February 2007
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Month February 2007

Vennochi Still Doesn’t Get Deval

Joan Vennochi wrote a pretty scathing editorial of how the Patrick administration isn’t “selling” his budget. As far as I could tell, in the entire editorial she did not once critique Deval’s budget (she let the business leaders do that), but rather criticized how he was selling it. At the end she writes:

The land of the status quo is cold, stubborn, and treacherous. It is inhabited by business executives who don’t want to give up tax breaks and legislators who don’t want to give up anything. They understand political hardball, not the politics of hope.

But she doesn’t get it.

Why dental care = health care

WaPo, via Atrios: Awful story from Maryland: Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday. A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him. If his mother had been insured. If his family had not lost its Medicaid. If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find. If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth. By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died. Deamonte Driver, sitting next to his mother, Alyce, shows the scars from incisions for his brain surgery. (By Linda Davidson — The Washington Post) Anyone who imagines that dental care is an “extra” is kidding themselves. And yet this was how Gov. Romney balanced the budget a few years ago — by taking away poor people’s dental care. We don’t want to let that happen again. BTW — it was the new health care law that restored dental and eyeglass benefits to Masshealth recipients.

Tools for understanding the budget

Here’s to consolidate some things that have been scattered in other threads … First of all, take five minutes and look at the Governor’s video presentation.  (Thanks to GoldsteinGoneWild.) As noted, it’s rather like a high-school educational film, but helpful, with graphs and explanations by A&F chief Leslie Kirwan and co. As David mentioned, the Mass. Budget and Policy Center have issued their comments, with brief explanations of various areas of the budget. Interesting to me is this run-down of the oh-so-controversial closing of corporate tax loopholes. Anyone out there want to defend this litany? Along with the budget, the Governor filed legislation to reduce corporate tax avoidance by approximately $295 million in FY 2008. MBPC recently released a Facts at a Glance report showing that business taxes in Massachusetts are currently among the lowest in the nation (available at http://www.massbudge…). The tax legislation accompanying the budget closes corporate tax loopholes in several ways: implementing combined reporting so that companies cannot shift income between subsidiaries to reduce their taxes (see http://www.massbudge… CombinedReportingFeb07.pdf for a more complete explanation of combined reporting); conforming to federal rules so that companies cannot avoid taxes by being classified as partnerships in one state and corporations […]

Romney Picks Controversial Sheriff To Head Arizona Campaign

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney has appointed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio as the honorary chair of his Arizona campaign. The controversial sheriff is known for among other things being the first in the world to put juvenile offenders on “chain gangs”,  to house prisoners in a “Tent City” in 110 degree weather, require prisoners to wear pink underwear, and to reduce meal costs to inmates to only 15 cents a day. http://bluesunbelt.c…

Ever wonder how unions get started? Most people have no idea.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Thursday on the Employee Free Choice Act – the most important legislation in 70 years to ensure workers’ freedom to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Most people have no idea how a union get’s started or what workers go through to form one.  The majority of current members got hired by their employer and happily found themselves with all the benefits that come from being united in a union. Organizing a union isn’t very complicated – but it’s not something you can do alone.  It starts when a few people decide they want to stick together to improve their wages and working conditions.  They form a group to educate themselves about the advantages of having a real voice at work through collective bargaining.  Over time, the group recruits people from each department and shift to serve on a union committee. The hardest part is for the union committee to unite a majority of their co-workers behind the basic idea that we’re better off “sticking together” in a union rather than working alone. That job is made even more difficult when management gets involved by aggressively interfering in the workers’ decision […]

It’s not about individual consumption in an inefficient society

I’m an earth scientist, and these arguments about Gore (or any environmentalist’s) personal consumption habits frustrate me. Why reporters always turn to the environmentalist and ask what they are doing in their own lives to reduce their footprint is missing the point.  This notion that the speaker must live up to some martyr-like quality of life in a hut somewhere is silly and misguided, and turns the conversation into a judgement of the hypocrisy of the speaker, rather than a practical assessment of the steps society (not individuals) must take to correct global warming. Folks, this is about global biogeochemical cycles.  That’s what they’re called, the word Gore almost says a million times in his movie, the word I can’t get our webmaster to put on our institution’s website because it’s unfamiliar to the public (even though probably more than a quarter of the institution works on these cycles).  Biogeochemistry, the study of elements moving through the whole planet’s ecosystems and geological components.  When you have 6 billion humans jumping up and down and racing around in cars burning fossil fuels, you are in effect moving a lot of carbon around (and many other elements) in ways that the earth […]

Patrick Delivers On Transparent Budget Promise

The new budget website unveiled today lives up to expectations. It is a significant advance over past practice, particularly in clarity of design, and puts a huge amount of information a mouse-click away — including an Excel dump right on the front page. Want to know how much we spend on Underground Storage Tank Compliance Standards Enforcement? Click here. That kind of information was available before, but harder to find. Most important, the revised system works and is speedy, which is more than the NYSE can say for its computers. Paper access to the budget also has been restored, as reported earlier. Now we just need to bring the legislature into the 21st century and get similar transparency for proposed legislation, debates, and votes. Let the sun shine in.


It’s up.  Go to it, y’all. I’m going to make a bold assertion: BMG can contribute a lot to the budget debate, and we can do it in a different way than anyone else.  Yes, there are organizations that are experts on the budget, and they’ll undoubtedly have lots of interesting stuff to say over the coming days and weeks.  But none of those organizations has the sheer number of eyeballs that BMG has.  And no, not everyone who reads here is an expert on the budget or the budgeting process — but I’d wager there are a lot of folks here who know a good deal about at least a corner or two of it.  When we add up all those corners, I bet we can cover a decent chunk of the whole thing. So let’s turn BMG into a little budget thinktank.  Pick out your own area of interest (AmberPaw? pablo? AnnEM? I know you’re out there!), track what’s happening there, and tell us about it.  Post a comment here, or if you’re inspired, write up your own post (and be sure to use the tag “budget” if you do so). This budget is the biggest thing Governor […]

Some budget details — much more to come!

The main event, of course, is Wednesday at noon when Governor Patrick’s budget will be released here.  The claim is for unheard-of levels of transparency: there will be easy comparisons to last year’s spending; the file will be searchable online and downloadable as a spreadsheet; etc.  Very promising.

‘Til then, you can watch the Gov’s budget address here.  And for you readers out there, I’ve pasted in the whole thing (as prepared for delivery) after the flip.

Finally, here are a couple of cheat-sheets prepared by the administration that give useful summary information (apologies for the lousy quality — the originals use color which I can’t scan very well, so I had to manually add a couple of labels that were illegible on the scans) [UPDATE: better scans have been uploaded].

2-pager on the status of FY 2007 (including the source of the $1.3 billion structural deficit) and where we stand looking ahead to FY 2008.

2-pager summarizing how they resolved the deficit, and what the high points of the budget will be.  Interesting true fact: the Governor’s proposed budget is only 4% higher than last year’s General Appropriations Act (GAA) as enacted, and less than 1% above last year’s total spending (including supplementals).  Not exactly a spending spree.

Open Thread on the Budget

Following a suggestion from reader Steverino, here is an open thread on this evening’s budget announcement as so excellently liveblogged by Charley. Pitch in with your thoughts.