saying the Legislature had held up its end of the bargain, passing the various reform bills, and now it was his turn to return the favor. Well, we say shame on you Governor. In April, Patrick said he was against a broad based tax increase, especially the sales tax, because of how regressive it is and because it will have the most negative impact on the most vulnerable. Well, either the sales tax became a genius idea overnight, or the Governor simply does not have the courage to veto the sales tax and send the budget back to the Legislature.

For a moment, lets talk taxes. The FY10 budget contains a dramatic 25% increase to the sales tax, a satellite tax, a lift on the exemption of the sales tax on alcohol, a local meals and lodging tax option among others. Our economy is the worst it has been since the Great Depression and if the tax happy Democrats think the solution to our financial problems is reaching into the taxpayers pockets and take what little change they have left, they are sadly mistaken. Innovation and technology got our country out of the Great Depression, not regressive taxation on our citizens.

Governor Patrick, in an effort to make one final plea, veto the sales tax and send it back to the Legislature. The Republican Caucus has already offered hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, lets start there instead of raising the sales tax to 6.25%. The people of the Commonwealth deserve leadership and while you may not want to show any, we certainly do!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two Party System Needed to Address Bigger Picture

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement today in response to the Legislature passing the Ethics Reform Bill.

The Ethics Reform Bill passed today in the Legislature takes many positive steps, while closing various loopholes and forcing greater transparency within state government. However, there is a greater underlying issue that no rules or regulations can address and that is the extraordinary need for the restoration of a two party system here in Massachusetts.

The Democrats in Massachusetts have proven that they are unable of running state government efficiently and responsibly. There have been far too many instances of corruption, abuse of power and scandal. Additionally, the members of the House have been too comfortable forfeiting their power to the Speaker and that practice needs to come to an end in order to restore any kind of resemblance of checks and balances.

There is much to be proud of in the passing of today’s bill, but by no means will this bill prevent all further abuses in the future. However, the Republican Caucus, who behaved in a bipartisan manner to address what has become a partisan problem, contributed many important components to this bill.

Items from the Republican agenda included in this bill are:

1. Require committees, groups or individuals to immediately report all late expenditures that exceed $250.

2. Individuals to report bribes, corrupt gifts and monies gained from illegal activities for state income tax purposes.

3. Candidates are prohibited from using campaign funds for the payment of fines, penalties, restitution or damages incurred for violations of conflict of interest law.

4. Requires the disclosure of late contributions of $500 or more between 18 days before the election but more than 72 hours before the election, within 72 hours of depositing such contribution,

5. Candidates who have been nominated by the Governor for the Governor’s Council must dissolve their candidate committee and disperse all related funds within 6 months.

Ethics Bill is Some Progress, but Culture Remains...

Representative Jeffrey Davis Perry (R-Sandwich) voted in favor of the so called Ethics’ Reform Bill today in the House of Representatives. “There are many good and strong components of the Bill which I support; however, if anyone believes this Bill will change the Culture on Beacon Hill, I believe they are mistaken. The problem remains not one of laws on the books, but of a political culture of backroom deals and one party control.”

Perry was also extremely disappointed with the process of drafting the Ethics Bill. “Procedurally concerning to me is that this Bill was basically configured in the backrooms of Beacon Hill. Even members of the Conference Committee lacked a meaningful opportunity to provide input in the later stages of negotiation. This is wrong and in the context of an ethics bill, seems a bit ironic” said Perry.

Perry added, “Having expressed my disappointment with the process, the Bill does provide some significant improvements which are a good step towards institutional reform. Following is a summary of the key provisions:

• The Ethics Commission will continue to conduct adjudicatory proceedings with increased tools to investigate possible violations.

• A provision providing a statewide grand jury with jurisdiction throughout Massachusetts (includes and sunsets on December 31, 2014).

• Includes a provision banning all gifts from lobbyists.

• Provides the Attorney General with authority over education, training, and enforcement of the Open Meeting Law for state, local and regional authorities.

