I went to the Great Lowell Chamber of Commerce breakfast this AM, to hear our local representatives on Beacon Hill tell us about how it is going. I was fortunate in that I was invited to sit at the Community Teamwork (CTI) table, right up front.
Probably the best reporting on this will be by Marie Sweeney, on the Dick Howe Blog, later this AM.
At the table were Marie Sweeney, Rita O'Brien Dee, her daughter, Mary Ann Nichols, her son, Adam Nichols, Connie Martin, Karen Frederick and Bill Lipchitz and one other person (apologies here, but for those who know me, getting that set of names down was a feat of legerdemain).
Lots of local personalities were present, and so was WCAP.
High points in the talks by the legislators.
Rep Barry Fitzgerald described this as not a recession, but as a reset. He attributed that to General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immel. But, Rep Fitzgerald said that if the reset goes on long enough it could cause a $3 to $4 billion dollar budget deficit. Not good news.
State Senator Steve Panagiotakos said the recession was late coming to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and since it was a "consumer recession," we were not impacted as much as others. In particular he mentioned our strong business to business relations and the fact that we are not as dependent on construction. He noted we finished FY 2008 $1 billion over revenue. But, our current Fiscal Year budget has been revised down $1.95 billion since the last Summer. The real warning was for FY 2011 and FY 2012, where there will be bad cuts if there is no economic turnaround. One of the points the Senator made was "Reform before Revenue (enhancement)."
State Senator Susan Tucker talked about the Senior Citizen Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. She said she is working on tenant protection, so that if the landlord loses the house, but it hasn't yet been sold, the tenants don't get thrown out anyway. She is also working on having lending institutions do a financial analysis on homes before they foreclose, to ensure we don't do something financially and morally wrong. She echoed the point about Reform before Revenue, especially with regard to the gasoline tax. She also said that we need to get Ethics and Pension reforms done. These reforms are needed to restore trust. Finally, she said that she was working to get schools to introduce financial literacy, something nine other states now require.
She did have the only decent joke. A tall, thin, attractive blond, she noted she went to Beacon Hill in the 1980s, when there were few women. She used to hear a lot of blond jokes in the hallways. She felt they didn't apply to her, since she knew she wasn't stupid and she knew she wasn't blond.
Rep Ken Donnelly, new to the Great and General Court. He had the second best job. He noted that Massachusetts students were number one across the nation in MCAS scores. He then noted, correctly, that Massachusetts students were the best in the "Western World" in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The only problem with that is that, in my humble opinion, we should count Japan as being in the "Western World," which I define in a political/economic way.
Rep Kevin Murphy talked about higher education and agreed to the formula, Reform before Revenue. He pointed out that what the Commonwealth lacks in natural resources we make up for in a talented work force, but that we can't afford to lose that edge and 15% tuition increases like yesterday's don't help.
Rep David Nangle talked about the Governor's Honeymoon being over with his revenue increase proposals, especially the 27 cent a gallon gas tax increase. He is for consolidation of departments that are doing transportation management for the Commonwealth. He also thought tolls on I-93 and Route 3 were bad and noted that when the legislation for Route 3 was passed it included a provision prohibiting tolls on the highway. I think one of his main points was that we want to avoid regaining the appellation "Taxachusetts."
Rep Tom Golden noted (correctly) that we are in much better shape than many states and then called, specifically, for people to contact their representatives on Beacon Hill if they need help. He made the point that in this time of trouble everyone should reach out to their representatives in the State Government if they have a problem, so that it can be worked.
We also had reps from State Senator Susan Fargo and Rep Jim Miceli, neither of whom could make it. (Jim Miceli, on a WCAP program, promised to get back to me on something, over a year ago, and hasn't. It had to do with State policy on capital replacement WRT public buildings. I had told him that the US Air Force had been using 50 years. He was going to check on Massachusetts.)
Finally, we had one question from the floor and this was Bill Wayland of WCAP and he asked about the story that the Governor is thinking about putting a chip in everyone's inspection sticker so the State can track folks and charge them for driving. State Senator Susan Tucker was quickest off the mark--"N o W a y !"
Regards -- Cliff