Thursday, December 31, 2009

From all of us here at The Capitol View, we hope you and your families had a wonderful holiday season. With the New Year now upon us, we wanted to take this moment to wish all of you a happy and healthy 2010. This past year was certainly a challenging one and though 2010 will bring its share of obstacles, we have great optimism that next year will be better than the last.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

House Republicans Highlight Missed Opportunities

As 2009 comes to a close, House Republicans wanted to take this opportunitiy to highlight Republican efforts rejected in this year by House Democrats on Beacon Hill. Below is a summary of the missed opportunities.

Statewide Hiring Freeze: Despite dwindling state revenues, data posted on the Governor's budget website shows that nearly 2,000 state employees have been hired since January 2009. This amendment proposes to implement a statewide hiring freeze for all sectors of state government for FY10. Additionally, this amendment places the responsibility of providing waivers to the freeze with each departmental manager (Speaker and Senate President for the Legislature), but limits waivers to instances where the public's health and safety are at risk. Any waivers granted by a departmental manager must be kept on record. This reform measure, which was estimated to save millions in FY10 alone, was further amended by the Democratic Leadership to create a commission to study the proposal. Unfortunately, the change nullified the intent of the original amendment. [Amendment #320, adopted in Roll Call #133 (139Y-16N), later held in conference by the Conference Committee]

Prescription Drug Waste: This amendment allows residents and consultant pharmacists in health care facilities to return unused prescription medication to the pharmacies from which they were purchased. The medication must be unopened, unexpired and in individual packages which the pharmacy may then restock and redistribute. The pharmacy must compensate the purchaser for the returned medication. This amendment will lead to cost-savings, as every year millions of dollars in prescription medications are thrown out unopened and unexpired, especially in nursing homes. In 2008, a study found that Massachusetts nursing homes waste $17.5M every year. [Amendment #325, adopted in Roll Call #123 (158Y-0N), later held in conference by the Conference Committee]

Managed Care Plans for MassHealth: This Republican-offered FY10 budget amendment would transfer all Medicaid members from MassHealth fee-for-service programs and primary care clinician plans to a Medicaid managed care organization. Medicaid managed care plans pay for all services needed by the member and have an incentive to manage illness before it becomes more acute and expensive to treat. According to a number of studies of the cost-savings that would result from this change, savings are estimated at between $690M and $1.05B in the period 2009-2013. It is estimated that this will be a savings of $170M in FY10 alone, savings which could be used to return the nursing home assessment to $145M or be allocated to the myriad of other needs existing in the Commonwealth. Democrats, however, did not agree with this logical idea, and voted to defeat the amendment. [Amendment #322, was changed and then rejected by Roll Call #100 (30Y-127N)]

Pacheco Law Threshold: Under the state's current anti-privatization statute, known as the Pacheco Law, private business wishing to bid on state service contracts worth more than $200K must be subjected to a burdensome state review that favors the delivery of services by state employees. For example, an agency must weigh the cost of using a private sector vendor not with actual state costs but with the cost of existing state employees if they were working in a hypothetical "most cost-efficient manner". In fact, the Pioneer Institute estimates that state services cost between 10% and 40% more than if private vendors provided the same service; however, only a handful of private companies have been able to navigate the law's unique review process. This amendment would simply increase the threshold for contracts requiring this type of review from $200K to $5M, saving the state an estimated $20M in FY10. [Amendment #326, rejected in Roll Call #120 (17Y-141N)]

Expedited Sale of Surplus State Land: This amendment establishes a process for selling surplus state property, which allows the Commissioner of the Department of Capital Asset Management to assess the land and property under the control of various departments throughout state government and to sell or lease such property. This process, which has been used in the past, is estimated to generate roughly $10M in FY10. Despite the need to maximize revenue and the current rising budgetary constraints, the Democratic Majority soundly defeated this proposal.
[Amendment #333,rejected in Roll Call #132 (17Y-139N)]