• Defines incidental lobbying (for both executive and legislative agents) as lobbying for not more than 25 hours during any reporting period and compensation of less than $2,500 during a reporting period.

• Substantially adopts the definitions of executive and legislative lobbying which includes any act to promote or oppose as well as any act to influence or attempt to influence.

• Requires the Secretary of State to automatically disqualify an individual convicted of a felony of ethics, lobbying, or campaign finance laws from registering as a lobbyist for 10 years from the date of conviction.

• Prohibits the use of campaign funds for the payment of fines, penalties, restitution or damages for ethics violations.

• Requires individuals confirmed by the Governor’s Council to disperse campaign accounts within 6 months from the date of confirmation.

• Requires monies gained through bribes and illegal activities to be reported as income for tax purposes.

• Codifies the crime of obstruction of justice and institutes penalties of up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison (2 ½ HOC) if the proceeding involves a civil case, and penalties of up to $25,000 and 10 years in prison (2 ½ HOC) if the proceeding involves a criminal case.

• Increases the maximum criminal penalty of $5,000 and 3 years in prison for giving or receiving a bribe to influence an official act, to a fine of up to $100,000 or up to 10 years in prison (2 ½ HOC) or both.

• Increases the maximum criminal penalty for violating lobbying laws from $100 to $5,000, to a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 5 years in prison (2 ½ HOC) or both.

• Increases penalties for late reporting by lobbyists to $50 per day late up to the 20th day and $100 per day late thereafter until filing.

• Increases the penalties for late filed campaign finance reports from $10 per day to a maximum of $2,500 total, to a fine of $25 per day and a maximum of $5,000.

• Increases the penalties against state employees from up to $3,000 and 2 years in prison, to a penalty up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison (2 ½ HOC) for receiving compensation for state action, violating the revolving door laws, participation in a matter in which an employee has a financial interest and participation in a matter in which an employee has a financial interest in the contract of a state agency.

• Civil penalties for conflict of interest law and financial disclosure law violations are increased from a maximum of $2,000 per violation to a maximum penalty of $10,000 per violation. The civil penalty for bribery is increased to $25,000.

Perry was selected to serve on the Conference Committee on the pending Ethics Reform Bill. Perry was among three members from the House of Representatives and three Senate members to serve on this Conference Committee. These Legislators were charged with ironing out the differences between the different reform bills. In addition to this appointment, Perry also serves as the Ranking Member on the House Ethics Committee.

Another Process Concluded Behind Closed Doors

Representative Jeffrey Davis Perry (R-Sandwich) is extremely disappointed with the process of drafting the Ethics Bill which was just released. Perry was selected to serve on the Conference Committee on the pending Ethics Reform Bill. Perry was among three members from the House of Representatives and three Senate members to serve on this Conference Committee which is charged with ironing out the differences between the different reform bills. In addition to this appointment, Perry also serves as the Ranking Member on the House Ethics Committee.

“With all the ethical scandals involving elected officials on Beacon Hill, citizens have lost a great deal of trust and confidence in their government. I viewed my role in this Conference Committee as making certain that any approved Bill has real and meaningful reforms. Disappointingly for the last nine days, there has been zero opportunity to meaningful participate in the development of the Bill.” said Representative Perry from the State House.

Perry added, “As a Republican Legislator in Massachusetts, many times my point of view does not prevail. I will review the Bill this evening and make my decision whether or not I can support the Bill. I will only support the Bill if it offers meaningful reform. Equally concerning than the substance of the proposal, which I was not allowed to review before the press conference, is the process which the Bill was developed.”

The culture of Beacon Hill politics, even when developing an Ethics Bill, remains one of backroom deals where only a couple members of one political party have a say” said Perry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Playing Politics with Commonwealth’s Well Being

The Governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature appear to be playing a game of chicken at the expense of Massachusetts’ taxpayers. The Governor made a public threat, albeit after the budget vote had already been taken, to the Legislature on Friday saying he would veto the sales tax if he doesn’t receive a comprehensive ethics reform bill. It’s business as usual on Beacon Hill as the tax happy, big spending Democrats continue to play politics with the Commonwealth’s well-being.

