Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cool down everyone - and check out the newbies

At some point this week, it stopped being about a fight over the sales tax, and starting being a fight over the branch of government that calls the shots in Massachusetts. I think that's where things went really, really wrong. Feel free to decide who moved this out of control -- you have many points to choose form. Yeah, I imagine that DeLeo could have collected a majority of votes in support of his crackpot idea, but I can't imagine it wouldn't have gone far beyond that until it got nasty. Blame whomever you want to blame.

One major problem -- we used to count on Terry Murray to keep things cool in these moments, getting Sal and Deval under control when they were being idiotic. I'm guessing that won't happen this time -- "you can't govern by press release, that's what Romney used to do" aren't the words of a neutral observer. I wonder why exactly she went off the fence on this one.

We can argue over who started this...I'm more interested in who's going to finish it. Those of you looking for a full-frontal assault on the Legislature: the governor will lose. Really -- his biggest threat is a veto, and if there's one thing that the Massachusetts Legislature knows how to do by now, it's override vetoes. Primary threats are laughed at by pretty much everyone, and whatever leverage DeLeo has is acres more powerful than any suasion from Deval and his supporters.

Let me point this out: Deval lost the progressives, and he also lost, and lost badly, among members who joined the State House during his tenure.

Of the 2006 freshmen class, the ones who entered state politics alongside Governor Patrick, 8 of 14 voted with DeLeo (D'Amico, Peake, McCarthy, Brownsberger, Alicea, Fernandes, Allen and Conroy voted for the sales tax hike. D'Amico, Campbell, Puppolo, Smith, Calter and Sandlin voted no.)

Of the 2008 freshmen, who entered while Deval was governor, he lost an astonishing 9 of 11. (Gregoire, Dykema, Madden - Independent, Bowles, Lewis, Benson, Ashe, Brady, Hogan for the hike, Arciero and Rosa against).

I would think that if one were truly interested in changing the House, one would court and build support among those who already have dingy offices, bad parking spaces, and scant committee assignments. What's DeLeo going to do to them? The ones most vulnerable to challengers in the primary and general. Deval lost that natural support base to the tune of 18-7 -- even the lowliest members of the House went against him by a veto-proof margin.

This is powerful stuff to me. If anybody would be ripe for plucking by Deval and his people, I would expect it to be people elected under his banner, mostly with him directing the party. And even they don't appear to be cowed by the governor. Or inclined to take his side.

We have to step down. Back off from DEFCON 1, folks. Look for a compromise -- raise the sales tax by .5% with a 1-year sunset provision, put some eminence grise on the task of producing a quick-hit report on raising the gas tax in 2 weeks, and let Deval Patrick cast a veto. Come out with a blue ribbon report recommending a 15 cent raise in the gas tax, pass a 10-cent raise, and muddle through. Let's send everyone hope happy and a winner. If we have only one winner, it won't be the governor and it shouldn't be the legislature.

(Sources: Roll call, 2008 Freshmen, 2006 Freshmen)

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