Suffolk County Holidays: This amendment, while filed as an amendment to the budget, was actually voted upon during debate on a FY09 Supplemental Budget in June (H. 4125). Seeking to eliminate the state's two Suffolk County-only holidays, Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day, this amendment was projected to save $10M annually in overtime and paid vacation days. While it seems strange that two state holidays would exist only to the benefit of state employees working in Suffolk County, it was discovered that those state employees physically located outside of Suffolk County were receiving floating holidays that could be used throughout the year. Ultimately, the amendment was defeated on a rare tie vote. [Roll Call #145 (78Y-78N)]

Surplus Turnpike Assets: Many legislators and interested parties have debated the value of the Turnpike's land and building assets and whether the Pike should sell these assets in order to avoid potential toll hikes. Unfortunately, these proposals had been rejected on a number of grounds, including the Democrat-controlled Legislature's hesitance to relinquish control of the assets and allow a private company to profit from their value. During the Transportation Reform debate, however, the Republican Leadership filed an amendment that proposed a fair compromise. This amendment directed the Undersecretary of Highways, the Treasurer, and the executive director of the PRIM board to study which Turnpike assets are surplus to the operation of the roadway and have the potential to meet the pension fund's assumed rate of return. If any assets meet such criteria, the state pension fund may then purchase those parcels at fair market value, pending the approval of the Undersecretary. This would allow the state's pension fund to "buy low" on potentially valuable assets and would infuse much needed revenue into the Turnpike's coffers. Ultimately, while this proposal was adopted on a voice vote in the House, it was not included in the final legislation.

Public-Private Partnerships: This proposal, offered by Republican legislators in both the House and Senate, codifies language that would permit the state to consider public-private partnerships when implementing new expansion projects. This language would permit private companies to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain new infrastructure. This process would be subject to the oversight of a commission comprised of experts in the field of transportation, construction, infrastructure, and engineering and the state auditor.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

All of us here at The Capitol View wish you and your families all of the joy and happiness this holiday season. May 2010 be a happy and healthy one for you and your loved ones. And as we celebrate Christmas, please be sure to keep our service men and women in your thoughts and prayers as they will not have the opportunity to spend this holiday with their families.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Governor Patrick Gets Part of his Story Right!

Governor Deval Patrick appeared with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on WTKK yesterday, where the Governor took several questions from callers and via email. The Governor, whose sense of reality appears to be warped, was talking about the budgets his administration has produced during his time in office calling the three budgets thus far “responsible, balanced and on time.” Well, he got part of his story right – they have all been on time! But responsible and balanced, now that’s a stretch!

Each and every budget the Governor has signed has been revisited several times, not to mention the fact that just days after signing the FY10 budget, the Governor was already asking for expanded 9C powers. The last three budgets have been structurally deficient while the past two have been way out of balance from the get go. They’ve all been based on bloated revenue projections and because of that and the lackluster economy the Executive Office of Administration and Finance has revised revenue benchmarks many times. Additionally, if his budgeting abilities are indeed responsible and balanced, Governor Patrick wouldn’t have needed to make as many cuts as he has this year.

You can tell we’re coming up on an election year, because this Governor seems to be stretching the truth every time he opens his mouth! Governor Patrick also told Braude and Eagan, “I think everybody is feeling pinched right now. I think we've got to be real slow in imposing new fines and fees and taxes, frankly." That’s an ironic statement coming from Governor Patrick, considering the taxes and fee increases his administration has imposed on the hardworking taxpayers of the Commonwealth!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jones Takes Exception with Governor Patrick’s Choice Words for Local Officials

BOSTON—House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement after Governor Patrick’s monthly appearance with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on WTKK-FM.

Local officials are on the front line delivering essential services day in and day out. It is our local officials making the tough choices which are made even more challenging with Governor Patrick constantly dragging his feet on critical issues facing our cities and towns.

