Speaker Deleo- Stuck in the Middle

The Legislative leadership, having staked out what they considered to be a safe middle ground on raising revenues, (the $500 million plan) now finds itself taking incoming fire from both left and right. The Governor is piling on from the left, with a veto threat, and the Republicans are attacking from the right with charges of tax and spend.

The Governor put out a statement that was very critical of the legislative package.

In January, I presented a budget that makes critical, long-delayed investments in our transportation and education systems. The plan I proposed will modernize our transportation system Commonwealth-wide; better prepare our children for work and life, including by bringing thousands of kids off the wait-list for early education programs and making college more affordable; and create tens of thousands of jobs well into the future.

This week, the Legislature presented their alternative. Theirs is a transportation-only plan that raises taxes on everybody to fix some of the deficit at the T for a few years–and little else. Our education needs are not even mentioned. Their plan was developed behind closed doors without public feedback or a hearing. And it is being hurried through the Legislature for a vote next week. I don’t see how it’s either good policy or good politics to raise taxes on everybody without being able to show that you’re delivering something at home. By proposing a pretend solution rather than a real one, the Legislature is kicking the can down the road again. That is a slow-growth or a no-growth choice. It does not bear our generational responsibility. And I will not support it.

We all have a stake in this debate. Whether you agree with my plan or the Legislature’s, make your voice heard. You can reach the Governor’s Office at 617-725-4005 and you can find your local legislator: http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

Governor Patrick, in the past, has routinely had his vetoes overridden by the Legislature. This time however the Speaker and the Senate President may find overriding the promised veto a bit more difficult. The Governor is rallying progressives in the Legislature to vote against the Speakers tax package, and will be looking to that group to provide him with sufficient votes to sustain a veto. They will more than likely be joined by the Republicans who will likely vote with the Governor to sustain a veto, and stop the Speaker’s package from advancing. The very old adage about politics making strange bedfellows will likely be borne out on the veto override vote.

The Speaker realizes his difficulty and sent out Chairman Dempsey to tell state house reporters that in the event his package fails the House will be moving on to the budget, and leaving transportation finance behind. The threat is obvious, and one that the Governor will need to ponder carefully. The Speaker is offering $500 million, and seems to be indicating he will reduce that offer to zero if the Governor manages to win the veto fight.

The Senate President, although carrying a substantially lower profile on this matter, still has some problems in her caucus. From the Globe:

The nose count was less clear in the Senate, where Patrick had scored some support by including long-awaited transportation projects in his plan. Already, the debate has confounded one member’s plans, as Senator Ben Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat, rescheduled his honeymoon flight to be on hand for the Senate vote, scheduled for Thursday.

“Not only do I not think that we have the votes to override, I don’t know whether we have the votes to pass it,” said one Democrat. “I don’t know what the House is going to do, but I think the debate on our side is far from a foregone conclusion.”

With the situation deteriorating you might think that there would be some negotiations, but both sides seem to be talking over each other rather than to each other. Funny thing is that serious negotiations between the Governor and Legislature could produce a deal in a relatively quick time frame, probably at a number of $750 million for transportation. It does not seem likely today, but maybe the weekend will bring cooler heads.

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