MAJOR BILLS DELAYED IN CONFERENCE COMMITTEE

COMPOUNDING PHARMACY REFORM

WELFARE REFORM

MERCURY THERMOMETERS

EARLY VOTING - ELECTIONS REFORM

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Republicans Were Right, Again!

The GOP in the House and Senate led the fight against Governor Patrick's huge business tax increase as the wrong plan at the wrong time and we called it bad for our economy. And it turns out, we were right again!

The Boston Herald is reporting today that a group representing big-name foreign companies is urging members to suspend plans to invest or expand here in the Commonwealth due to the new tax law.

If companies are dissuaded from coming here, they will flock to other states that are considerably more tax friendly to businesses in order to lay down roots and create jobs. We need job creation now more than ever, and with the passing of one law, companies are saying goodbye to the Commonwealth. Not only was the passing of this law a bad decision, but a kiss of death for potential economic growth in Massachusetts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

GOP Blasts Patrick Over D.C. Office

Governor Deval Patrick recently released his latest budget proposal, and while cities and towns are making severe cuts, the Governor is keeping up with his typical spending habits. In fact, the Governor has allocated thousands of dollars to paying four staffers to man his D.C. office. This, despite the fact that the Governor's close friend is the new president and Massachusetts has an all democratic Congressional and Senatorial delegation. Today, WBZ-TV spoke with Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson about Patrick's pricey D.C. office.

Click here to hear what Peterson had to say.

Peterson Appears on the Michele McPhee Show

Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson appeared on the Michele McPhee show last night on WTKK-FM last night.

Click here to hear what Peterson had to say about the Governor's budget proposal. When you get to the site, hit play here to hear the clip.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is The Media Actually Catching On?

It looks like the mainstream media may actually be catching on to what we’ve been saying for quite some time.

The Salem News editorial page recently wrote, “Until that grip on power is weakened, until there's a return to a true, two-party system in Massachusetts, future speakers will continue to be prime targets for lobbyists and influence-peddlers.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We need a two party system to create real reform on Beacon Hill. The GOP Caucus proposes good policy and solid legislation regularly. However, because the Democratic members yield so much power to the Speaker of the House, it is hard to get anything accomplished without his blessing. We need to reduce the role and power of the Speaker in order to allow members to individually make their decision on legislation without being swayed by political promises and deals.

Business cannot go on this way. You can’t afford it and the Commonwealth can’t either. We will continue to fight on your behalf, but we need more people looking out for you and not themselves. As the media slowly picks up on this problem, you will hear more and more about the culture of corruption brought on by one party government. We are your alternative and we are looking out for your wallet and your best interest.

Who's In Charge?

Unemployment is the highest it has been in four decades, we’re facing a fiscal crisis here in the Commonwealth, residents are struggling to make ends meet, but don’t worry prison inmates have high definition flat screen televisions.

According to a Boston Herald article, The Department of Corrections recently purchased 117 televisions for a grand total nearing $77,000. Today, Governor Patrick said the decision was not up to him. Well, as the state braces for deep cuts to cities and towns, and people fear receiving the dreaded pink slip, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. It sends the wrong message. It says the government doesn’t care about the mother of two who has to pick between buying groceries and heating her home, but instead wants to make sure prison inmates enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.

Wonder if they have cable?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

GOP leaders’ statement on Governor’s budget proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei today issued the following statement concerning the release of Governor Deval Patrick’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal:

For the last two years, there has been a feeding frenzy of out-of-control spending on Beacon Hill. In order to feed this insatiable appetite for spending beyond our means, the Governor is now resorting to a series of tax increases and a substantial depletion of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget, rather than addressing the real problem, which is unchecked spending.

The mantra of “reform before revenues” seems to have been lost in the Patrick Administration’s rush to “tax and spend” its way out of the current fiscal crisis. Not only does the Governor want to increase the meals tax and the hotel tax by 20 percent, but he is also promoting new taxes on everything from alcohol to snack foods, while adding $75 million in new Registry of Motor Vehicles fees. Where does it all end?

While the Governor continues to propose new tax efforts, his administration is simultaneously growing staff levels at an alarming rate. At this time next year, there is projected to be close to 2,000 new employees on the state payroll, far exceeding the historic employment levels.

Obviously, Governor Patrick faced a lot of tough decisions when he put his budget together. Like the rest of the nation, Massachusetts is experiencing one of the worst economic downturns ever. But that should not be used as an excuse to make Massachusetts even more unaffordable by taxing residents at every turn.

We are disappointed with the plan the Governor has put forward because it perpetuates our spending problem by drawing heavily on reserves and relying too much on new taxes and fees. These tax increases will have a chilling effect on our economic recovery, while giving those residents who are already struggling to make ends meet an additional financial burden to bear.