Governor Patrick should know that ultimately the very final decision of certification of a local tax rate is made by his administration and because they have been so far behind the eight ball the Legislature had to pass special legislation this year. In fact, Governor Patrick signed Chapter 183 only a week ago.

“Candidate” Patrick promised property tax relief and yet all we have seen is an unsustained effort by Governor Patrick chock full of empty promises with little leadership and minimal results.

Local communities and property taxpayers are paying the price for a Governor who never served at the local level in any capacity.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not in the Clear Just Yet

While there have been signs of economic recovery here in the Commonwealth, it’s important for the public to know that we’re not in the clear just yet. Though the Patrick Administration would like to have people believing that a slight bump in revenue collection means the economy is turning around, thousands of Massachusetts residents are still unemployed or under employed. The jobless rate still stands at just below 9 percent and quite frankly it’s doubtful that those who are unemployed feel as positive about the future as Governor Patrick does.

At a consensus revenue hearing yesterday, several people representing various organizations and agencies spoke. State revenue officials say they expect to see at least a 3% increase in revenue collections in the next fiscal year. That’s great, but unfortunately we lost about 15% of our tax revenue last fiscal year. So to be blunt, we’re still in the red. We’re not trying to be the bearer of bad news, however we want to make sure people are aware of the fiscal reality here in the Commonwealth. We may be entering a recovery period, but we still have a long way to go until we’re in the clear.

The Minority Leader's office recently released a report that highlights the revenue problems the state faced in Fiscal Year 2009, how those problems led to a structural deficit in Fiscal Year 2010 and what we can expect for Fiscal Year 2011. Click here to view the full report.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jones Rips Hypocritical House Democrats

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement after days of infighting within the Democratic Party in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

House Democrats who are angry after the discovery of a Sal DiMasi defense fund being paid for by taxpayers have no one to blame but themselves. The Democratic Majority has allowed this to happen by relinquishing power and control to the office of the speaker, and finally the other shoe has dropped. This is nothing more than bitter lawmakers with an axe to grind for layoffs and salary reductions within their staffs.

Some of these members are now claiming to be the victims of the same heavy handed political maneuvers they were once responsible for while serving in leadership under previous Speakers.

If this contingent of Democrats is so worried about transparency and good government, they should have voted in favor of a Republican amendment that was offered last February during the rules debate. The amendment would have ensured that independent auditors have access to all financial records of the house. However, not one Democrat voted in favor of this proposal.

This is a glaring example of one party control run amok.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hiring Spree on Governor Patrick’s Watch

The Boston Herald today reported that the Patrick Administration has filled more than 1,300 jobs since the beginning of this year – this all during one of the worst recessions in the Commonwealth’s history. The Herald also reports that many of the “lucky job-seekers also gave generously to Gov. Deval Patrick’s election campaign.”

When asked about Governor Patrick’s hiring spree, House Minority Leader Brad Jones told the Herald “It’s frustrating. The administration is slow to do what is being done in the private sector. Where is the paper trail?” Jones added, saying new hires may be needed in some cases, but the process is not transparent.

Apparently, 20 of the new hires make $100,000 or more. This news only adds more fuel to the fire as the state grapples with a $300-$500 million budget shortfall.

To read the entire Boston Herald article and to see the list of new hires, click here.

Perry: Deval Patrick's Vision for Massachusetts

With Massachusetts running a $3 billion deficit and residents suffering from $1.2 billion in new taxes, Governor Patrick is pushing for providing benefits to illegal immigrants. College tuition subsidies, making it cheaper for illegal aliens to attend college in Massachusetts than a born-and-raised American citizen from out of state; food stamps and welfare payments; drivers licenses... No, this is not a bad fiction novel - this is Deval Patrick's vision for Massachusetts!

Click here to watch Representative Jeff Perry's latest You Tube video.

