Monday, July 14, 2008

Budget's Signed

...and Deval vetoed a bunch of line items (David compiles them here). The ones in your area are vital projects, the ones in other areas are pork barrel items.

It will be funny to see how this plays out. For the majority of the past decade, governor's vetoes were overridden as a matter of course; Democrats in the State House didn't owe Romney/Swift/Celucci* anything, and weren't going to pretend that they did. As a matter of fact, I find myself thinking that some vetoes were overridden out of sheer spite. Now, however, we can expect a little more legislative allegiance to the governor, which will make some of these votes rather closer. One of the traps for legislators, though, is to at least maintain an appearance of even-handedness; things could get ugly if all the metro Boston vetoes are overridden, but the spending cuts for the South Coast stick.

I'm doubtful of much of the pursuit of "earmarks" as an inherently bad thing, anyway. As part of their representative function, legislators are expected to work local priorities into the budget. It's not just line items that only benefit certain areas -- agriculture, mass transit, or fishing subsidies flow to selected regions as well by their very nature. While it's easy to pick out a couple seemingly outrageous examples, I personally find most earmarks inoffensive. I don't know how much a cultural center or new building is needed...that's the legislator's job to know that. I don't even know how to question some of these projects, and I doubt the executive does, either. All I'm saying is that McCain yammers on about line-item "pork", but doesn't say much when the government starts building warships and planes that the military doesn't even want.

Line items get singled out as waste because it's so much easier to do so. Any savings that can still be found in government are probably buried deep in departmental budgets, not plainly presented as a line item. I give Deval credit for issuing a restrained statement with the veto, and it will be interesting to see what kind of support he gets from the Chamber.

* Weld actually governed during the GOP high-water mark in recent times; at its apex, the Republicans had enough numbers in the State House to derail overrides.

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