Monday, January 26, 2009

State House News Article Featuring the Minority Leader

From State House News

House Minority Leader Bradley Jones said Monday that Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s resignation highlights the pitfalls of one-party rule and that he intends to vote for himself as the next speaker, a largely symbolic move since Republicans only number 16 in the 160-member House. "I think it becomes a dynamic where tremendous power gets invested because of one party and I think that creates a sense of being impervious," he said. Jones said the speaker’s office is imbued with too much power and should be reformed to return power to individual members. “Put issues on the floor and let members decide and let the votes fall where they may. I think there becomes this need for the speaker to sort of decide the outcome and that everything else is handled that way so that there’s no surprises on the floor,” he said. “I would say empowering the membership to participate because I think it would allow the members to better understand issues, better understand the process, better understand the rules.” Jones said the speaker made the right decision to step down “for himself ... and for the institution” because the questions around his ethical and legal issues were increasingly a distraction. Jones also said he’d favor a delay in the vote for a new speaker if there was a “rational, logical argument” behind it, but he noted that the House had yet to assign committee leaders and agree on rules. Jones said he thinks a House led by either Rep. John Rogers or Rep. Robert DeLeo, the two candidates to replace DiMasi, would be “largely the same” and that he would still disagree on the direction they would go in. Jones, a casino supporter, added that he hoped a speaker friendlier to casinos would allow “open, honest and fair debate on the floor.”

Jones' Statement on Speaker Stepping Down

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement today in reaction to the Speaker announcing his resignation.

The Speaker had a very difficult decision, both personally and professionally and I believe he has made the right choice. We are facing extremely difficult challenges in this state and to have the distractions created by the questions surrounding Speaker DiMasi were not helpful. The Speaker’s departure is a key step in moving forward on the issues we face as a Commonwealth.

It should not however be lost on anyone that this is the third Speaker in a row who has had to leave due, at least in part, to questions surrounding conduct in office. While certain ethics and rules reform are necessary, it is equally clear that these situations are a product of one-party domination in the Legislature.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Minority Leader's Reaction to Midyear Cuts

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. released the following statement today in reaction to the Governor’s plan for midyear cuts.

"I appreciate the Governor’s efforts to keep Chapter 70 funding off the chopping block for the mid-year cuts, as well as his insistence on level-funding it for fiscal 2010. The cuts outlined today are dramatically lower than the level of cuts authorized by legislative Democrats.

However, the state and local tax increases on meals and hotel rooms are a concern. The deteriorating economy is not showing any signs of improvement, and I can hardly imagine a scenario where tax increases will stimulate the economy. Furthermore, when considering the fiscal 2009 budget back in July, the Governor only vetoed $122 million, when we had been warning him for months that the economy was taking a serious downturn. I think we could have been better prepared to handle this fiscal crisis had the Governor paid more attention to our caucus.

We are looking forward to analyzing the Governor’s Municipal Partnership Act II when filed next week. Based on what I have seen thus far there are some aspects we will like as well as well as several ideas we would like to add.

The fact remains though we need to lead with reforms, innovations, and efficiencies before we reach once again into the taxpayer’s pocket."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jones Appoints Poirier Assistant House Minority Whip

Representative Elizabeth Poirier was appointed Assistant House Minority Whip this afternoon by Minority Leader Brad Jones. Representative Poirier won a special election in 1999 and has held the 14th Bristol District seat ever since. Her district includes North Attleborough, Plainville and parts of Mansfield and Norton

“I am honored that Brad and my colleagues have faith in me to serve on this level,” said Representative Poirier. “We have our work cut out for us as we tackle economic woes, ethical improprieties and restoring two party government. I am excited to take on the challenges ahead and know the GOP Caucus will work diligently on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Poirier serves on a number of House committees including Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, Elder Affairs and Steering, Policy and Scheduling. She was recently appointed to a Special House Committee on Ethics as well.

“I know Betty will fill this extremely important role well,” said Representative Jones. “John Lepper was a huge asset to the people of Massachusetts as well as our caucus and I am confident Betty will bring the same energy and commitment. She is incredibly dedicated to her constituents and making Massachusetts a better place for people to live and work.”

Representative Poirier succeeds Former Representative John Lepper as Assistant Minority Whip. Lepper retired this year after serving in the House for more than two decades.

Poirier has also served as the Vice President of the North Attleboro/Plainville Chamber of Commerce and is a former small business owner.

Jones Appoints Hill Minority Whip

House Minority Leader Brad Jones announced today that Representative Bradford Hill is the new House Minority Whip. Hill, who defeated an incumbent, was first elected to the House of Representatives in November of 1998. Hill represents the 4th Essex District, and most recently has served on the Committees on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Public Safety, State Administration & Regulatory Oversight, and Steering, Policy, and Scheduling.

“I love what I do and am honored to be taking on more responsibility in the Minority Party,” said Representative Hill. “There is a lot of work to be done and we have some tough times ahead of us as a state. However, our Caucus is determined now more than ever to tighten the belts of spending on Beacon Hill by the Majority Party. Our constituents deserve better and we will fight every day on their behalf.”

The new Whip is a native of Hamilton and previously served on the Board of Selectmen in Ipswich. Hill replaces Representative George Peterson, who was recently appointed Assistant Minority Leader.

