Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Globe and DiMasi

Maybe I sound a little too much like Mel Gibson, but is there a coincidence in these two stories on DiMasi in today's Globe?

The second article, to me, seems to be the most damaging; it attacks exactly what DiMasi is trying most to protect - his budget.

A federal agency is threatening to cut as much as $20 million in funding for the MBTA if the
House approves a budget provision, championed by Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, that would move the Transportation Oversight Division from the Department of Public Utilities to the Executive Office of Transportation.

I guess we don't want to pass that budget! It's an important issue, especially when the Bay State's infrastructure isn't funded well enough as is, so let's hope that DiMasi doesn't risk those extra funds. $20 million is a lot of money. Here's the problem:
The Federal Transit Administration has told state officials that DiMasi's plan compromises the independence of the division, which oversees the MBTA, and would force the Transit Administration to cut a portion of its funding for the T. By federal statute, the administration can withhold up to 5 percent of the approximately $400 million in federal grants the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority receives if the federal government deems that the division overseeing its safety procedures has a conflict of interest.
The second story is one of the Globe's famous Pension Numbers. This time, it's an aide DiMasi let go - several days after she was eligible for a much higher pension. Oh no you dihin't.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's executive assistant, Donna Sweeney, was fired last month after 20 years of service in the House of Representatives, 20 years and 11 days, to be exact.

The dismissal of the 42-year-old staff member, less than two weeks after she qualified for early pension benefits, could increase her annual payout to $20,000, more than four times the annual amount she would have received if she had quit. The increase could mean potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars more in pension payments over her lifetime.

Under a law designed to protect employees from being harmed by politically motivated dismissals when newly elected officials take over, state workers who have 20 years of service are eligible for significantly higher pension benefits if they are terminated and can prove they were not fired because of questionable behavior. But they are disqualified from the enhanced benefit if there is any evidence of collusion with a superior to make what is in fact a resignation appear to be a termination.

Soon after Sweeney was dismissed in March, the State Retirement Board delayed a vote on her application for an enhanced pension after board members raised questions about the timing of her termination. The board will reconsider Sweeney's request today. If denied, Sweeney would qualify for an annual pension of $4,600.

Personally, I think twenty years of service to the state is worth more than a $4,600 pension - and $20,000 doesn't sound all that off. However, I typically label these pension stories as "fake news" because they seem more made up to stoke the passions - whether legitimate or not - and they so often seem like political hit pieces. It kind of feels nice that some of that, err.... "good reporting" is being directed toward DiMasi for once. After all, if ever there was a man in the wrong and a man with a sickeningly close relationship to the big corps of this state, that man is Sal DiMasi.

So, Boston Globe, keep firing away. At least DiMasi is deserving of the heat for trying to rob the future (the rainy day fund) instead of making corporations just pay their fair share by closing some of our most egregious corporate tax loopholes. DiMasi ought to learn quick that the state is in rough financial shape and millions of people are affected by his poor decision making. If it takes pension stories to do that, maybe I'm okay with it.


Mass Marrier said...

It sure looks like Sal has overplayed his hand substantially here. His lawmaker buddies were all bluster and all behind him at the beginning. Now with the papers and people questioning one move and blunder after another, he's far less attractive.

It makes sense and all goes with political arrogance. Maybe now, though, Patrick's side can get him to work for us.

Anonymous said...

$4,000 after 20 years? something is askew. Was she full time?

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