“I think Massachusetts will look at it to find out what they can see in Obama with respect to what they did with their vote for Governor Patrick,” DiMasi said in response to a question. “To be perfectly honest, I really don't want my president to be in there in a learning process for the first six months to a year. It's too important.”
The remarks highlighted a rivalry between Patrick and DiMasi that has mostly focused on disagreements over Patrick's policy initiatives. DiMasi clashed with the freshman governor on a number of major issues throughout 2007, posing the biggest challenge to Patrick's efforts to tighten corporate tax codes to prevent business from avoiding state taxes, win a bill licensing three casinos in the state, and pass a $1 billion stimulus bill for the state's life sciences industry.
Asked yesterday how he would judge Patrick's first year in office, DiMasi offered a laugh, and said, “I say that the Legislature did a great job.”
Leaving aside Obama vs. Clinton … let's process this a little bit: I think everyone would agree that there were a few missteps at the beginning of Patrick's administration, mostly in terms of handling the press. After Joe Landolfi et al came on board, I haven't seen too much evidence that Patrick's inexperience has come into play.
The major conflicts now are over arithmetic (revenue and spending) and the pace of legislative action. That has little to do with experience; if anything, the debate over revenue stems mostly from DiMasi's stubborn inability to recognize that the state simply cannot fulfill its current obligations — to health care and infrastructure, among other things — without new revenue. That comes from being conditioned by a fearful political culture — afraid of Verizon's lobbyists on their sweet tax exemptions; afraid of changing revenue streams to something more fair; afraid of giving greater control of revenue streams to cities and towns for fear of being thought a “tax raiser”. His experience tells him that he's vulnerable to lobbyists, but somehow immune to arithmetic.
The legislature did a great job last year? I'll give you same-sex marriage … but mostly it succeeded in punting issues into this year: Life sciences, the energy bill, parts of the Municipal Partnership Act. I'll happily give DiMasi credit on holding up the casino bill … but where else is the revenue going to come from? Hello?
Frankly, I'd prefer a governor who's a little less accustomed to the legislature's shuffling pace of work, obedience to special interests, and sense of complacency while municipalities face crisis. It's too important.
UPDATE: In the comments, Farnkoff says: “DiMasi sounds like he's declaring victory over the people of Massachusetts”.