“Representative Hill works hard for his constituents,” said Representative Jones. “He and I both represent areas of Middleton and we have a tremendous working relationship. He is one of those legislators that always goes above and beyond for his district and for his colleagues. He brings a lot to the GOP Caucus and we rely on him to be a vocal advocate for fiscal responsibility and reform on Beacon Hill.”

Since being elected to the House of Representatives, Rep. Hill has fought to change the local aid formula to bring more state money to suburban communities, to provide property tax relief and to impose fiscal discipline on Beacon Hill.

Innovation, Reform and Efficiency Needed Now More than Ever

As every day passes, the economic situation worsens here in the Commonwealth. Today, the Boston Globe is reporting employers cut more than 40,000 jobs in the last two months bringing the state’s unemployment rate up to 6.9%. That’s the highest it has been since 1993.

Now, more than ever, we need innovation, reform and efficiency on Beacon Hill. More importantly, the Legislature must avoid doing any additional harm. While the Majority sees raising taxes as a way to generate new revenue, we believe it will cause businesses to lay off more employees, close down shop and move out of town. All of these consequences would have a negative impact on our already struggling economy.

The legislative agenda of the GOP Caucus contains several pieces of legislation that could stimulate business here in Massachusetts during these tough economic times. In the coming days, we will be rolling out our legislative agenda and you will see tax credits and other incentives are tools we intend to use in order to create jobs and encourage entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Economic Climate Worsens, Growing Fears for 2010

According to an article in today’s Boston Herald, the Commonwealth could be facing up to a $4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2010. This comes as Governor Patrick is prepared to make significant cuts to local aid in order to close the $2.5 billion dollar budget deficit for fiscal year 2009. In the Herald piece, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Robert DeLeo is said to be relying on federal funds from President Barack Obama’s stimulus package as well as dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, something our caucus adamantly opposes. To depend on money from the federal government is foolish, considering it is facing a huge deficit itself. Additionally, taking too much more money from the rainy day fund to balance the out of control budget passed last year may only leave the Commonwealth more vulnerable in years to come as we are expected to be facing economic uncertainties for several months and possibly years.

Instead, the Patrick Administration and the Majority party must learn the hard lesson that out of control spending must come to a grinding halt in order to continue providing our constituents with essential services. We hate to say we told you so, but had the House and Senate passed a more modest budget, we may not be in a situation so severe and dire.

Special Commission Appointments

Four GOP Caucus members were recently appointed to various special commissions by House Minority Leader Brad Jones.

Representative Vinny deMacedo was appointed to the special commission to develop a statewide strategy for the enhancement of the creative economy. The Massachusetts Creative Economy Council will develop a statewide strategy for the enhancement, encouragement and growth of the creative economy in the Commonwealth.

Representative Karyn Polito will serve on the special commission studying the recycling of construction and demolition waste as it relates to the renewable energy portfolio standard program.

Representative Richard Ross was appointed to a special commission to study the transferability of tax credits, potential fiscal impacts and potential conservation benefits.

Representative Todd Smola will serve on the special commission to examine the environmental and economic impact of establishing a green building plan.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hill Recognized For Turning Down Pay Raise

Representative Brad Hill was recently recognized in a Gloucester Daily Times article for rejecting a 5.5% pay raise. Click here to read what the editorial page had to say about Hill. All 16 members of the Republican Caucus are either rejecting the pay raise or donating it to charity.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jones: Putting Partisan Politics Aside

Sometimes, partisan politics needs to be put aside, and as we prepare for the inauguration of President- Elect Barack Obama, I can't think of a better time to do just that. While the presidential campaign of 2008 did not end in my party's favor, one can't help but take great pride in the magnitude of what Senator Obama and our country as a whole have achieved. Every American should take a step back to examine just how far our country has come.

In my lifetime, African-Americans were forced to sit in the back of buses, drink from separate water fountains and were the victims of segregation. Slowly over the years, barriers were broken down and this year, we will swear in our first African-American President. It will be a moment in history that we should all appreciate and remember.

President Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican Party and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a Republican, dedicated their careers to fighting for racial equality. Both men, from two very different backgrounds worked to accomplish the same dream, and today that dream is closer to a reality.

2008 was a year of firsts. Along with Obama's historic win, we saw Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Sarah Palin fight gender issues ona national scale. In fact, it was the first election cycle in our great nation's history, that no matter what the outcome, it would indeed be historical.

Today, citizens, parents and children nationwide can rest comfortably knowing that the sky is truly the limit. Whether you're black, white, Asian or Hispanic, male or female, each citizen is blessed to know now that his or her goals and ambitions can be achieved and that every and any American son or daughter can actually grow up to be President. Cultural and gender makeup no longer determines or hampers your success, but instead enables you to strive to truly be the best you can be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

House Minority Leader Reacts to Governor's Address

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr., released the following statement in reaction to Governor Deval Patrick’s State of the Commonwealth Address.