The Boston Globe’s Scott Lehigh today asked the rhetorical question, “Who is bluffing?” Will the Governor veto the sales tax forcing the Legislature to override it, or will he go along with the regressive and devastating 25% tax hike? The answer to that question remains to be unseen. Governor Patrick has been called “Governor Irrelevant” in recent days and quite frankly as far as his leadership goes, he’s been two steps behind throughout his entire administration. While we are disappointed in the Governor’s actions or lack thereof, we hope he does what is best for the taxpayers and vetoes the sales tax. If he doesn’t, at least he can say he and his Democratic colleagues stimulated the New Hampshire economy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Republicans Reject Reckless Budget

House and Senate Republicans yesterday rejected a reckless budget, saying the FY10 budget is light on reform and heavy on taxes.

Representatives Jay Barrows and Brad Jones appeared in Fox 25's Politcal Editor Joe Battenfeld's piece last night. Click here to watch his coverage of the passing of the budget.

Friday, June 19, 2009

GOP leaders’ statement on Fiscal Year 2010 state budget

BOSTON – Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei and House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement today regarding the enactment of the Fiscal Year 2010 state budget by the Legislature:

As everyone knows, the state has been on a major spending spree for the past three years. It’s unfortunate that it took a global economic crisis to finally force us to put the brakes on spending. However, even with the bare bones budget that emerged from Conference Committee today, we’re still nowhere close to being out of the woods and can expect that our fiscal difficulties will continue for the foreseeable future.

This budget is balanced on a hope and a prayer. In addition to cuts in many vital programs and services, the budget relies on a massive infusion of federal stimulus money, a substantial withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund, and more than $1 billion in new taxes and fees. Essentially, we are relying on a series of one-time revenues and an increased burden on the state’s taxpayers to balance the budget in the midst of one of the worst recessions ever. This virtually guarantees we will be carrying a huge structural deficit forward and that will make it even more difficult to balance the budget next year.

What’s really disappointing is that the few reform measures the House and Senate included in their budgets were either watered down or omitted entirely from the final budget. Two days ago, we had pension reform. Yesterday, we had transportation reform. Next week, we’ll be doing ethics reform. But when it comes to the budget, we seem to have gone from “reform before revenues” to “revenues without reforms”.

When all is said and done, we haven’t really solved our budget problems. Instead, we’ve just pushed off many of the tough decisions for another day.

Republican Initiative Generates Millions for Commonwealth

The results of a GOP–sponsored tax amnesty plan targeting the state’s tax scofflaws were announced today. Republican lawmakers helped launch the program this year that allowed delinquent taxpayers to voluntarily pay off their back taxes by waiving penalties as an incentive.

The program began on March 1st and ended April 30th, generating an estimated $32 million.

“This program, which has been done in previous years, is a great way to generate revenue without asking the already tapped taxpayers to pay more,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. “By waiving the penalties, we are incentivizing those who have neglected to pay taxes to come forward and repay their debt to society. It really is a win-win situation.”

“I’m very pleased with the results of the latest tax amnesty program,” said Senator Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei. “This just goes to show that there are other ways for the state to generate revenues without having to resort to raising taxes. It’s unfortunate that the Patrick Administration limited who could take advantage of the amnesty program because the state could have realized a much larger windfall.”

According to the Department of Revenue, the collections brought in surpassed their initial estimate by more than $10 million. More than 160,000 people were notified about the amnesty program. Balances had to be paid in full in order to have penalties waived.

Transportation Overhaul Well Received

Last night, the Legislature enacted a comprehensive transportation reform bill. While we acknowledge there is still a long road ahead and the success will be determined by the implementation, we are proud that a significant step has been taken in the right direction. The Boston Globe editorial page has had reservations in the past about the Legislature’s ability to truly reform the broken transportation system says the bill passed last night would “simplify a Byzantine bureaucracy while fixing some of the worst inefficiencies in the system.”

