Saturday, October 20, 2007

Governor Patrick's Frustrations

The Globe has an interesting article on Governor Patrick today, about how he's frustrated by the slow pace of the state legislature.

"I'm frustrated by the pace; I don't make any secret of that," Patrick said in an interview yesterday. "I don't think it's simply because I'm from the private sector or, as they say in the South, 'not from around here.' It's because I got elected to make change. People are hungry for it, and I think a lot of people see the reasons for the delays as excuses for inaction. And sometimes I do, too."

The biotech package is one of a series of blockbuster proposals the Democratic governor has rolled out since taking office: ending corporate tax breaks, repealing the telecommunications tax, allowing local communities to raise modest rooms and meals taxes, and getting tougher on gun crime.

When things like the biotech bill aren't getting through, which enjoys widespread support, it's understandable to see the Governor frustrated. In part, his frustrations likely led to the casino proposal: he's doing whatever he can to raise funds for his initiatives. However, dealing with the legislature - and especially Speaker DiMasi - is a different sort of beast. Being creative and coming up with new proposals aren't going to make the Speaker budge.

The Governor is going to have to play Carrot and Stick. If Speaker DiMasi isn't going to pass meal tax local options, restrictions on corporate tax loopholes, a balanced budget that doesn't rely on rainy-day funds and some of the more important educational initiatives the Governor proposes, beat the Speaker with a stick. Publicly wield the veto pen, if only to give the Speaker a taste of his own medicine. Privately, let the Speaker know it'll all stop when two or three of the Governor's most important proposals pass, especially those that will bring the state to a place of fiscal sanity. Of course, the House can put their finger prints on the bill, too - compromise is fine - but things have to pass that will actually help the people of this Commonwealth.

Then, there's the Carrot: according to at least one of Patrick's early legislative endorsers during the primary, the Governor isn't doing enough to reach out to house reps to gain support for his bills, or to help them with their priorities. The Governor needs to reach out to House and Senate members and nibble away at Murray and DiMasi's control over those bodies. We don't need an all-powerful Governor, but we can't afford to have an all-powerful Speaker DiMasi either.

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