Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

From all of us here at The Capitol View, we wish you and your family a very Happy Easter!

During this time of joy and celebration we'd also like to extend our thoughts and prayers to all of our service men and women serving at home and abroad who will not have the opportunity to celebrate with their loved ones.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

House Minority Leader’s Statement on State Auditor’s Report Exposing Connection Between Sex Offenders and Child Care Providers

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement today in response to State Auditor Suzanne Bump’s audit which found numerous matches between the addresses of registered sex offenders and the addresses of child care providers:

“I am extremely disheartened that it takes reports like the one published by State Auditor Suzanne Bump to expose glaring deficiencies within certain state agencies when it comes to protecting Massachusetts’ children and families.

The Auditor’s recent findings should serve as a catalyst to pass targeted legislation which protects the Commonwealth’s citizens from dangerous sex offenders. The report published today is an unfortunate example of why comprehensive sex offender legislation I filed will, in part, open the lines of communication between the Department of Early Education and Care and the Sex Offender Registry Board.”

House Republicans Call for Public Hearing on Speaker DeLeo’s Transportation Bill

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading), Representative Steven S. Howitt (R-Seekonk), ranking Republican on the Joint Committee on Transportation, and Representative Peter Durant (R-Spencer) are joined by their House Republican colleagues in calling on House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo to request a public hearing for his soon-to-be-released transportation financing bill.

Speaker DeLeo’s pending transportation proposal, which comes on the heels of Governor Patrick’s plan of close to $2 billion in additional revenue, is being represented as a solution to the Commonwealth’s transportation needs. As is required with legislation filed in the Legislature, all bills must be heard and receive public testimony at a committee hearing; however, on occasion, major revisions to bills have often been forwarded to the full Legislature without the benefit of public comment.

“The transportation plan put forth by the Patrick Administration has been available to the public and the members to review, understand, and ask questions about for a considerable amount of time,” said Representative Jones. “I would hope that with the potential for massive tax increases looming, the Speaker would put his plan through a similar public test.”

Furthermore, members of the Republican Caucus are concerned that any procedural shortcuts will continue to cloud the public’s view of the institution.

“Whenever the Legislature asks the residents of Massachusetts for more of their hard earned tax dollars, the manner in which we do so needs to be open to the public,” said Representative Howitt. “If we, as legislators, can’t follow the process, there is no way the public will be able to follow the process.”

“The Speaker’s public uncertainty as to whether or not his transportation proposal will come from the Joint Committee on Transportation or from the House Committee on Ways and Means is proof for the need to conduct a public hearing,” said Representative Durant.

House Republicans have repeatedly stated that transportation is a core government function, and agree that there is a daunting problem looming before our transportation agencies. While the Republican Caucus will certainly disagree with the Democratic majority on the reliance that the state should place on targeted reforms, reductions, or revenues, the importance of transportation requires that any proposal to solve this problem should be put through the rigors of the public hearing process.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Passover

With Passover beginning today at sundown, Representative Steven Howitt wishes to pass along the following greeting:

Today, as fellow Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Passover, we must reflect on the freedoms and opportunities that America continues to offer us while many of our brothers and sisters around the world face religious oppression.

To that end, I would like to wish a meaningful and beautiful Passover holiday to all!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Killins Me Softly

In case you missed it, The Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi wrote a great column today about the outgoing, seemingly part-time Commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), Sherri Killins and how this scandal could throw a wrench in Governor Patrick’s tax plans.  For those who don’t know, she’s the state employee who is currently participating in a superintendent training internship in Ware, living in New Haven, Connecticut and in charge of a state agency, headquartered in Boston, earning $200,000 a year.  She resigned on Monday, but will still collect a salary for two months, essentially working as a consultant.  It seems that her superiors, Education Secretary Matthew Malone and our tax-pushing Governor, were not aware of her internship. 

As Ms. Venocchi wrote in her column, “It also looks like the governor for whom she worked doesn’t respect the taxpayers enough to acknowledge the reality of the situation.”  At a time when Governor Patrick is aggressively pushing his $2 billion tax plan and asking the hard-working residents of the Commonwealth to open up their wallets for his grand plans, this scandal is another example of the waste, fraud and abuse that must be addressed before we can even begin to discuss tax increases.

Click here to read Ms. Venocchi's column in its entirety.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Forward 2013

It’s that time of the year again – time to spring forward that is!