According to an editorial in today’s Boston Herald, “The Legislature deserves credit for delivering a transportation reform bill. Now it’s up to it and to the Patrick administration to ensure that they deliver true transportation reform.” This statement could not be any more accurate. While this bill is indeed strong, it is ultimately up to Governor Patrick and his administration to effectively implement its contents.

The bureaucracy of the transportation system has long been its downfall, but with the steps taken last night, we expect to see vast improvement to the system as well as significant long term cost savings.

Click here to read the Globe editorial and here for the piece in the Herald.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

GOP Leaders: Reform Resonates in the Legislature

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei released the following statement today just moments after the Legislature voted to enact the transportation reform bill.

Today, the Republican message of reform resonated in the House and Senate as both branches of the Legislature voted to enact a comprehensive and meaningful transportation reform bill. While this bill, like many others, is not perfect, we believe it will lay the groundwork for not only cost savings and efficiencies but for future progress as well.

For years, Republican lawmakers in Massachusetts have been fighting for a complete overhaul of the state’s transportation system and our ideas have long been rejected for political reasons. Today, after a tough fight and a long process, our efforts have come to fruition as this bill will among many other things, abolish the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, end the short-sighted practice of using bond money to pay employees and require life-cycle costs to be certified before new projects are started as well as for additional reviews for those projects over $200 million.

We are happy that our Democratic counterparts decided to join us in an effort for more transparent and efficient state government. Furthermore, we are pleased the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and the former Chairman of the Transportation Finance Commission support this bill. There is still a lot of work to be done in the days and weeks ahead and ultimately the success of this bill will depend heavily on the implementation of its policies by the Patrick Administration.

U.S. Needs More Leaders Like Reagan

Representative Jeff Perry recently had the following column published in the Cape Cod Times.

In Sunday’s “Viewpoints” cover story, the Cape Cod Times provided Richard Rubino of Marblehead with a great deal of ink attacking President Ronald Reagan’s conservative credentials. While I first laughed at the liberal “spin” Mr. Rubino put on his comments and dismissed it as partisan rhetoric, after second thought, I realized I needed to respond as many people unfamiliar with the legacy of Ronald Reagan might accept his mischaracterizations as true.

The major point that the author totally misses as to why conservatives and Republicans adore Ronald Reagan is not any single issue. It was Reagan’s honesty and leadership that caused the blue state of Massachusetts to vote for him twice. There has never been a political leader that we all agree with on every issue. Mr. Rubino’s careful selection of less than conservative actions ignore the character of the man, his successes and impact he has had on his Party and his Nation.

In Reagan’s eight years in office he increased defense spending by thirty-five percent, while improving relations with the Soviet Union. In dramatic and historic meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the two super-power leaders negotiated a treaty that would ultimately eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Reagan’s personal relationship with Gorbachev proved to be invaluable to averting a confrontation between these two nuclear powers.

On the home front, Reagan was equally impressive with sweeping reforms to social entitlements, including reductions in welfare spending. This not only ended the vicious cycle of racial and cultural dependence on government, but it also helped fund the tax cuts Reagan was able to push through Congress. Reagan’s economic policies became known as “Reaganomics” or “trickle down economics.” History has proven his policies were successful at creating an economic environment which led to much of America’s prosperity well after Ronald Reagan departed the White House.

When President Ronald Reagan left office he had successfully reinvigorated the American people and changed the mindset that government was the default answer to many of our problems. Without a doubt, Reagan had fulfilled his campaign pledge of 1980 to restore "the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism." After eight years of Ronald Reagan in the White House, the Republican Party was once again the political party of the common man and the party that motivated Americans to believe in a positive future of our nation. Reagan inspired countless numbers of future Republicans, including yours truly to become politically active. His legacy is one which will live forever in our history by the way he conducted himself as President and the principles for which he stood without any reservations or apologies.

Without Ronald Reagan winning the 1980 election, the Republican Party, and in fact this Country, would not be as strong, prosperous or as proud as we are today. History has deservedly been good to Ronald Reagan. In most polls concerning who people believe has been our greatest President, Ronald Wilson Reagan is always first or second.

