The Globe’s Lisa Wangsness has a big story on Sal DiMasi’s supposed pre-eminence among the three Beacon Hill heavyweights, towering over Gov. Patrick and Senate Prez Murray.
Waaaalll, maybe. First of all, I think the statute of limitations may have run out on Gov. Patrick’s “early stumbles”. I’m not so sure that he’s “weakened” anymore — he’s not acting like it, after all. I’m not sure that had he chosen a Ford Escort to drive that he’d be in any different a situation, here in May of 2007. The position of Speaker is inherently extremely powerful — making legislation is a team game, and if the underlings want their priorities advanced, they have to play ball with the Speaker. (For instance, I’m really curious how different Jim Marzilli’s green energy bill was from the speaker’s — must have been pretty different if it got him demoted.)
Secondly, it’s got to be easier simply to maintain power and crank out status-quo-preserving legislation and spending, at the expense of actually pushing through an ambitious agenda. Lucky for Sal he’s got the governor’s cooperation on his green energy bill, for instance. If he wants anything else major, he’ll have to play ball with Patrick and Terry Murray.
The other thing that will cost DiMasi some prominence is that harsh mistress, arithmetic. Yeah, they decided to blue-ribbon-panel the corporate tax loophole issue, but I cannot imagine that any balanced group of wonks is going to say that the state doesn’t need to fix the revenue problem — quite possibly closing some of the loopholes as proposed by the governor. I just really doubt that outcome is going to look good for DiMasi, because he’s just flat-out wrong on the merits and on the math. I don’t know — maybe the rainy day fund will get depleted into oblivion, because no one lobbies for a rainy day fund — but that’s a terrible way to run government.
I’ll be interested to see how DiMasi reacts to Patrick’s forthcoming plans to reorganize education spending, too. I have little doubt that Patrick’s going to propose some major new revenue streams, to which Sal’s been pretty allergic so far.
Of course, in spite of his intransigence on some issues, we could do (and have done) much, much, much worse than DiMasi. He’s been an out-front progressive on issues from same-sex marriage to health care. But with regard to issues such as revenue, a quote from Georgia might be relevant:
Lobbyist Rusty Paul, a former state GOP chairman, said political giving at the statewide level is “like a compass. It’s always pointed one way ? toward power.”
I have little doubt that every big-money lobbyist is making a beeline for DiMasi, imagining (vainly, I hope) that he’s bound to be their best friend in the Patrick/Terry Murray era.