Thursday, April 26, 2007

Triple Threat for DiMasi

This morning's Boston Globe features three different stories that cast a bad light on House Speaker Sal DiMasi. The most prominent of the three is the front page, above the fold article about the pension his outgoing executive assistant will receive. The aide, Donna Sweeney, was 'fired' last month after almost exactly twenty years of service, coincidentally the exact amount of time she needed to qualify for early pension benefits. The fact that she was fired, rather than resigned means coupled with her years of service boosts her pension a whopping $15,400 a year. Bob over at BMG is outraged, and he's not alone.

Part of me wonders whether this article was the result of a tip someone from the administration gave to the Globe in retaliation for DiMasi's constant willingness to throw the Governor under the bus. That would fit in nicely with my theory about Andrea Estes, but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

In the local section, Frank Phillips notes that DiMasi's budget may end up costing the state $20 million in federal funds for the MBTA. DiMasi wants to move the Transportation Oversight Division from the Department of Public Utilities to the Executive Office of Transportation, but the Feds think this would compromise the agency's independence. The most curious part of the move is that the DPU was just reorganized earlier this year to be put under the jurisdiction of the Office of Environmental Affairs without DiMasi's objection. Not only that, but his putting this change in the budget breaks his own stated policy against putting new policy or major changes in that bill. I guess if you're the one making the rules, you get to break them.

Finally, on the op/ed pages, columnist Joan Vennochi says that DiMasi is standing up for 'unfairness' by standing in the way of the closure of business tax loopholes proposed by Governor Patrick. She makes a good point, noting that if DiMasi thought it was only fair that businesses help pay for healthcare in last year's plan, why is it so unfair now that they should exploit the tax code to get out of paying what they owe. In her words:

But DiMasi rejected Patrick's proposal. Instead of making sure business pays its fair share, DiMasi would rather dip into savings to close a projected budget gap. In doing so, the speaker stands with the coalition of the greedy at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and other business-backed groups.

The business community argues that closing so-called loopholes amounts to a tax increase. I suppose it does -- in the same way that making a millionaire pay for a previously free lunch is an unwelcome strain on the wallet. But that doesn't make it unfair or too big a burden.
Vennochi then goes on to detail the proposed changes, all which sound perfectly reasonable, and makes the point that the business tax burden in Massachusetts is just not high anymore, if it ever was.