Certainly not a perfect President, but this Reagan follower wished we had more leaders like Ronald Reagan. Contrary to Mr. Rubino’s opinion, the Republican Party should look to the fundamental principles of the great people who established the Republican Party and have fostered its principles, people such as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and yes, Ronald Reagan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vanity Costs Money, Governor!

Governor Patrick has reversed a slew of policies put into place by the Romney Administration during his time in the corner office, and today our cash-strapped state got another slap in the face, literally! Big and costly highways signs can now be seen with a new feature, Governor Patrick’s name. Now, we know we are coming up to an election year, but given the current fiscal situation, is it really wise for the Governor to be spending precious taxpayer money on self promoting signage. Probably not.

And just to add insult to injury, the Patrick Administration is also wasting thousands of dollars in federal stimulus funds on signs to let motorists know which projects are funded by the federal stimulus money. Wasteful and inefficient to say the least. The Commonwealth deserves better.

In Case You Missed It: Jones Appears on Fox 25 Morning News

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on Fox 25's morning show today, where he and VB discussed the controversial paid holidays for state employees on Bunker Hill Day.

Click here to watch the full segment.

Mutually Exclusive Boston Holidays by Representative Paul Frost

Recently the House Republicans along with their State Senate GOP counterparts made a push do away with two Boston area holidays that close down state offices and buildings. The measure in the House of Representatives was defeated on a 78 to 78 tie. The House and Senate Republicans have now filed a bill together calling for the same thing.

The holidays are Evacuation Day (March 17) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17). These are only celebrated in Suffolk County. All state and municipal government buildings are closed on these days. However in the rest of Massachusetts all state and municipal governments are open for business.

There are many arguments for not doing away with these holidays for only Suffolk County. The supporters point to the historical relevance of these days as a reason to keep them and celebrate them. They point to schools being closed and students using the day to learn more about their American heritage. And of course they claim it is good for travel and tourism to the area. These arguments to some degree I can agree with. However, I still believe this is all possible without closing down state buildings and offices on those days.

Other supporters of keeping these Boston area only holidays make outrageous claims that Christmas, Thanksgiving or Veterans Day could be next if these are done away with. Of course all of those holidays are celebrated statewide and nationally where as Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day are only celebrated in Suffolk County.

Not only does the rest of Massachusetts not celebrate this holiday but these county holidays are also extremely rare nationally. In fact, only one other state, Alabama, has a so called county holiday that the rest of the state doesn't observe.

For me this is also an issue about fairness. Certainly we should do whatever we can to promote Massachusetts, our culture and history. But these days are not celebrated in other parts of our Commonwealth. In fact most people who are aware of these important events wouldn’t even know what dates they actually fall if they live outside the greater Boston area. They are commonly surprised to learn of these Boston only holidays and that state offices and buildings are closed in this region only.

The Colonist forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill and the events which lead to the British leaving Boston forever were not made up of just Boston area residents. The call to arms was answered by folks from all over the Bay Colony, New England and throughout the colonies as a whole. People from Central and Western Mass were there. People from Southern and Northeastern Mass were there. Despite these historical facts, only the Boston area shuts down for these two days.

The time has come that the Boston area state offices should be open no differently than state offices in other parts of the state. If the municipal governments want to close their offices and schools on these days for ceremonies and recognition then they should do so on their own. There is no reason for the state offices to be closed too.

Promoting the days to tourists is something we should do more of and I’m sure state offices do not need to be closed for that to happen. I would also say, those who support keeping them as is should do a better job of promoting these days to those who live in our state but do so outside Boston. The bottom line is there is no good reason these holidays should be mutual exclusive to just state offices in the Boston area.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Under the Dome: A Step in the Right Direction

House Minority Leader Brad Jones recently released this column as his latest edition of Under the Dome.

The Legislature set forth an ambitious agenda this session, tackling ethics, pension and transportation reform. This week, the Legislature took a positive step in the right direction, albeit a long overdue step. For years, Massachusetts residents have been bombarded with newspaper headlines about exorbitant pensions, taxpayer-funded perks and major abuse of the state’s retirement system. This month, the Legislature made a down payment on pension reform, but there is still much work to be done.

