Too many missed opportunities in 2009

(good but as an an elected official please never call them the majority party. Never. – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

As we approach the end of the 2009, Representative Jeffrey Davis Perry (R-Sandwich) takes the opportunity to outline a number of missed opportunities the Majority Party rejected this past year.

Representative Perry stated today, “Our solution to the fiscal crisis was to increase taxes on sales, meals, telecommunications, alcohol, satellite television, hotel stays, nursing home residents and fees at the Registry. This is very disappointing.  Families are struggling to make ends meet, and if our Democratic counterparts in the House think raising every tax under the sun is going to make the lives of those families better, they are sadly mistaken.”

“I am disappointed to say the least in the failed fiscal efforts of the Governor and the Legislature.   During the last two budget debates, we said that passing these budgets would have long term damage and sadly, we were right.  Had we been more responsible in Fiscal Year 2009 and 2010, we may not be in such a dire situation” added Representative Perry.

Below is a summary of Republican efforts rejected by the Majority Party during the last year (Special thanks to Republican Bradley H. Jones, Jr. and his staff for this information):

Statewide Hiring Freeze: Despite dwindling state revenues, data posted on the Governor’s budget website shows that nearly 2,000 state employees have been hired since January 2009. This amendment proposes to implement a statewide hiring freeze for all sectors of state government for FY10. Additionally, this amendment places the responsibility of providing waivers to the freeze with each departmental manager (Speaker and Senate President for the Legislature), but limits waivers to instances where the public’s health and safety are at risk. Any waivers granted by a departmental manager must be kept on record. This reform measure, which was estimated to save millions in FY10 alone, was further amended by the Democratic Leadership to create a commission to study the proposal. Unfortunately, the change nullified the intent of the original amendment. [Amendment #320, adopted in Roll Call #133 (139Y-16N), later held in conference by the Conference Committee]

Prescription Drug Waste: This amendment allows residents and consultant pharmacists in health care facilities to return unused prescription medication to the pharmacies from which they were purchased. The medication must be unopened, unexpired and in individual packages which the pharmacy may then restock and redistribute. The pharmacy must compensate the purchaser for the returned medication.  This amendment will lead to cost-savings, as every year millions of dollars in prescription medications are thrown out unopened and unexpired, especially in nursing homes. In 2008, a study found that Massachusetts nursing homes waste $17.5M every year. [Amendment #325, adopted in Roll Call #123 (158Y-0N), later held in conference by the Conference Committee]

Managed Care Plans for MassHealth: This Republican-offered FY10 budget amendment would transfer all Medicaid members from MassHealth fee-for-service programs and primary care clinician plans to a Medicaid managed care organization. Medicaid managed care plans pay for all services needed by the member and have an incentive to manage illness before it becomes more acute and expensive to treat. According to a number of studies of the cost-savings that would result from this change, savings are estimated at between $690M and $1.05B in the period 2009-2013. It is estimated that this will be a savings of $170M in FY10 alone, savings which could be used to return the nursing home assessment to $145M or be allocated to the myriad of other needs existing in the Commonwealth. Democrats, however, did not agree with this logical idea, and voted to defeat the amendment. [Amendment #322, was changed and then rejected by Roll Call #100 (30Y-127N)]

Pacheco Law Threshold: Under the state’s current anti-privatization statute, known as the Pacheco Law, private business wishing to bid on state service contracts worth more than $200K must be subjected to a burdensome state review that favors the delivery of services by state employees. For example, an agency must weigh the cost of using a private sector vendor not with actual state costs but with the cost of existing state employees if they were working in a hypothetical “most cost-efficient manner”. In fact, the Pioneer Institute estimates that state services cost between 10% and 40% more than if private vendors provided the same service; however, only a handful of private companies have been able to navigate the law’s unique review process. This amendment would simply increase the threshold for contracts requiring this type of review from $200K to $5M, saving the state an estimated $20M in FY10. [Amendment #326, rejected in Roll Call #120 (17Y-141N)]

Expedited Sale of Surplus State Land: This amendment establishes a process for selling surplus state property, which allows the Commissioner of the Department of Capital Asset Management to assess the land and property under the control of various departments throughout state government and to sell or lease such property. This process, which has been used in the past, is estimated to generate roughly $10M in FY10. Despite the need to maximize revenue and the current rising budgetary constraints, the Democratic Majority soundly defeated this proposal. [Amendment #333, rejected in Roll Call #132 (17Y-139N)]