The Capitol View wanted to take this opportunity to remind you to set your clocks ahead one hour this Saturday night before you go to bed! If you don’t, just remember that when you wake up Sunday morning, it’s actually an hour later!

The Department of Fire Services (DFS) is also asking that you change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms this weekend as well. The DFS says working smoke alarms can double a family’s chance of surviving a fire.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My View: It’s Time to Engage in Real Reform

Today, we present the seventh installment in our series dedicated to the eight public hearings for the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. This edition of My View comes to us from Representative Matt Beaton.

The seventh in a series of eight FY14 Ways and Means budget hearing was held at Everett High School. Aside from the testimony from various state agencies, the one lasting memory I feel legislators will walk away with was the impressive hospitality displayed by Everett High School’s students and faculty. Our experience at Everett High School gave us all great hope for the future of the Commonwealth.

Yesterday’s hearing saw testimony from the Secretaries of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED). First to testify was Joanne Goldstein, Secretary of EOLWD. Secretary Goldstein presented the Committee with a stark reminder of the dire economic climate that is resting on the heels of Massachusetts’ 6.7% unemployment rate. Secretary Goldstein pitched the Administration’s request for increased spending on a number of training and youth employment programs, providing further evidence of the need for the Legislature to make job creation and economic vitality its number one priority this legislative session. Given the number of unemployed and underemployed citizens of the Commonwealth, Republican committee members continued our questioning of the timing and breadth of the Administration’s aggressive tax proposal and government expansion during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

The more controversial testimony of the day was given by Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki around the Administration’s proposal to regionalize the 240 housing authorities throughout the Commonwealth. In light of the Chelsea Housing Authority scandal, it is hard to refute that some housing authorities are mismanaged and are greatly in need of reform. However, the current regionalization proposal paints a broad brush across the entire state, doing a great disservice to the many well managed housing authorities throughout the Commonwealth – two of which I am fortunate to represent. This proposal has been touted as a great cost savings for the Commonwealth, but upon questioning, it became clear to the Committee that this regionalization effort would likely not realize any significant savings to the taxpayer and would only result in loss of local control with more bureaucracy centralized in Boston.

When considering reform within the EOHED, instead of focusing on unnecessary reforms that will yield little to no savings, we should instead explore efficiencies and accountability in EOHED programs that have a cumulative spending request of $885 million. Given the recent waste identified in the Department of Transitional Assistance, we must learn from our mistakes. By taking a close look into the variety of housing assistance programs, we have the opportunity to assure the citizens of Massachusetts that we are assisting those whole truly need it, all while holding the bureaucracy accountable. In doing so, we will identify inefficiencies that will yield true cost savings.

As the Governor asks the taxpayers to dig even deeper into their pockets with an increase of $2 billion in new taxes, we must first audit our existing programs and engage in real reform. If we accomplish nothing else this budget season, we as elected officials owe this effort to the citizenry of the Commonwealth.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My View: Only In Massachusetts Does Investments Actually Mean Higher Taxes

Today, we present the fifth and sixth installment in our series dedicated to the eight public hearings for the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. This edition of My View comes to us from Representative Angelo D’Emilia.

During the most recent Ways & Means hearings, my colleagues and I heard testimony regarding the Commonwealth’s health and human services. After listening to several agencies falling under our Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) testify, a message of an improved quality of health and life for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents was apparent.

EOHHS Secretary John Polanowicz discussed the Governor’s $119.7 million increase in FY14 for EOHHS. While there are many adults, children, disabled persons and those with developmental disabilities that are in much need of these important and necessary services, those services are becoming more difficult to provide. With that being said, I feel that we need to do a better job of managing the resources that we do have. We must realize that not only are these populations struggling, but many families are on the brink of not being able to afford to keep a roof over their heads or food on their family’s table. We have the ability to provide for these populations if we manage our resources properly.

For example, an area of concern which was discussed at the two most recent hearings was the crisis and subsequent fallout from the drug tampering scandal at the Hinton Crime Lab. This never should have happened in the first place and our agencies are going to need to work to restore the public’s confidence in our system. I think this could be achieved by more transparency and better oversight.

Another area which was discussed on a recurring basis was the fungal meningitis outbreak from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham. Our Governor has proposed a $548.9 million budget for the Department of Public Health, which is a $32 million increase from FY13. Unfortunately, at the end of the day it is the hard working men and women of this state who are going to pay for this lack of oversight, another example of poor management.