Pension reform is a complex issue and a daunting task that cannot and will not be accomplished over night. With that being said, there are several components of the pension reform bill that are positive. For example, this bill redefines regular compensation. Compensation will no longer include bonuses, car and housing allowances, unused sick time and vacation time, office stipends or per diem allowances. Instead, compensation will be defined as the base salary paid directly to that employee for employment. Also included in compensation will be monies paid as educational incentives, length of service, premiums paid for shift differentials, cost of living adjustments and any other compensation included in an individual’s contract or collective bargaining agreement. The most well known example of the definition of compensation being abused is the pension of former State Senator William Bulger. He saw a significant boost in pension because his housing allowance was included in his compensation and now receives an annual pension of $196,000, one of highest state pensions in Massachusetts.

Another highlight from the bill is the elimination of what is known as the one day, one year rule. Currently, this rule allows elected officials to serve one day in a calendar year and gain a full year of creditable service to be put toward his or her pension. On a similar note, this bill also does away with the so-called “king for a day” rule, which only applies to some employees. Under current law, if an eligible employee is injured on the job while filling in for a higher earning position, the state allows for increased benefits for those who go out on accidental disability retirement. In the bill the Legislature passed however, that person’s retirement will instead be based on the average salary for the 12 months preceding the injury.

Keep in mind, this is a very detailed bill and in an effort to call attention to the most significant changes, I am leaving many other components out. I do want to mention one other issue though and that is regarding the Section 10 pensions. These pensions have been used in the past by lawmakers who are not re-elected or are not re-nominated. It allows those people to begin collecting their pensions before the age of 55. According to a report by the Boston Globe state officials now collecting their pensions under the law could pocket up to $3 million over their lifetime.

While the bill that passed the Legislature addresses the biggest abuses from a front page perspective, from a financial angle, much remains to be considered. A commission is up and running with a September 1st reporting deadline on some aspects of the system that could mean millions of dollars in savings.

The first is employee classification. Currently, there are four groups in the state’s retirement system. Depending upon the type of job a person holds, he or she could retire as early as 45 and receive the same retirement benefits as someone who retires at the age of 55. This allows for tremendous confusion and grey areas within the state’s system as employees and employee groups seek to be moved to higher classification groups. We need to do away with this practice and make the whole system more understandable by implementing better standards relative to classification.

Another issue is instituting a defined contribution system, similar to a 401k in the private sector. Unfortunately, pensions don’t always reflect how much an employee has contributed into the pension system. For example, some employees receive less in pension benefits than they actually paid into the system, whereas others get far more than they ever contributed. The pension system wouldn’t be in such a dire situation if employees simply received back what they contributed. Not only is a defined contribution system easier to regulate, but ultimately it is the most fair approach for employees and taxpayers.

There is one other grey area in the pension system that deserves attention. Currently, a person’s pension is based on their three highest earning years. For example, if a person works in a municipal or state position for 16 years at an annual rate of $30,000 and is then elected to the State Senate, where he or she earns $60,000 for the four years in office, that person’s pension will be based upon the three highest earning years. I would instead like to see pension payments based upon a longer look at earnings to ensure they receive a retirement allowance that is appropriate given their retirement contributions and service history.

As I said before, this is just a small step. The Legislature still has a long way to go before the state’s pension system is completely overhauled. However, if we are able to build upon the small successes achieved in the current bill, I have no doubt we will be able accomplish meaningful and comprehensive reform.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Republican Lawmakers Participate in Young Republican Convention

A handful of House Republicans participated in the Massachusetts Federation of Young Republicans convention this past weekend. Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson, Minority Whip Brad Hill and Representatives Jeff Perry and Karyn Polito all spoke to the group of Young Republicans on a variety of issues.

