There’s division even in a one-party state. House Speaker Sal DiMasi is emerging as a fiscal conservative, relatively speaking. The legislature is by default a fiscally conservative unit, particularly with a liberal governor in the corner office. A rivalry between the two branches of government is a natural state of affairs and can sometimes — perhaps not enough — work in favor of the taxpayer. DiMasi abhors a vacuum and he’s taking it one step beyond. Yesterday’s call for a local auditing group takes on a sacred cow: local aid. Both parties have assumed that local aid is sacrosanct. But a close observation of the relationship between cities and towns and the legislature reveals a telling fissure. The legislature isn’t always willing to hear out complaints from local officials about Chapter 70 funding and such. This should be watched closely.
State regulators would keep an eye on spending by local mayors and town managers under a proposal made yesterday by a top Beacon Hill lawmaker.
In a speech to business leaders at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, House Speaker Sal DiMasi (D-North End) said he is considering plans to create a Municipal Audit Bureau.
The job of the state group would be to “analyze and report on local management practices and spending patterns,” DiMasi said. “The purpose is to identify the kinds of efficiencies voters expect and provide an indepedent source of analysis and information for state and local policymakers.”
The proposal comes amid rising concern over local spending. For example, Newton residents are grappling with the rising tab for a nearly $200 million school project and several communities are weighing Proposition 2 1/2 overrides.
“We are investing much in our cities and towns, as we should,” DiMasi said. “But when they call for more, as they do every year in good and in bad, we have a right to know why – and for what.”