Is the governor engaging in political grandstanding? Absolutely. Is he being confrontational? Indubitably. But he is also dead right. The pension situation is a mess; reform needs to apply to current workers as well as prospective state hires. The transportation system is in crisis and the Legislature has yet to respond fully to the ethical issues raised by the Dianne Wilkerson mess. These reforms aren't naturally connected to sales taxes, but if the governor can get action on these fronts by mobilizing tea-party-like antipathy toward taxes, then so much the better.
Now … yesterday I mocked certain legislators' complaints of how the Gov is ruining the “partnership” with the Legislature. Partnership is, of course, a two-way street. You like having a partner up there, Rodrigues? Then help him out.
We all know that most legislators have nothing to worry about in their next election. There's no urgency there, not really. Maybe it's because the GOP is a basket case; maybe it's campaign finance; maybe there aren't enough More-n'-Better Dems to run; etc.
But the governor does have to run. And he will face an opponent; if it's Charlie Baker, it'll be a formidable one. (Christy I still don't worry too much about.) Patrick faces a lot of skeptics right now, people suspicious that he's not going to follow through on the promise of big reforms, that he's not going to change the way Beacon Hill works, that instead it's changed him. Like it or not, bringing this kind of attitude is precisely why he was elected, legislators.
The governor's partnership with the legislature has indeed been very fruitful, by and large. It's not without tension, by design; but certainly last year's final DiMasi session was productive: Marriage, tax loopholes, energy, oceans, life sciences, etc.
The governor — your partner — needs big, substantial, obvious, and believable reforms on pensions, ethics, and transportation — the kind of results where even the skeptics say, “Holy smokes, I didn't think they had it in them!” He needs something big to take to the public next year. If he doesn't get those things, he's in serious electoral jeopardy. Sure, then you can have a GOP governor to blame when things go pear-shaped. After all, you had that for 16 years, and all we got was this lousy Big Dig Culture.
Nice partnership you have there, legislators. Pity if something happened to it.