Suffolk County Holidays: This amendment, while filed as an amendment to the budget, was actually voted upon during debate on a FY09 Supplemental Budget in June (H. 4125). Seeking to eliminate the state’s two Suffolk County-only holidays, Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day, this amendment was projected to save $10M annually in overtime and paid vacation days. While it seems strange that two state holidays would exist only to the benefit of state employees working in Suffolk County, it was discovered that those state employees physically located outside of Suffolk County were receiving floating holidays that could be used throughout the year. Ultimately, the amendment was defeated on a rare tie vote. [Roll Call #145 (78Y-78N)]

Surplus Turnpike Assets: Many legislators and interested parties have debated the value of the Turnpike’s land and building assets and whether the Pike should sell these assets in order to avoid potential toll hikes. Unfortunately, these proposals had been rejected on a number of grounds, including the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s hesitance to relinquish control of the assets and allow a private company to profit from their value. During the Transportation Reform debate, however, the Republican Leadership filed an amendment that proposed a fair compromise. This amendment directed the Undersecretary of Highways, the Treasurer, and the executive director of the PRIM board to study which Turnpike assets are surplus to the operation of the roadway and have the potential to meet the pension fund’s assumed rate of return. If any assets meet such criteria, the state pension fund may then purchase those parcels at fair market value, pending the approval of the Undersecretary. This would allow the state’s pension fund to “buy low” on potentially valuable assets and would infuse much needed revenue into the Turnpike’s coffers. Ultimately, while this proposal was adopted on a voice vote in the House, it was not included in the final legislation.

Public-Private Partnerships: This proposal, offered by Republican legislators in both the House and Senate, codifies language that would permit the state to consider public-private partnerships when implementing new expansion projects. This language would permit private companies to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain new infrastructure. This process would be subject to the oversight of a commission comprised of experts in the field of transportation, construction, infrastructure, and engineering and the state auditor.  

About jeffperry

  • Here is a couple of items to ponder for the start of 2010:

    1) FY2011 Budget Crisis – From all available information FY2011 looks to be far worse that 2010. Yet, our legislature has yet to make any effort to reduce expenses, look for ways to reduce the growth in costs, etc.  This is the time that the Legislature should be in full court press mode to hold meetings and work to identify options for our looming crisis.  Yet, there is nary a word about the issue and, if past practice serves as precedent, we will not do much of anything until the last minute and act surprised.  Time for the Republican leadership to put forward options for addressing this situation again while the Democrats fiddle.

    2) Impact of Health Care Legislation on State and Municipal Budgets – Let’s start with the presumption that Health Care Reform passes (which I have not given up on yet) and it includes the 40% excise tax on “Cadillac Plans”.  There is a number of municipal and state employees who have plans that would exceed the excise tax threshold.  When this happens this will result in, as I understand it, a tax at the insurance company level which will most likely be passed back to the consumer which is, in this case, our local governments.  This leads to the question – are our cities and towns prepared to handle increased health care costs arising from the larges that they have granted their employees in the form of health care benefits?

    3) Pension and OPEB Obligations – State and Munis have billions in unfunded obligations.  So far the approach has been to extend the date to fully fund pensions by 2 years this past year (to 2030) with pressure to extend another 10 years to 2040.  On top of the pensions, our state and local governments have promised employees health care benefits after they retire.  Benefits that the taxpayer will bear the majority of the cost for providing.  Little to no money is being set aside to cover these obligations.  Previously, it took legislative action to require cities and towns to set aside money to fund pension expenses.  The time has come to do the same for OPEB plans.  We can no longer afford these generous benefit plans and we owe it to the taxpayers and the municipal employees to address this reality sooner rather than later.  Without a state mandate for funding cities and towns will continue to proclaim that there is no issue and blisffully continue down the road to financial ruin.

    This is the time to be the party of fiscal restraint and fiscal reality.  Now is the time to stop mortgaging the future and face our issues openly and honestly. It will not be pretty, but people will respect the truth and an honest approach to what we can and cannot afford.  

  • Rep Perry and ConsEph make many great points.  

    I hope that Rep Perry, ConsEph or someone in the GOP caucus makes this information more useful by putting together more detailed background statements that can be circulated among our candidates.  

    Blogging is great but a network of GOP candidates, facile with this information, and actively spreading the message in their cities and towns is what we need.  

    2010 is a great chance for the GOP in MA but as the great scientist Louis pasteur said “chance favors the prepared mind.”