I entered the Chamber with great optimism tonight, anticipating what I expected to be the Governor explaining not only to the Legislature but also to the people of the Commonwealth his plan for weathering the storm the financial crisis has brought upon the state. Instead what the people at home heard and what my colleagues and I heard was more campaign rhetoric. We all want a better tomorrow Governor, but what the people of the Commonwealth deserve to hear is how we will get from where we’re at today, to where we want to be tomorrow. I heard a lot of talk of reform. From ethics to transportation to pension, the Governor tonight promised us reform in all shapes and sizes. What he did not provide us with is how he intends to bring about this reform. More than a year and a half ago, he promised a transportation package, which we still have not seen. He promised us transparency in Government and based on his rejection of our call for a detailed plan of how he intends to use his 9C powers, transparency was apparently just a campaign gimmick. And finally, he campaigned on the platform of providing property tax relief to Massachusetts homeowners and yet my property taxes are as high as they’ve ever been.

I’m not blaming the Governor for all of these disappointments, what I am doing is calling on the Governor to lead. It takes more than well written speeches to provide the services our citizens depend on. If the Governor really wants reform, the GOP Caucus will work with him for reform. In fact, we want nothing more than to work in a bipartisan, transparent manner with the Governor, the Senate President and the Speaker. However, in order to build a bridge across the aisle, the Governor is going to have to show us a blueprint and move beyond the meaningless rhetoric.

Leader Appears on NECN, Just Prior to Governor's Address

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on NECN tonight, just prior to the Governor delivering his State of the State Address.

Click here to hear what the Leader had to say.

Low Speed Vehicle Bill Signed into Law

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr., today announced House Bill 5113, relative to the operation of low speed vehicles has been signed into law.

Under this law, the use of popular low and medium speed vehicles, as well as three-wheeled motorcycles will be enhanced. Currently, these vehicles are banned on all roadways in the Commonwealth. However, those vehicles will now be allowed to be operated on certain roads under speed limit guidelines.

“We hope this law will encourage the use of these extremely fuel efficient vehicles,” said Representative Jones. “This law will also protect the drivers of the vehicles as well as other drivers by making sure rules are followed in order to ensure safety on Massachusetts’ roadways.”

“This law will help reduce our carbon foot print and create a better world for future generations,” said Representative Richard Ross. “It gives people the incentive they need to use greener alternatives when they make their daily transportation choices.”

Additionally, the drivers of these vehicles will follow the same registration and licensing requirements as those drivers who operate regular vehicles.

Several GOP members supported this legislation.

Governor Signs GOP-Backed Proposal

A GOP-backed proposal establishing incentives for donating conservation land in Massachusetts has been signed into law by the Governor.

The GOP House Leader offered an amendment, that was supported by the majority of the caucus, to create a state program to provide an added incentive for prospective land donors.

Currently, when landowners donate open-space land they become eligible for a federal income tax credit. However, there are several costs, such as attorney’s fees and appraisal costs that can discourage donors.

Under the new law, which will go into effect in 2011 will give the taxpayer a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the land. The credit is capped at $50,000 for each landowner and a statewide total of $2 million annually.

“This law give residents an incentive to donate conservation land, something they didn’t necessarily have before,” said Representative Jones. “Not only do I expect it to significantly increase land donation, but it will also allow the Commonwealth to protect some of the state’s most valuable land. It’s really a win-win no matter how you look at it.”

"This is an innovative, fiscally responsible way to encourage land conservation," said Representative Paul Frost, a supporter of the law. "Similar programs have proven successful in other states and I expect this law will not only generate new interest in land donation, but also help us protect the state's natural resources."

Eligible lands include areas that protect drinking water supplies, wildlife habitat and biological diversity, scenic and cultural values, among others.

GOP Representatives who supported this law include: Bradley H. Jones, Jr.,
George N. Peterson, Jr., Vinny deMacedo, Lewis G. Evangelidis, Paul K. Frost,
Elizabeth A. Poirier, Robert S. Hargraves, Susan Williams Gifford, Richard J. Ross, Jeffrey Perry, Donald F. Humason, Jr. and Todd M. Smola.

Tonight's State of the State Address

The Governor's State of the State Address will be delivered this evening at 7:30pm. Be sure to check back here following the speech to read the House Minority Party's reaction.

Jones Appears on NECN

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on NECN last night in Brad Puffer's piece about the Governor's request for expanded 9C powers. GOP members put up a hard fight in yesterday's heated debate, arguing local aid should not see the chopping block.

Click here to watch the story on NECN.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GOP Members Fight to Protect Local Aid

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. along with the entire Republican Caucus mounted a massive effort today to protect local aid as the House debated a bill that would essentially give the Governor power to cut aid to municipalities across the state.

“In July, the Governor signed into law a bloated $28.2 billion budget knowing full well that the budget was unsustainable,” said Representative Jones. “In fact, the Governor and his staff said the budget was $400-600 million dollars off. So, why was it signed? That’s the question I want answered. We in the Republican Caucus said no to this budget because we knew we couldn’t afford it.”

Communities across the Commonwealth depend on local aid to fund their budgets. Cities and towns are already making cuts to essential services in order to stay afloat. Cutting local aid would be detrimental as services Bay State residents depend on such as police, fire and education would see the chopping block.

