Yes, I know, it's all Whitey all the time -- believe me, I'm enjoying the spectacle -- but let's remember that there's another sordid tale going on: the inability of the Massachusetts state legislature to pass a budget.
The fiscal year ends in six days, on Thursday June 30. So, to have money in the checkbook a week from today, a budget's got to be signed. Bear in mind that the governor needs some time to peruse the vast document (he has up to 10 days) before signing it. It is increasingly clear that the conference committee isn't going to come out with a final compromise budget, reconciling the house and senate versions, before the start of the week. (That's actually been clear since at least yesterday; from my understanding, lawmakers were told they wouldn't need to be in the building until Monday.)
This afternoon, Governor Patrick's administration submitted an interim-budget bill, of $1.25 billion, to cover necessary services and payments through July 10th -- health care for old folks; state police and emergency responders; debt service; and so on. Presumably the legislature will zip that through to buy a little time.
An interim budget is not a unique necessity -- the state has used them on occasion in the past. But it's not a regular routine either, and it's certainly a symbol of dysfunction at the statehouse.
So what's the holdup? I can't say I'm anywhere close to the inside on the budget negotiations, but those I've spoken with say it's pretty much the municipal health care issue, which seeks to save money for towns and cities by making it easier for them to move into the Group Insurance Commission (GIC).
The house version is more aggressive, and thus very unpopular among municipal-employee unions. The senate version has been criticized as providing very little savings.
As to the specific give-and-take within the details of that muni health care reform, I really don't know. Nor do I know why the house and senate leadership must, as always, take this kind of bargaining right down to the wire when they've had all year to work out a compromise.
I do know that this wouldn't happen under my unicameral-legislature plan, which I proposed in this week's issue of the Phoenix. I also know that between the DiMasi trial, the Whitey capture, and everything else there hasn't been any attention on the budget process, and thus virtually no outrage.
Which reminds me -- the Bulger hearing is about to start. Gotta go!