Tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM the Massachusetts House of Representatives will begin debating the 2014 Fiscal Year budget. Unlike last year, and years before, the budget should be crafted in full view of the public. The public deserves no less.
Last year, I wrote about the budget process, and why it is an anathema, in the post Room 348 – Where Liberty Goes to Die. It remains true this year.
I speak of course of the budget process. State House News reported that James Miceli (D-Wilmington) said that this years budget process was the most efficient he’s ever seen. Unfortunately the price of efficiency is transparency and democracy.
On Tuesday April 24, 2012, for the first time, I spent an evening in the House Chambers to watch the “debate” of the budget. What I saw was not debate. For long periods of time, members of the house sat around gabbing, looked at their iPads, caught up on Netflix, listened to their iPods, and snacked on soda and candy. They did not debate, at least not in the open.
The real debate took place behind closed doors, in a secretive room for Members Only. State House Room 348, where the real work of the budget is done. Behind closed doors with no public or press access.
A couple of Freshmen legislators, on the condition of anonymity described a process similar to an audience with Don Corleone in the Godfather. The representatives described waiting in a line to speak with Ways and Means chairman Dempsey. The proscribed protocol is to thank Dempsey for his tireless work on the budget and to humbly ask him to support your gazebo, state park, social program, etc… This goes on for hours.
Speaker DeLeo, open this process up to the public. We deserve nothing less.