What a week it was on Beacon Hill.
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, the personification of the nonessential state worker, announces he is decamping to his native Worcester, taking with him the real story of his 108-mph, predawn crash in his state car.
State Rep. John Fresolo, a fellow Democrat and Worcesterite, abruptly quits amid reports he is the target of a House Ethics Committee investigation for unspecified Statehouse shenanigans.
Stephen W. Doran, the former Democratic chairman of the aforementioned Ethics Committee, is arrested as he leaves the Boston school where he now teaches on charges of trafficking in methamphetamine.
Did we miss anyone? Never mind. The real skulduggery on Beacon Hill last week was being committed both in plain sight and behind closed doors as the Legislature pushed ahead with a juggernaut $34 billion budget and accompanying $500 million tax increase.
Together, they threaten to flatten the Bay State’s still struggling economy.
The Senate approved the $34 billion spending plan late Thursday, one month after the House passed a budget with a similar bottom line but different details.
The two bodies will spend June trying to bring the two plans into alignment and deciding how best to pick the pockets of their unsuspecting constituents. By the time the budget goes into effect July 1, those constituents will be in full summertime-and-the-living-is-easy mode.
The tax-and-spend plan will nickel, dime and dollar them at a time when many are hard-pressed to support their own households, never mind their insatiable state government.
And we do mean “nickel.” The Senate budget would extend the five-cent bottle deposit to water and sports drinks.
Increases in taxes on gasoline, tobacco and businesses are also in the mix. We don’t know the details yet because the tax proposal is being hammered out in secret after a six-member Senate and House conference committee closed its deliberations to the public.
Meanwhile, the state’s real problem — spending — remains largely unaddressed.
The Senate said no, for example, to efforts to amend the budget to require photo ID on electronic benefit transfer cards to reduce the EBT fraud that costs the state millions of dollars a year. Senate leaders promised to work on a “comprehensive” welfare reform plan later. Promises, promises.
As usual, the guardians of the public treasury described their spending increases as “investments” in the future.
But a new study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University found the Legislature’s “investments” won’t pay off for average citizens of Massachusetts. In fact, they’ll hurt them.
The study said the half-billion dollar tax plan favored by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray will result in 2,460 fewer jobs in Massachusetts and reduce disposable income by about $250 per household, according to the Statehouse News Service.
It may not sound like much, but we’re betting most people would prefer the $250 in their own pockets, rather than DeLeo and Murray’s. And the 2,460 unemployed would rather be working.
But there’s good news.
The Beacon Hill Institute said the Legislature’s plan wouldn’t be as rough on the economy and Bay State families as the $1.9 billion tax increase recommended by Gov. Deval Patrick. That plan, which would include an income take hike, would kill 17,800 jobs and shrink disposable income by $480 per household, the institute said.
Patrick and the Democratic leadership assure us that our short-term pain will translate into a long-term gain for the Commonwealth as they wisely use our nickels, dimes and dollars to — as a Statehouse News Service story put it — “make long overdue investments in the state’s transportation network, creating construction jobs and putting the state in better position for long-term economic growth by making it more attractive to existing and potential businesses.”
We have our doubts about that, given how the state’s previous “investments” of billions and billions of our dollars have left us with decaying infrastructure and a soft economy.
If only the governor and Legislature would make some long overdue investments in the citizens of the Commonwealth by reining in spending so they can keep more of their own money.
Then we might see a real return on investment.