Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Municipal Relief Conference Committee Report another Missed Opportunity

BOSTON—House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. issued the following statement today in response to what he dubbed a modest conference committee report that misses the mark.

The so-called “Municipal Relief” bill that came out of the conference committee doesn’t do one thing to address the single biggest cost issue facing our cities and towns.

Municipalities are practically begging the Legislature to give them the tools they need to better handle their budgets and tackle the rising cost of employee health care. Unfortunately, their requests have gone unanswered and once again the wants and demands of powerful unions are put before the needs of hardworking taxpayers of the Commonwealth. The irony is several public employees have or will lose their job because of the failure to make any progress on this issue.

During the House debate, we were prepared to offer two amendments that would provide substantial relief to already struggling municipalities. Those two initiatives include plan design with a local option as well as giving municipalities a better opportunity of moving employees into the General Insurance Commission. Those ideas were put on the back burner as Democratic leadership insisted they were working out a deal with unions and municipalities that would be announced by June 11. Well, today is July 14 and with only a little over two weeks to go, I am doubtful any progress will be made.

The modest proposals in this bill do not offset the fact that we will have done nothing in two years to address the municipal health care issue. The Democratic-controlled Legislature has done nothing to relieve the burden they have placed on cities and towns, all of whom have faced significant cuts to local aid. Once again, the majority of rank and file Democratic members has relinquished its power blindly to their leaders banking on the idea they would deliver relief to their municipalities.

There is a reason that no one is willing to commit to an amount anticipated to be saved. It’s because there aren’t any real savings. I will be voting against this conference committee report today. I hope other members will join me in saying we can and should have done more to help our communities.