Monday, December 14, 2009

MTF: State Fiscal Crisis – No End in Sight

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is the deliverer of some bad economic news and while the news may have come as a surprise to the Patrick Administration, it has been abundantly clear to many for a long time.

According to a new report from MTF, “Despite the Governor’s plan to address a $1 billion fiscal 2010 deficit, the state still faces a several hundred million dollar shortfall for 2010 and a gaping $3 billion structural deficit for 2011.”

The non-profit goes on to list two serious concerns with Governor Patrick’s handling of the fiscal situation. MTF says the administration “has not addressed the full dimensions of the 2010 deficit which it has estimated to be at least a billion dollars, with the possibility it will grow larger over the course of the year. Even with the Governor’s actions, the Foundation projects a $300 - $500 million shortfall in the 2010 budget.” The report also says “the administration’s plan relies much too heavily on one-time solutions that further deplete the rapidly disappearing state and federal reserves and create an even larger deficit in fiscal 2011.”

Governor Patrick and the tax and spend Democrats on Beacon Hill have made the fiscal situation worse by continuing to ignore the severity and magnitude of the economic crisis here in the Commonwealth. Despite the bleak outlook, Governor Patrick and the Legislature have yet to address the budget crisis on a large enough scale. Not only should we be reducing government spending, we also need to be implementing serious reforms in order to allow government to continue delivering essential services. A slew of creative, cost saving initiatives have been offered by Republicans in both the House and Senate, however the majority of Democrats have opted for raising taxes, a quick fix sold as the answer to all the state’s problems. Memo to the Democrats who supported these tax increases – the state is still in hot water!

Click here to see the full report from MTF.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Republicans Join Staff, All 16 Take Voluntary Furloughs

The Capitol View announces today that every House Republican will be taking a voluntary furlough. This comes after Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and House Minority Leader Brad Jones announced all House staff would be required to take a five day furlough to help tighten the budget gap.

The members of the House are not constitutionally obligated to take a furlough, however each member believes everyone needs to share in the sacrifice as state lawmakers deal with a massive budget shortfall.

The Republican Caucus remains disappointed as the financial picture has worsened over the last few months saying the Legislature should have been more proactive.

Republican lawmakers pushed for a statewide furlough, a hiring freeze and a number of other cost savings proposals in April because of the bleak outlook. Those ideas were unfortunately rejected in favor of significant tax increases.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just when you think it can’t get any worse!

Just when you think Beacon Hill can’t get any worse, it goes and outdoes itself! According to a damning article in today’s Boston Globe, former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi signed a contract with a law firm to represent the speaker’s office in a federal corruption case. The Boston Globe reports, “The state House of Representatives has paid private attorneys nearly $378,000 in taxpayer money to represent the speaker’s office in a federal corruption investigation of former House speaker Salvatore DiMasi.” The report goes on to say “DiMasi handpicked the law firm a few weeks before he resigned on Jan. 27, as the US attorney’s office was stepping up its probe of allegations that the speaker took money from a software company, Cognos, in exchange for helping the firm win state contracts.”

You’ll notice in the article, that the payments to the law firm Gargiulo/Rudnick were all made well after DiMasi resigned. When asked about this story, House Minority Leader Brad Jones said “I’m amazed - disgusted is a better word.” The top Republican in the House goes onto say “I find it particularly offensive because I’m asking my staff to take a furlough. That everyone has to contribute five days to the Sal DiMasi defense fund is outrageous.’’

Offensive indeed! What’s worse is that even after DiMasi stepped down, this contract continued! Is there a reason why this contract wasn’t reviewed and terminated? This entire situation reeks of corruption and it is this kind of event that tarnishes the reputations of hard working, decent lawmakers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Get Out and Vote!

Regardless of your political affiliation, today is a very important day for the Commonwealth as thousands of voters are expected to go out and vote in the special primary election for U. S. Senate. Polls opened at 7 a.m. this morning and will remain open until 8 p.m. this evening. There are four Democrats and two Republicans on the ballot today and the winner from each party will face off on January 19th. An independent candidate will also appear on the January 19th ballot.

