Promoting Prudent Fiscal Stewardship

Rob Eno from RedMassGroup recently wrote about RMG’s new project that will score, going back ten years, every spending and debt vote taken by Republican Legislators.  Scored will be Budget Bills, Supplemental Budget Bills, and bond bills.  Votes scored will only be on the final bills, not amendments.  Eno’s concern is that many conservative organizations focus only on opposing tax increases and not enough on dealing with spending & debt.  Brad Wyatt told me that he would vote against the budget unless it held the line on spending.

I agreed with 99% of Eno’s posting and the one percent I disagreed on relates to my focus as a fiscal stewardship activist.  I am the Research Director of the Newton Taxpayers Association and we primary focus our fiscal stewardship activist efforts on government spending, the size & role of government and Newton’s $1.16 Billion Borrowing Binge consisting of unfunded pensions ($244 Million), retiree health care ($602 Million), bonded debt ($234 Million) and other liabilities ($80 Million).  

My belief, which I am instilling in the NTA’s membership, is that an expanded role of government drives higher spending & debt.  Higher spending & debt drive calls for higher taxes at all levels and especially Proposition 2.5 overrides at the local level. Although we did not defeat the 2013 Newton override, we got 45% to vote no on the override, which is very good considering that we were facing the following headwinds:

1. The pro-override group co-opted opponents of prior overrides.

2. Mayor Warren had reduced compensation spending growth by reducing the growth of salaries & benefits.

3. The pro-override group was able to sell themselves as promoting “reform from reformers” because Mayor Warren was the primary spokesman for the override and made the override into a referendum on Mayor Warren’s performance in office, specifically reducing compensation growth.

4. They made the usual arguments about rotting school buildings and infrastructure but also how Mayor Warren made a Capital Improvement Plan to fix Newton’s infrastructure, which had never been done before in Newton.

5. When Mayor Warren was proposing his override in October 2012, the Newton Republicans were doing rallies for Romney in New Hampshire.

6. Scott Brown only got 33% of the vote in Newton in 2012 versus 55% in Shrewsbury.

7. There were Republicans that voted for some or all of the override questions, including the lone Republican Alderman Greer Tan Swiston.

8. The President of the Newton Taxpayers Association (at the time) was quoted as saying that Mayor Warren was doing a superb job in 2011.

9. The anti-override group Moving Newton Forward with Fiscal Responsibility did not form until 6 weeks before the election.

I am surprised that Newton’s anti-override group Moving Newton Forward with Fiscal Responsibility got 45% against the override whereas Shrewsbury for Responsible Taxation only got 34% in the Republican stronghold of Shrewsbury.  That is not supposed to be a negative reflection against SRT, but rather show that when I was Co-Chair of Moving Newton Forward, I must have been doing something right.  I think my willingness to take on budgetary sacred cows such as employee compensation and costs for educating out-of-district students helped strike a nerve with our targeted taxpaying voters and swung votes our way.

I recently wrote in The Newton TAB about how the continuously climbing compensation of the Newton Public Schools system’s unions and educrats is crowding out spending in other areas of city government in Newton’s FY2015 budget.  I could tell it was very well received as I received two positive emails from Democrat Aldermen.  In addition, the head of the Newton Republican City Committee as well as the State Committeewoman for the First Middlesex & Norfolk District (Newton, Brookline & Wellesley) suggested I forward my column to the Executive Director of a well-known fiscal responsibility & good governance watchdog group.

I believe that good prudent fiscal stewardship is more than merely opposing tax increases, and highlighting poor fiscal stewardship through lavish compensation growth is a winning issue for our side.  I am pleased that my most recent column confirmed that.  My article prompted a follow-up response from former Newton Mayoral Candidate Bill Heck, an indirect rebuttal column from Alderman Rick Lipof and 2 letters rebutting the rebuttal column.  I am pleased that it got people talking about Newton’s fiscal position in the Newton TAB.

I’m also happy that it generated interest on the Newton TAB Blog.  With 40 Comments, it was the third most commented on article this year.  With 13 Unique commenters, it was in the top 4 in terms of unique commenters.  The 40 comments for that article represented 34% of all comments on April blog posts.  The 40 total comments and the 13 unique commenters for my article were well ahead of the 5.5 average total comments received for all blog articles in April excluding my article.  When Village 14 made a blog post on Newton’s pensions and linked it to my August 2013 column, it was so well-received that it was the highest rated blogpost in the history of Village 14 (Top Rated Posts-All).

When I publish research reports on Newton’s fiscal woes, I seek to stimulate an actively healthy debate and show a prudent outlook centered on fiscal stewardship and good governance reform that is a Clear & Effective Alternative to Newton’s political status quo.  Former Newton Mayoral Candidate Bill Heck said it best when he said “Joshua insists upon REAL facts, REAL consequences, and REAL debate when discussing Newton civic issues.”  People in Newton have tuned out what goes on in the city as nearly 68% of Newton voters did not vote in last year’s override election and 77% of Newton voters did not vote in last year’s municipal general election.  These are the people I am trying to bring back to the discussion regarding Newton’s fiscal and civic affairs.

Lastly, although the NTA is not currently endorsing candidates, the reason why I (personally) support Mark Fisher for Governor is that he is the only candidate that supports policies promoting prudent fiscal stewardship and good governance reform by limiting the size and scope of government.  Deval Patrick raised taxes by $1.3 Billion annually and Mark Fisher not only was the only candidate to sign the No-New-Taxes Pledge and articulate a bold tax cut platform, but also the only candidate that articulated specific areas of spending ($1.8 Billion annually on benefits for illegal aliens and $400 Million annually on EBT Fraud) he wanted to cut.  Mark Fisher supports the Tank the Gas Tax effort (and gathered signatures with Chris Pinto, Paul Franco & Billy McCarthy) and is also the only 2014 gubernatorial candidate that opposed the minimum wage increase, his town’s Proposition 2.5 tax override, Cape Wind, RomneyCare socialized medicine and the $2.2 Billion South Coast Rail Boondoggle.

About Joshua Norman

Joshua Norman is a lifelong resident of Newton and is stepping up to rebuild the Newton Republican City Committee's Ward 4 Ward Committee. He has been a frequent contributor to the Newton TAB since 2013 and has also been quoted by The Boston Globe and the Newton Patch. He is the Vice President and Research Director of the Newton Taxpayers Association and a Newton Co-Captain for End Common Massachusetts. He is currently a candidate for GOP State Committee Man from the First Middlesex & Norfolk District - Newton, Brookline and Wellesley (Pcts. A, C-E, H).