“The most discouraging and disheartening part about this entire situation is that it was predictable and most importantly preventable. Out of control spending on Beacon Hill needs to come to a grinding halt. It is not fair to the people of the Commonwealth to ask them to sacrifice one more penny because of the Majority Party’s mismanagement of funds and misplaced priorities. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the Legislature spent too much, the Governor vetoed too little and too much was overridden.”

The GOP caucus calls on the Governor and the Majority to join us in instituting real reform. We ask the Governor to eliminate funding for his Washington, DC office which is costing Bay State taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, put an end to his multi-million dollar Commonwealth Corps program and refrain from proposing and/or fund new costly programs and initiatives.

“The Governor waited too long to act and everyday he waited, the fiscal crisis worsened. Today, we are in the middle of what is expected to be a very deep recession making cuts to our municipalities and those cuts are going to sting and most certainly force layoffs in our towns and cities. That means more people out of work and depending on government programs. It is a perfect storm of financial disaster and the only way out is through real reform.”

Representative deMacedo to Continue Serving as Ranking Member on Ways and Means

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. announced today that Representative Vinny deMacedo will continue to serve as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee. The appointment was ratified unanimously by the GOP caucus members in attendance.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue serving in this extremely important position,” said Representative deMacedo. “We are facing very challenging economic times and I intend to continue fighting for fiscal responsibility during the budget process and hope my colleagues across the aisle will do the same.”

Representative deMacedo was first elected in 1998. He beat a Democratic incumbent and is now serving his 6th term as the 1st Plymouth District’s representative to the General Court. He has served on the Joint Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy and the Oceans Advisory Committee. Representative deMacedo served as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee last legislative session as well.

“Representative deMacedo is an incredibly dedicated member of the House of Representatives,” said Representative Jones. “He attends every meeting and has been on the forefront of providing critical information to the Caucus which allowed us to warn the Majority party last year that we were spending well beyond our means. I have no doubt Vinny will play an intricate role in resolving the current fiscal mess our state is facing, as he did back in 2003 in the last fiscal downturn.”

The father of three has owned and operated his own small business since 1991. Representative deMacedo attended King’s College in New York where he graduated with a BA in Business Administration.

Jones Appoints Peterson Assistant Minority Leader

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. appointed Representative George N. Peterson, Jr. to Assistant Minority Leader today and the appointment was ratified unanimously by the GOP caucus members in attendance.

“I want to thank the Minority Leader for the appointment, as well as the caucus for having faith in me as we move forward in a very difficult legislative session,” said Representative Peterson.

Peterson was first elected in 1994 after defeating a democratic incumbent. He is now serving his 8th term as the 9th Worcester District’s representative to the General Court. He has served on committees ranging from Natural Resources & Agriculture to the Rules Committee. Recently, he served the past six years as the Minority Whip.

“Representative Peterson is the right person at the right time for this very important job,” said Representative Jones. “This position requires a significant commitment and I know George will dedicate his time and energy to bettering the Commonwealth.”

Prior to being elected State Representative, Peterson served on the Grafton Planning Board and Board of Selectman.

Peterson is a former entrepreneur and served two years in the U.S. Army.

Watch the House Session Live Today as Republicans Mount Effort to Protect Local Aid

Today will be a very busy day on Beacon Hill, as the House braces for a long day of heated debate.

Watch the GOP members debate on the House floor live right here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Republican Leaders Call on Governor to Detail His 9C Plans

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei sent the following release to the press today.

With just one day remaining before the Legislature is scheduled to vote on granting expanded 9C powers to Governor Patrick, Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei and House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. are calling on the Governor to explain how he will use these additional powers to address the state budget deficit.

"If in fact it is your judgment that the severity of the deficit facing the Commonwealth requires not only additional cuts throughout the executive branch, but also cuts in other areas of state funding, including local aid, we require more information of your exact plan for action before we can reasonably consider your request," Tisei and Jones wrote to the Governor in a joint letter dated January 12.

Calling Patrick's appeal for expanded budget-cutting authority an "extraordinary request," Tisei and Jones noted that the Governor could still pursue "alternative mechanisms for maintaining a balanced budget," including "filing supplemental appropriations bills to reduce spending in accounts not under your current 9C authority to reduce."

"Given the options, the full details of your plan should be shared with the membership and the public prior to our consideration of your bill to expand 9C authority," Tisei and Jones wrote.

With local aid potentially on the chopping block, Tisei said it is not unreasonable to expect Governor Patrick to provide a detailed explanation of how he would use his expanded 9C powers to close an estimated $1 billion budget gap, especially if cities and towns are going to be impacted.

"If the Governor is asking for emergency power, he should have a plan for what he's going to do with that power," said Tisei. "Mitt Romney was in office for only two weeks when he asked for expanded 9C powers, and he outlined exactly what he would do. Governor Patrick has been in office for two years and first asked for 9C powers six months ago, and he still doesn't have a plan on the table for what he would do."