A common theme to date through all of the testimony has been the use of the word “investment.” I am finding that here in Massachusetts the definition of this word really means higher taxes. The Governor’s proposal for $1.9 billion in new taxes is outrageous when we continue to hear about waste, fraud and abuse occurring within certain state agencies. The Department of Transitional Assistance, and the state’s Electronic Benefits Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are all prime examples. Perhaps if we started by addressing these issues we could begin to discuss solutions for our fiscal needs.

After listening to these agencies I am seeing areas where the state has a real opportunity for improvement and savings. For example, verifying that individuals who apply for the taxpayer funded assistance benefits are in fact who they say they are. Additionally, tightening up the residency requirements for DTA applicants and changing our EBT benefits to a cashless system is a must. These are just a few areas where we could improve before raising taxes.

In this day and age the best thing we could do for the hard working men and women of the Commonwealth, the property owners, and the small business owners is to tax them less. Keep the dollars they earn in their pockets to spend as they see fit so that they may provide for their families. As that happens, the economy will expand and revenues will grow.

I have, and will, continue to listen for some possible solution to our current economic crisis. Unfortunately, at this time, I have not heard one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

House Minority Leader Brad Jones: No Technology for Transparency and Accountability, but Plenty for Patrick-Murray Legacy Project

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) issued the following statement in response to Governor Patrick’s heavy reliance on technological tricks to sell his legacy project:

“Governor Patrick’s recent reliance on technology in order to sell his massive tax hike to residents is an insult to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.

At a time when the Legislature and the Department of Transitional Assistance have forgone attempts to become more open and accountable - due to an apparent lack of technological resources - the Patrick Administration has relied heavily on technology for its own self-serving purposes.

With the Governor’s release of shiny maps and intricate spreadsheets, it’s clear that the technology which would best serve Massachusetts’ residents does in fact exist. The question is whether or not Governor Patrick will continue to use it to promote his legacy, or if he will use it to foster a transparent state government which aggressively goes after waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Beacon Hill Needs Reform, Not More Revenue

Imagine a Massachusetts where people's voices are not only heard, but their vote at the ballot box is heeded. Imagine a Massachusetts accountable to “We, the People.”

All this is possible, but it requires a change in direction on Beacon Hill. For a decade, Massachusetts residents witnessed neighbors packing and businesses closing. The rise of political scandals, patronage and corruption were matched only by increases in taxes on businesses and families.

In his State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Deval Patrick's solution to Massachusetts' problems was an expansion of economic control, manifested in higher taxes, or more politely put, “revenue.” But reform, not revenue, is what Massachusetts needs.

Instead of investing in government expansion with a nearly $3 billion income tax increase, Massachusetts should reinvest saved tax dollars from reforms in education and public transportation. At the very least, this proposal must also launch conversations about reforming state government to save taxpayer money.

First, reform taxpayer-funded entitlements, like health care. In 2011, former Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby identified $93 million in health services expenses for individuals “who have not provided documentation of qualified status.” Last year, she identified $178 million in health benefits to “persons who have not provided documentation,” or whose status is “not available.” In short, Massachusetts leaders don't know who is using our healthcare services to the tune of millions of dollars. Whether you're from New Hampshire or New Guinea, taxpayers should not foot the healthcare bills for people not paying taxes here. Estimated costs of these programs since the inception of universal health care in 2006 top $1 billion. Before raising taxes, lets reform the $8.4 billion health and human services budget.

Second, reform project labor agreements (PLAs) by opening up the labor market. PLAs guarantee cost increases by limiting bids to union-only contractors and locking out nearly 85 percent of the construction workforce that choose not to unionize. Open bidding leads to competitive prices that benefit taxpayers. Studies show that PLAs increase construction costs at least 20 percent. If, for example, the $750 million overhaul of UMass-Boston were stripped of its PLA, the savings could top $150 million with fair and open competitive bidding.

Massachusetts is revisiting a path paved long ago, to “Taxachusetts.” Residents rejected that in 2000, as more than 1.5 million voted to roll back the income tax rate to 5 percent. But Beacon Hill overturned the will of the people, favoring revenue over reform. When people vote, their voice should not only be heard; their vote should be heeded. The governor's tax increase proposal not only ignores our past, it ignores the numbers: more people voted for the income tax rollback than the governor's re-election. Massachusetts Republicans must stand against the usurpation of the people's vote, and stand for reforms that will save taxpayers billions. Instead of being purveyors of revenue, we must be preachers of reform that a majority of our residents wants.

Ryan Fattman, a Republican from Sutton, represents the 18th Worcester District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.