Representatives Peterson and Hill discussed what is going on legislatively on Beacon Hill while Representatives Perry and Polito focused on how using various new media resources such as You Tube and the web, have helped them improve upon their constituent outreach.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Majority Party Talks About Reform, But Doesn't Act

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement after the Democratically-controlled House overwhelmingly rejected an effort to suspend the state’s prevailing wage during projects funded by federals stimulus money.

Today, my colleagues and I laid out a cost savings measure that would have allowed the state of Massachusetts to get more bang for its buck as the Commonwealth prepares to launch several federally funded projects. Our effort did not even garner one Democrat’s support and unfortunately we were unable to have a meaningful debate on the matter and thus no roll call vote was taken.

Prevailing wage tends to be a hot button issue on Beacon Hill. Our amendment would have allowed the state and companies to pay employees the federal prevailing wage rate which is significantly lower than the state’s. The fact that not one Democrat stood up in support of allowing a vote proves that the Majority Party is only in favor of reform when it is convenient for its members.

A real opportunity was missed today and now the state runs the risk of wasting limited resources. Reducing the prevailing wage would have allowed the state to hire more workers and get people back into a job market that is depressing to say the least. I am disappointed and dismayed by the continuous rejection of meaningful reform on Beacon Hill. I am now calling on Governor Patrick to support this proposal and join us in making sure the stimulus funds are used in the most responsible and efficient manner possible.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jones: Long Overdue Step in the Right Direction

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement in response to the pension reform bill that was reported out of conference committee today.

This is a good first step in the right direction, albeit a long overdue first step. My caucus and I are pleased to see so many of our proposals and initiatives have been included in the final version of the bill including the removal of Section 10 pensions for elected officials who are not re-nominated or re-elected as well as the elimination of the wasteful one day, one year rule.

I am cautiously optimistic that the contents of this bill will go a long way in restoring the public’s trust in its elected officials. No one ever said creating and implementing meaningful reforms would be an easy job. It has been, and will continue to be a tough process and the Republican Caucus is eager to see its efforts come to fruition.

Climate Ripe to Elect More Republicans

Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh today recognized that the current political climate is ripe for electing more Republicans. In fact, Lehigh appears to be advocating for the restoration of two party government in the state of Massachusetts.

There has been corruption, scandal and frequent abuse of power on Beacon Hill as the Democratic Party controls not only the Legislative branch, but the Executive branch as well. People across the state and more and more editorial pages are delivering our message daily and that is we need more Republicans on Beacon Hill to provide a greater check and balance.

Click here to read the column.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In Case You Missed It: Jones Appears on NECN

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on Broadside with Jim Braude last night to discuss among other things, ethics.

In case you missed it, click here to watch the full segment.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ethics Debate Continues

It appears more and more people are catching on to the idea that the debate surrounding ethics reform is a complex issue and one that requires significant commitment.

Over the weekend, the Metrowest Daily News published an editorial that listed a number of ideas the paper would like to see implemented. Many of those proposals have already been suggested by the Republican Caucus. You may remember we filed a bill calling for the creation of an independent commission to redraw legislative districts for members of Congress, the Legislature and the Governor’s Council. That idea was overwhelmingly rejected at the time, but the Metrowest Daily News is now proposing the same idea.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Friday, June 5, 2009

65th Anniversary of D-Day

Tomorrow is the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. We wanted to take a minute to remember all of the brave members of the various military branches who on this day 65 years ago landed on the beaches of Normandy, France.

The military engagement that followed has long been considered the turning point of World War II in the European theater. Troops left France and continued on through Europe right into Germany. Our military liberated millions while toppling the Nazi troops. There are more veterans of the historic D-Day invasion than any other engagement in WWII.

We should always honor the men and women who fight to protect our freedoms, but tomorrow we must all remember those who fought and sacrificed their lives on June 6, 1944.

Republicans Talk Ethics

In the wake of the indictment of former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi, Republican lawmakers are talking about Beacon Hill ethics.

Many have suggested that the recent events surrounding the DiMasi solidifies the need for ethics reform. We however, believe that these violations are a byproduct of one party government and the power the Democratic membership defers to the Speaker.

Click here to read an article from yesterday's Telegram & Gazette examining that argument.