"I'd be very surprised if members of the Legislature are willing to give the Governor a blank check when it comes to issuing cuts in local aid," Jones said. "The Governor should spell out exactly how much money he plans to cut, what accounts he will be targeting, and what mechanism he plans to use when making his 9C cuts. Until he can give us those answers, the Legislature should not be so quick to cede unilateral budget-cutting authority to the Governor."

Time to Take Action on Turnpike

According to a new Boston Herald article, "state officials want to privatize the 11 service plazas along the Pike" in order to raise some quick cash for the trouble-ridden Pike.

It reaffirms what we in the GOP Caucus already proposed, that increased taxes and toll hikes are not the only options. It's not an either/or thing when other proposals are on the table.

Clearly the market has realized the value of the Turnpike’s assets, especially when property values are at their lowest. We should continue to explore the value of Turnpike property, including property inside Rte. 128, and the potential for the state to realize the appreciating value of these assets by allowing the pension fund to purchase some of these properties.

Jones Appears on WCVB-TV

House Minority Leader Brad Jones appeared on WCVB-TV last night in Janet Wu's piece which examined options for dealing with the transportation problems facing the state.

Click here to watch the story on Channel 5.

Monday, January 12, 2009

GOP Leaders Offer Creative Proposal to Overhaul Turnpike's Finances

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. along with Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei sent the following letter to Treasurer Cahill today. The letter offers a detailed and creative proposal to overhauling the current financial disaster facing the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Dear Mr. Treasurer:

As you are well aware, the current economic climate is worrisome and uncertain and it has forced policymakers to search outside-the-box for creative solutions to very complex problems. From glaring deficiencies in our transportation system to potential billion dollar deficits in our state budget, we have urged our colleagues to be thoughtful when proposing potential solutions. Unfortunately, many of the proposals, particularly regarding our transportation infrastructure, strike us as quick fixes rather than creative solutions. We have been considering a proposal that may provide state officials with the resources and time to overhaul our transportation system and would like to share it with you so as to solicit your thoughts and feedback.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA) has been sinking into a severe financial quagmire. Numerous attempts to mitigate the MTA’s fiscal problems, although well-intentioned, have proven insufficient at best. Furthermore the MTA’s solvency is threatened by complex lending agreements, the recent rating downgrade by Moody’s and the threat of further downgrades to its bond insurer, which has created pressure for a substantial toll increase.

We propose the Turnpike sell some of its capital assets to the Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT) for cash at current fair market value. The result of this would provide the Turnpike with much needed revenue, while simultaneously providing the PRIT with valuable investment property.

Since 1959, the Turnpike has acquired various properties whose value has undoubtedly increased exponentially over the past five decades. Collectively, the Turnpike’s properties are estimated to be worth well over $8 billion, though a full and accurate accounting has been difficult to determine. Even the sale of five percent of such assets could cover the costs of terminating the Authority’s swaptions.

While the real estate market is certainly not what it was two years ago, no one can argue that property values in Massachusetts haven’t rapidly skyrocketed since the 1950s. The eventual sale of acquired properties by the PRIT could easily provide a healthy return in as little as five or ten years. Although the world’s financial markets, on average, provide sound returns in the long-run, the markets’ recent devastating behavior is enough to convince even the most aggressive investors to retreat to safer investments. Likewise, we understand that one goal of the fund has been a diversification of its portfolio, and this proposal would be consistent with that goal.

We hope you will give some consideration to this option as we in the Legislature weigh many potential solutions to finance our transportation system. This task will certainly be challenging, however, we cannot settle for narrow solutions to complex problems. Nor should increased tolls or taxes be the first resort.

Gas Prices Inch Back Up in the Bay State

A new AAA survey out today shows gas prices in Massachusetts are inching back up. In fact, the price for a gallon of regular is up 7 cents since this time last week. Given the current conflict in the Middle East, there's no doubt prices will continue to rise.

The Speaker has suggested raising the gas tax to help stabilize the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Not only do we oppose asking taxpayers for more money, we also believe there is an alternative solution.

In the next transportation post, we will lay out the proposal we offered to the Treasurer today, which will help mitigate the Turnpike's financial problems while creating safe, alternative investments for the state's pension fund.

Rep. Paul Frost: Road to Local Aid Cuts should be the Road Not Traveled

On Wednesday, January 14, 2009 the Massachusetts House is scheduled to expand the Governor’s 9 C powers to address the existing state budget shortfall. Once the legislature gives the Governor this power he will be able to make mid-year cuts. This is expected of course to include local aid to our cities and towns. I and my fellow Republican colleagues in the House will not vote to expand this power to the Governor so he can cut local aid. In December, the House Republican Caucus was unanimous in saying we wished to protect local aid at all costs and made it public.

It was the House Republicans back in May of 2008 and again in July of 2008 which spoke out and warned the Majority Party and the Governor the FY’09 State Budget wasn’t sustainable and needed to be cut. Another reason I voted against this budget was my hope of protecting and preserving local aid. Had the Majority Party listened to us and joined us in voting against the budget, we could have had a streamlined budget and the problems we now face would be lessened and we could better protect local aid today.