Be sure to do your civic duty today, get out and vote!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Governor Patrick: Money Burns Hole in his Pocket!

Over the weekend, the Boston Herald reported that the Commonwealth recently “received a one time last-minute $82 million litigation settlement, and revenues came in $37 million higher than expected for October and November.”
And not surprisingly, that money is burning a hole in the pocket of our tax and spend Governor! After weeks of publicly reprimanding the Legislature for not doing more to fix the state’s budget shortfall, Governor Patrick has decided to go on a bit of a shopping spree.

On Friday, Governor Patrick filed a $42 million supplemental budget, all of which will be spent on homeless shelters and services. While this is an admirable cause, it’s a bit hypocritical of the Governor to expect the Legislature to grant him expanded 9C authority when the first extra dollar the Commonwealth generates is spent so quickly!

In addition to the supplemental budget, Governor Patrick appears to be shying away from other proposed cuts. While the one time settlement and the boost in tax revenue is positive, it’s not an open invitation to spend! Governor Patrick needs to recognize that in no way is the Commonwealth in the clear financially speaking. It was only a couple weeks ago that Governor Patrick was saying the Legislature owes it to the taxpayers to clean up the budget mess, well Governor Patrick owes it to those same people to behave in a more fiscally responsible manner!

One lawmaker told the Herald, “Given that the sky was falling, it’s a bizarre turnaround!” We couldn’t agree more!

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Sixty eight years ago today, the American Army and Navy base in Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The attack, which came as a surprise, claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Americans and another 1,000 were injured. Today, on December 7th, we remember and honor those military men and women who lost their lives on that Sunday morning many years ago. Today is known as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and all of us here at The Capitol View want to offer are sincere gratitude and appreciation to the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. We thank you and we honor you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boston Herald Gets it Right

The Boston Herald’s editorial staff got it right today when it said “sometimes procrastination actually does pay off.” As you may know, there has been somewhat of a public difference of opinion between Governor Patrick and House Speaker Bob DeLeo on whether or not the House should have taken up the heavily amended Senate version of the Education Reform bill.

While the Republican caucus remains disappointed and frustrated by the light fall schedule in the House, we tend to agree that rushing through a bill that appears to do more harm than good is not in the best interest of the Commonwealth. Furthermore, given the length of the bill and the details of the amendments, it is imperative that every member have the opportunity to fully read and study the contents of the bill.

As the editorial points out “the House has until January to devise a bill that not only gives us a clean shot at $250 million in federal funds, but serves the most important constituency: children and families.”

What "Study" means to the Legislature?

Representative Jeff Perry (R-Sandwich) recently released his latest You Tube video. In his latest edition, Representative Perry discusses how the Democrats on Beacon Hill utilize a procedural tactic to essentially kill a bill.

Click here to watch the video in its entirety.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jones: Governor Patrick Misses Opportunity, Again

Governor Deval Patrick has missed yet another opportunity to save the Commonwealth tens of millions of dollars, House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. said today.

Governor Patrick recently vetoed section 29 of the most recent supplemental budget that would have created a new mandatory drug repository program and potentially saved millions in prescription drug costs paid by the state’s Medicaid program.

Section 29 of the supplemental budget would have created a broad-based recycling program here in Massachusetts that would allow residents and consultant pharmacists in healthcare facilities to return unopened and unexpired prescription drugs.

Similar programs are in place in 37 states across the country. The program Representative Jones proposed had the potential to save $20 million annually.

“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,” said Representative Jones. “Here’s an alternative solution to the state’s problems that does not involve asking the taxpayer to pay more in taxes and fees. To me, it’s really that simple.”

Governor Patrick vetoed the section, saying the Department of Public Health will examine the possibility of implementing this reform under existing authority.

“The fact that such a program does not already exist is a concern,” added the North Reading lawmaker.