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Friday, April 15, 2005

Dutch Treat? Watch Your Wallets...

Your local Legislature in Boston is about to begin its annual money deliberations again, indulging in the behaviour that has made it so famous - Bacon Hill, as one reporter once called it. Makes me recall when John Hancock joined in with the Revolutionaries because he was about to become a bankrupt because of back taxes owed to the Crown. When the collectors came knocking, he sped off in full cry, to overthrow a government rather than live wihin his means.

$22 billion dollars would seem a moderate pie to slice, yet there is never enough to stay the appetite of Legislators. Every year, they piously endeavor to raise the tax rate, so they can take care of more of those in need - many of them in need of a job or pension. Every year, your Governor cuts them back to size, as required by the state's balenced budget amendment. Of course, it is the Governor who must show balance, not the Legislature. This year's debate will be worse than those for the past few years, as the Legislature has chosen to cast off one of the few bits of restraint it showed.

This year, they will deliberate without the confines of the Holland Amendment, whcih had been in force for the last five or so years. Briefly, if the Holland Amendment has been adopted as a rule, then every Legislator who offers an amendment for a wee bit of fluff for the folks back home must name where else in the budget the money will be found. That is why, last year, there were over 100 amendments taking money from the pool created out of added fees at Registries of Deeds to fund the Community Preservation Act, one of the last great standing resevoirs of money in the Commonwealth. Mind you, these are the same Legislators who piously decry any implication that the Governor might do the same thing. THAT would be entirely different.

Now, amendments can be filed, willy-nilly, without a care as to where the cash may come from. It remains to be seen if the new leader, DiMasi, can keep as iron a grip on the proceedings as Tom Finneran, but ditching the Holland amendment is not a good start.

Of course, an election will be held next year, and an Irishman, a Blackamoor, and a Prince of Darkness have all announced interest in dethroning the Governor. There may be method in this madness. Send the Governor a budget, oozing like a sausage in a tight casing, and then shrug your shoulders and tell the homefolks that that Bad Man in the Corner Office took away their treats - why, YOU are on record as having voted for them!

It will be an interesting process to watch - but remember, the tab for this Dutch Treat will be paid out of your wallet.


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