In Case You Missed It: Jones on Howie Carr

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on the Howie Carr Show yesterday on WRKO. The two discussed the recent effort by Jones and House Republicans to do away with paid holidays for state and municipal personnel on Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day in Suffolk County.

In case you missed it, click here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Republican Push for Better Government Denied

A Republican push for better government was narrowly rejected during today’s supplemental budget debate that ended with a surprising twist. House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. offered an amendment to repeal the paid holidays for state and municipal personnel in Suffolk County, but was unsuccessful in that attempt as the vote ended in a rarely seen tie.

“The public is going to continue to believe that Beacon Hill just doesn’t get it,” said Representative Jones. “This effort is about restoring the public’s trust whose confidence in its elected officials has been broken.”

The proposal is relative to the state paid holidays of Evacuation Day (March 17) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17). The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation recently released a study claiming it costs the state $5 million to pay public employees on each day off.

“This is not a big cost savings initiative, it is an effort to make government run more efficiently and to the benefit of the taxpayers,” added the Minority Leader.

The House rejected the amendment after a 78-78 vote. A majority in the affirmative is required to adopt an amendment.

“The idea is obviously picking up steam or else our caucus wouldn’t have garnered the support we received tonight. We will continue to push good public policy ideas and transparency and hope that more members will join us in our effort to make government run more effectively.”

Absolute Power Can Absolutely Lead to Corruption

Massachusetts is facing dire economic times, however, due to the many distractions on Beacon Hill, attention has been focused elsewhere. The indictment of Former Speaker Sal DiMasi is not only a distraction that we don’t need right now, but it also solidifies the need to break up the one party government system here in Massachusetts.

Since 1996, three Democratic Speakers resigned under a wave of illegal and unethical allegations. In baseball, three strikes and you’re out and it should be no different in politics. The Democrats in Massachusetts have proven that they are unable of running state government efficiently. There have been far too many instances of corruption, abuse of power and scandal. The members of the House have been too comfortable forfeiting their power to the speaker and that practice needs to come to an end in order to restore any kind of resemblance of checks and balances.

Full debate must occur on any given issue when it comes to the House floor for debate. Instead, most decisions are pre-determined and while we certainly bring the fight to the floor, most of the time we already know how the vote will turn out.

The voters need to hold their elected officials accountable and demand better from their representatives and senators. It is the only way to restore two party government in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One Party Government Responsible for Abuse of Power, Corruption

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement today in reaction to the announcement of the indictment of former Speaker Sal DiMasi.

Situations like these are one of the many direct results of the one party government that has ruled our state for far too long. When one party controls the Legislature by such a vast majority, the door is open for corruption, abuse of power and scandal.

I am disappointed the dark shadow continues to hover over Beacon Hill due to ethical improprieties and illegal behavior. I am hopeful this matter will be resolved expeditiously so that we can focus on important issues of public policy, specifically the dire economic times we are facing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Governor Continues to Miss Opportunities

An op-ed in the Boston Globe over the weekend once again highlights Governor Patrick’s ability to miss opportunities regularly.

Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute authored the piece in which he points out that government has a responsibility to take care of certain populations, specifically children. The Governor, who had asked for expanded 9C powers back in January, has made devastating cuts to our schools while doing very little to cut waste and inefficient spending.

The Governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are very good at proposing new taxes and spending money, but when it comes to reform, they often miss the mark in a major way.

We are nowhere near being out of this recession. In order to navigate out of it, our lawmakers must come up with innovative ways to make state government run more efficiently. Stergios outlined a number of ideas that would save the Commonwealth millions of dollars including a Republican proposed idea that garnered slim support from Democrats. Our caucus suggested shifting Medicaid recipients who receive full benefits to the Commonwealth's managed-care program. We noted, like Stergios that this move alone could save well over $100 million annually. It was a good amendment, that picked up a few Democratic votes, but nowhere near enough to be adopted.

Our Governor and many Democratic lawmakers talk a big game, but unfortunately follow through has not been their strong suit.