Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MassGOP Research Briefing

Do the Democrats on Beacon Hill have the credibility to reform state government?
Part 2: The Democrat Legislature

House Speaker Robert DeLeo let politics influence spending

Democrat House Speaker Robert DeLeo was notorious for "DeLeo Dollars", or wasteful spending doled out to lawmakers to score political points: State senators are blasting millions of dollars in proposed pet projects as ``DeLeo Dollars'' - political handouts by a top House lawmaker maneuvering to succeed embattled House Speaker Sal DiMasi. House Ways and Means chairman Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) is jockeying for votes with House Majority Leader John Rogers in hopes of eventually replacing DiMasi, who has been unable to halt the lobbying despite assertions he intends to stay put. DeLeo's powerful committee has steered through tens of millions of dollars for local projects in a spending plan that relies on withdrawing about $600 million from the state's rainy day fund. Among scores of pet projects included: $300,000 for parking lots in Holbrook; $200,000 for community events in Springfield; $200,000 for Boston Symphony Orchestra renovations; and $200,000 for a performing arts center in Great Barrington. (Boston Herald, 5/23/08)

Democrat Senator Michael Morrissey said politics entered DeLeo's spending decisions: ``There was another dynamic going on in the House (budget debate), and that is the potential for a speaker's fight,'' said state Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy). ``Some of that may have entered into the (spending) decisions that were made.'' (Boston Herald, 5/23/08

Questionable jobs the norm in the Legislature

The House employed a $60,000 chief of staff that "had no staff and reported to no one" for six months: Her title was chief of staff, but she had no staff and reported to no one. That did not prevent Carol Aloisi from collecting a $60,000 State House salary for six months, until a state representative found her - literally - sitting in his new office and put her to work. (Boston Globe, 3/17/09)

The House kept 11 members of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi on the payroll for months, at a cost of $14,000 a week: Eleven staff members of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi have continued collecting state paychecks and health benefits even though DiMasi resigned under a cloud in January and they have no clearly defined responsibilities at the State House, state officials said.The arrangement demonstrates how staff members of top lawmakers are sometimes treated more favorably than other state workers whose jobs are eliminated. Several staff members for House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who also resigned amid allegations of ethics violations, were kept on the state payroll for up to four months after he stepped down as speaker, according to House personnel records. Taxpayers have been paying more than $14,000 a week to keep DiMasi's former aides on the state payroll. The staff members include DiMasi's former chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, policy aides, his former press spokesman, and lower-level administrative secretaries. (Boston Globe, 3/19/09)

Former State Representative Anthony Verga was made a $40,000-a-year "senior administrative aide to the clerk's office," just before Speaker DiMasi left office: Anthony Verga, the only member of Salvatore DiMasi's former Massachusetts House leadership team to be beaten in last year's elections, was appointed to a taxpayer-financed position by the former speaker before he resigned. As he was leaving office after seven two-year terms, the 73-year-old Verga was given the $40,000-a-year position as "senior administrative aide to the (House) clerk's office, effective Jan. 7," Seth Gitell, press secretary for Robert DeLeo, the new speaker of the House, said yesterday in response to a query from the Times. (Gloucester Daily Times, 3/5/09)

Speaker DeLeo's leadership team contains representatives with tax or other financial problems

Post Audit and Oversight Vice-Chair Rep. Benjamin Swan (D-Springfield): Owed $20,000 in back taxes. (Springfield Republican, 2/9/09)

State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Vice-Chair Rep. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer): Failed to file income taxes in 2002 and 2003 and defaulted on a $1,955 Sears credit card bill. (Telegram and Gazette, 10/27/06)

Third Division Chair Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston): Failed to file his state income taxes in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 2002. (Boston Herald, 3/10/05)

The Legislature has little credibility on budget cuts

The Legislature claimed it would "cut" its budget by $9.1 million, but in reality simply drew on a reserve fund: The Legislature, for example, promised to cut $9.1 million in spending in October and last week said it would cut another $1.6 million. Legislative officials were unable to document exactly where the $10.7 million in total savings will come from, but it appears a large chunk of the money will come from reserve accounts. In essence, the Legislature will draw down money it has put aside for future spending needs rather than actually cutting its budget. (Commonwealth Magazine, 1/20/09)