March 2010
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Month March 2010

Stephen Lynch Delenda Est

David Bernstein runs it down in the Phoenix: The argument for Lynch’s vulnerability goes as follows. First, the primary will be dominated by die-hard Democrats, who are big fans of health-care reform. Second, many of the district’s high-voting conservative Democrats – such as those in Lynch’s home base of South Boston – no longer think of themselves as Democrats, and may skip the primary. Third, anti-incumbent sentiment could play against Lynch, especially in outlying parts of the district, like Bridgewater, Norwood, and Walpole, where Brown beat Martha Coakley two-to-one. And fourth, Lynch has had a complete breakdown of his relationship with labor – his core Democratic constituency, which in the past made him invulnerable, despite the displeasure of the liberals. Personally, I think with an improved economy that will put people in a better frame of mind toward the President and his policies, a relatively puny $1 million in the bank — a few hedge fund managers, now free to make unlimited expenditures, could match that in an afternoon — and a record of votes against the interests of his constituents, in particular every Democrat and all union members in the state, Lynch is very vulnerable. As to the headline, […]

services tax

States Seeking Cash Hope to Expand Taxes to Services By MONICA DAVEY In the scramble to find something, anything, to generate more revenue, states are considering new taxes on virtually everything: garbage pickup, dating services, bowling night, haircuts, even clowns. “It’s hard enough doing what we do,” grumbled John Luke, a plumber in the Philadelphia suburbs. His services would, for the first time, come with an added tax if the governor has his way. Opponents of imposing taxes on services like funerals, legal advice, helicopter rides and dry cleaning argue that this push comes as businesses are barely clinging to life and can ill afford to see customers further put off by new taxes. This is especially true, they say, in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where some of the most sweeping proposals are being considered this spring. But this is also a period of economic gloom for states. Pension funds are in the red, federal stimulus help will soon vanish, and revenues from traditional sources like income and property taxes are slumping ever lower, with few elected officials willing to risk voter wrath by raising them. “This is born out of necessity,” said Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, […]

Liberty Mutual Tax Break Approved by State

This morning, Deval Patrick’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved a $22.5 million tax break (TIF — tax increment financing) to subsidize the triple-the-zoning-height tower that the Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. wants to build at the Back Bay/South End/Bay Village interface.  The EACC members voted without a moment of deliberation, totally disregarding four lengthy and detailed citizen testimonies pointing out, among other reasons to disapprove, the fact that this subsidy will not actually create jobs in the city and state — the core goal of the TIF program, as Greg Bialecki, Governor Patrick’s economic development chief, emphasized at the meeting.  

Remarks Delivered at a Pioneer Institute Discussion (featuring E.D. Hirsch)

REMARKS AT PIONEER INSTITUTE EVENT, FEATURING PROF. E.D. HIRSCH, MARCH 31, 2010 I’d like to first thank the Pioneer Institute for inviting me to participate on this panel. It’s highly unusual for a teacher (or, in my case, a former teacher) to actually be invited to discuss education policy in such a forum. So Pioneer, if you have a Facebook page, I just might have to become a fan! Dr. Hirsch, thank you for that erudite and provocative talk. I’m sure that all of my students would have learned a great deal from the content of your presentation. I know I did. I would also hope that, as they listened to it, they would be silently evaluating the logic of your argument, considering the historical evidence you used, and wondering whether other historians interpreted the past in the same bifurcated way. Teachers must always have the time to model and encourage such habits of mind. After all, higher-order thinking skills began long before the 21st Century. Speaking personally, my 35-years in the classroom didn’t demonstrate that teaching critical thinking skills impeded the teaching of content. They were always intertwined. I taught skills in the context of content, so students would […]

You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

***Cross-posted on The Dridge Report***

Along with my colleague in the House, Rep. Carl Sciortino, I’ve been a frequent poster on BMG on the issue of transparency and accountability in government spending, particularly around the issue of corporate tax credits and economic development spending.

As time goes on, evidence continues to mount that the millions we give out in tax credits and subsidies to corporations each year are not having their intended effect, and that despite big promises, job creation numbers too often fall far short of expectations.

The Boston Globe recently did some great investigative journalism work looking into the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax breaks we’ve given away under the Economic Development Incentive Program, which aims to encourage companies to invest here and create jobs. As the author noted:

“Often the incentives work and new jobs result. But far too often taxpayers have not come close to getting their money’s worth.”

Tax Subsidies Are State Dollars Too!

(Cross-posted from

Two recent stories in the Boston Globe raised questions about the state system of business tax subsidies. These subsidies were originally put in place in a sincere effort by the legislature to help retain local businesses and encourage job expansion.