Last year at this time, the House Republicans were making the case we should return $450 million of State Lottery Aid which was withheld from our communities during the last fiscal crisis. Money which was withheld ultimately for no reason as the Commonwealth was able to increase its own rainy day fund at the expense of our cities and towns and their rainy day funds. Those funds should be used for our communities now.

We stand at what will be a crossroad of priorities for the Massachusetts Legislature. If the state cuts local aid on Wednesday or gives the Governor the ability to do so, than it is clear the Majority Party in the legislature and the corner office will seek to reduce local aid in the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget.

To paraphrase the great American Poet, Robert Frost, we must make our stand that the road to cutting local aid should not be taken. The road which is far too often less traveled is the one of fiscal responsibility by controlling spending and reforms. This road to reform should be traveled to its end first. For the sake of our citizens’ property taxes and local services, we, the House Republicans will be voting to make the road to cutting local aid the road not traveled. I know I will take the path of fighting to preserve and protect local aid along with my fellow Minority Party members. The battle for which path the state goes will take place on Wednesday, and we will be there to point the right way. Whether or not we are listened to is another story.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pension System in Need of Reform

As if the public needed any more convincing that the state pension system needs an overhaul along comes today’s story to highlight yet another little known provision which gives every public employee a bad name.

The Republican Caucus as part of its 2009-2010 legislative package is setting its sights on some much needed reforms including theses so-called Section 10 pensions the Boston Globe highlights today.

The economy and the state’s fiscal mess demand action on these over the top pension abuses.

Three of our members will be examining the state's pension policies on the Special House Committee on Pension Reform. Those members are Representatives Robert Hargraves, George Peterson, Jr. and Todd Smola.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tax Amnesty Plan Signed Into Law, Expected to Generate Millions

Massachusetts is facing a tough road ahead when it comes to the state's finances and we need to generate revenue in a responsible manner and in a way that won't further burden our taxpayers.

Today, a GOP–sponsored tax amnesty plan targeting the state’s tax scofflaws was signed into law by Governor Patrick today.

The amnesty program will run for a two-month period to be determined by the Department of Revenue Commissioner. It will encourage delinquent taxpayers to voluntarily pay off their back taxes by waiving penalties as an incentive. The Department of Revenue has estimated that this particular program could generate up to $20 million dollars.

Previous tax amnesties offered in 2002 and 2003 brought in $91.6 million and $174 million respectively.

Republican Members to Serve on Special Committees

Several Republican members were appointed to special committees today. The panels, recently established by the Speaker will work on major legislation related to ethics, rules, transportation and pension reform. The Speaker and the Minority Leader appointed the committees members who are expected to review and examine legislation recently filed by the Governor.

Serving on the Special House Committee on Ethics are: Representatives Jay Barrows of Mansfield, Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough and Richard Ross of Wrentham. These members, along with a dozen other Representatives will examine the Ethics Reform package recently filed by the Governor.

Republican members appointed to the Special House Committee on Rules include: Representatives Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth, Paul Frost of Auburn and Bradford Hill of Ipswich. Members on this committee will review House rules and make suggestions to the legislative body.

The following members will serve on the Special House Committee on Transportation and be expected to review the Transportation package filed by the Governor: Representatives George Peterson, Jr. of Grafton, Paul Frost of Auburn and Donald Humason, Jr. of Westfield.

Representatives Robert Hargraves of Groton, George Peterson, Jr. of Grafton and Todd Smola of Palmer will be the Republican members serving on the Special House Committee on Pension Reform.

More Bad News on Economic Front, Time to Curb Spending

In yet another sign of economic turmoil, today the Labor Department announced the unemployment rate has skyrocketed to its highest level in close to two decades.

The nation's unemployment rate now stands at 7.2% and last month alone, employers laid off 524,000 workers. According to an economist quoted in today's Boston Globe, there doesn't appear to be any relief in sight in terms of layoffs.

While we in the Massachusetts House of Representatives cannot control the nation's unemployment rate, we do have an effect on the state's economy. Over the next several weeks, we will be debating a number of issues including the status of the state's finances and its struggling transportation system.

We have always and will continue to encourage our colleagues across the aisle to rein in the out of control spending, put an end to proposing new programs until the state's economy rebounds and discourage any new taxes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GOP-Backed Proposal Closer to Becoming Law

A GOP-backed proposal establishing incentives for donating conservation land in Massachusetts is on Governor Patrick’s desk awaiting his signature.

The plan, offered an amendment will create a state program to provide an added incentive for prospective land donors.

Currently, when landowners donate open-space land they become eligible for a federal income tax credit. However, there are several costs, such as attorney’s fees and appraisal costs that can discourage donors.

The taxpayer would receive a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the land. The credit is capped at $50,000 for each landowner and a statewide total of $2 million annually.

Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director of the Mass League of Environmental Voters says, "this bill was a top priority for the Mass Green Agenda, and we are very pleased to see the state embrace commonsense measures to protect land that save the state money in the long term. We urge Governor Patrick to sign this bill into law."