To the disappointment of all of us concerned about job creation, the programs cited in these articles have sometimes failed to deliver. Promised jobs were not always created, and a distressing lack of oversight allowed companies to keep subsidies they received for jobs that never materialized. We’ve even given tax breaks to businesses that cut their workforce at the same time that they were receiving state assistance!

Do these tax incentives invite abuse by businesses and bureaucrats? Absolutely – just like every other part of state government. Business subsidies need, deserve, and demand proper oversight if they are to be anything but handouts.

Small Businesses: An Engine for Economic Growth, Job Creation and Community Development

With the unemployment rate in Massachusetts currently at 9.5%, it is imperative that our state does everything in its power to put our residents back to work and accelerate economic growth.  One area of the economy where we can take immediate action to ensure the retention of our current workforce, as well as spur job creation, is the small business community.

As the son of two small business owners, I grew up in my parents’ workplace and know first-hand the struggles that these businesses face, even in a favorable economic climate.  My parents have operated Flowers By Sal in Cambridge for over 40 years and continue to be an integral part of their community.

Small businesses keep our neighborhoods vibrant, employ local residents and provide support to community-based organizations in nearly every city and town in the Commonwealth.  They are the backbone of our cities and towns and we have to ensure that they continue to play this important role in communities throughout the state.  In addition, they can also play a central role in our economic recovery and we should give them the tools they need to make this happen.  

Comment of the day: Meet the Senate candidates tonight!

Thanks to Smashrgrl for letting BMGers know about an excellent opportunity to learn more about the candidates for the Middlesex, Suffolk & Essex Senate seat: You can meet all of these candidates TONIGHT The Young Democrats of Massachusetts is hosting a Meet the Candidates social tonight, March 31st, at Redline Restaurant in Harvard Sq., Cambridge. All of the Democratic candidates for the Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex special election seat will be attending. The Social starts at 7:00pm. All ages, and wheelchair accessible. In attendence: – Michael Albano (Chelsea Small Business Owner) – Dennis Benzan (Cambridge Attorney) – Sal DiDomenico (Everett Common Councilor and former Galluccio chief of staff) – Timothy Flaherty (Attorney) – Dan Hill (Attorney) – Denise Simmons (Cambridge City Councilor) by: Smashrgrl @ Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 09:57:18 AM EDT

Representative Harkins’ Record

To my fellow BMGers: Recently, right here on Blue Mass Group, Representative Harkins took time out of her busy schedule to charge that her critics have misled people about her record. Well, since we are on the topic, I would like to point out what Representative Harkins’ record really is. 1.       In May of 2008, when evidence was increasingly starting to surface against Speaker DiMasi, Representative Harkins defended the Speaker. At a press conference held by the Speaker, Representative Harkins spoke of the allegations as: “Its a distraction and the speaker doesn’t like it.” ON THE RECORD: All of this, including the direct quote just mentioned is in a Boston Globe by Matt Visor and Andrea Estes from May 2nd, 2008 entitled “Backers Rally to DiMasi Defense; Deny Speaker Broke Ethics Laws.”… 2.       Now if Representative Harkins didn’t know then about what Speaker DiMasi and Speaker Finneran and Speaker Flaherty did as corrupt politicians, but Representative Harkins knows now, why does the Representative continue to accept campaign contributions from corrupt speakers? As recently as 2009, actually. ON THE RECORD: the 2002-2009 OCPF reports that are easily searchable for anyone with a computer and […]

So, that $295 million budget gap? Never mind.

Remember that $295 million budget gap that emerged a couple of weeks ago?  The one that, according to perpetual doom-sayer Mike Widmer, was “a very big deal” showing that “there’s no end to the bad news”?  The one that, according to Charlie Baker, revealed “fundamental incompetence” on the part of both Deval Patrick and Tim Cahill? Well, um, never mind. Turns out, the gap isn’t $295 million, it’s $195 million.  Also turns out that $77 million of it will be covered by the feds.  That leaves about $118 million. Under the [Patrick administration's] plan, this would be accomplished by reducing spending by $38 million in 10 accounts, draining a $50 million surplus from a state transportation fund, and taking $30 million from the state’s rainy day fund…. Steven C. Panagiotakos, Senate Ways and Means chairman, said the Senate will probably vote on the governor’s proposal next week.  ”I think it’s reasonable and it’s prudent,” said Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat. “I do hate that we have to use any money from the rainy day account, but we really have no choice at this late time in the budget cycle.” About $600 million is left in the rainy day account. Charles A. […]