Once the Governor has signed this legislation into law, it will go into effect in 2011.

GOP Members Reject Pay Raises

Several of us here in the GOP caucus have decided accepting a pay raise during this tough economic climate is not something we are comfortable doing.

The pay raise, recently announced by Governor Patrick, would increase the legislators’ base pay from $58,237 to $61,440. However, citing tough economic times, the members do not think it is fair to the people of the Commonwealth to accept a pay raise, while so many people throughout the Commonwealth are instead collecting pink slips.

Some of us will be rejecting the pay raise all together, while others have decided to donate the pay raise to local charities in their respective districts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Low Speed Vehicle Bill One Step Away From Becoming Law

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr., today announced House Bill 5113, relative to the operation of low speed vehicles is now on Governor Patrick’s desk, awaiting his approval.

Once signed into law, the use of popular low and medium speed vehicles, as well as three-wheeled motorcycles will be enhanced. Currently, these vehicles are banned on all roadways in the Commonwealth. However, this bill will allow for those vehicles to be operated on certain roads under speed limit guidelines.

“These vehicles are tremendously fuel efficient and safe for the environment,” said Representative Jones. “Encouraging people to seek out these vehicles, which tend to be electric, will only contribute to our efforts to reduce our dependence on oil.”

Additionally, the drivers of these vehicles will follow the same registration and licensing requirements as those drivers who operate regular vehicles.

GOP Tax Amnesty Plan on Governor's Desk

A GOP–sponsored tax amnesty plan targeting the state’s tax scofflaws is on Governor Patrick’s desk awaiting his signature.

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Richard R. Tisei proposed the amendment as part of a multi-million dollar budget bailout bill approved by the Legislature last October.

The GOP leaders say the amnesty program will run for a two-month period to be determined by the Department of Revenue Commissioner. Representative Jones and Senator Tisei say the program encourages delinquent taxpayers to voluntarily pay off their back taxes by waiving penalties as an incentive.

“We have a very grave fiscal crisis here in the Commonwealth and according to the DOR, this program will generate an estimated $10-20 million,” said Representative Jones. “That is a significant sum of money that the state very much needs at this time. I’m hopeful that this tax amnesty program will provide the same success previous plans have accomplished.”

“By offering a tax amnesty, we are giving taxpayers a chance to clear up any outstanding tax liabilities while generating much-needed revenues for the Commonwealth,” said Senator Tisei. “We hope Governor Patrick recognizes the benefits of this program and will act quickly to sign the bill.”

Previous tax amnesties offered in 2002 and 2003 brought in $91.6 million and $174 million respectively.

Representative Jones Re-Elected Minority Leader

House Republicans today re-elected Representative Bradley H. Jones, Jr. to a fourth two-year term as Minority Leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Jones, a North Reading native, has served as Minority Leader since 2002.

“I am very anxious to get working on what I am sure will be a very challenging legislative session. I am honored that my colleagues have entrusted me to lead them through the tough economic and fiscal times our state is facing,” said Representative Jones. “There is a lot of work to be done and I am looking forward to moving the Commonwealth in the right direction by encouraging fiscal responsibility on Beacon Hill.”

Jones was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994. He was recently elected to his ninth term and continues to maintain his perfect voting record. Representative Jones has cast 4,603 consecutive roll call votes and hasn’t missed a single vote in his 14 ½ years in the Legislature.

“I take representing my constituents very seriously. I believe an elected official has no more important job than voting and ensuring their constituents are represented on each and every vote,” said Representative Jones.

While Representative Jones anticipates a busy legislative agenda, he says he is focused primarily on the state of the economy, fiscal responsibility and cleaning up Beacon Hill, while maintaining local aid to our communities. Jones plans to make rebuilding the Republican Party a key focus during the next two years as well.

“The continuous mismanagement of taxpayer dollars throughout several of the state’s agencies, combined with multiple cases of unethical behavior have helped cast a dark cloud over Beacon Hill. As Minority Leader, I will continue to work with each and every member to restore the public’s confidence in elected officials while simultaneously pushing my colleagues to be fiscally responsible in these hard economic times.”

Warm Welcome From Everyone in the House Republican Caucus

Welcome to our blog and thank you very much for taking the time to visit it today. We hope to build up a solid base of dedicated visitors and plan to work extremely hard to make sure you know what is going on in your state’s government.

This site will serve as an important tool for the Republican Caucus and we plan to utilize it to its greatest potential. As you know, things are tough here in Massachusetts and nationwide. While we in the caucus don’t necessarily have control over the economic climate throughout the country, we can contribute greatly on a state level.

The Republican Caucus envisions this blog as a way to share our thoughts on issues of the day. In the days and weeks ahead, we will be discussing parts of our legislative agenda, reacting to what the Democrats are doing as well as sharing a variety of observations from across the aisle.

We will be taking to this website on a daily basis and know that by bypassing the middle man (Boston’s mainstream media) we will be able to deliver our message in a more effective manner.

Again, thank you for visiting our site. Be sure to recommend it to your friends and family and check it out daily.