Patrick's Vetoes

Deval Patrick has just announced his budget line-item vetoes and guess what? He whacked a whole bunch of travel and tourism earmarks, for projects that "are not sufficiently related" to travel and tourism. Didn't I just write that?

He took an even heavier hammer to the workforce-training earmarks, a pork-laden area which I was planning to mention but cut from the article for space.

The Gov also vetoed much of the increase the legislature had given to the trial courts -- a double-sweet stroke of vengence if one wants to see it that way. It's a way of complaining about the legislature's refusal to let him increase court efficiency by consolidating their budgets -- hey, you wouldn't need extra money if you let me do things my way. It also can be seen as retaliation for the slashing of his new-cops proposal -- why spend $10 million on trial courts when you'll only spend $4 million on cops to arrest people in the first place?

Those, plus a veto of an abstinence-only grant program, add up to about $24 million of cuts. But those are just the ones he wants to highlight in the press release. He claims to have cut $41.4 million in total. We'll get a look at the specifics later today.

As my article this week suggested, Patrick's got conflicting impulses: to stand up against the legislature's desire to micromanage the government on the one hand; and to maintain the collaborative spirit with that legislature on the other. In that light, here's a fascinating section of the Governor's press release today:

“The vetoes also address earmarks that are inconsistent with the mission of the program under which they are funded, limiting the ability of government to exercise effective oversight and guarantee the efficient delivery of services. I remain committed to reducing the use of earmarks, as I believe public funds are put to their best use when distributed through a competitive and transparent grant process or as part of a comprehensive strategy to achieve an agency’s policy mission,” Governor Patrick said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to find the right balance between providing appropriate flexibility to state agencies and respecting the Legislature’s important role in helping establish our priorities.”

At first glance it sounds tactful enough: making his point about earmark reduction and agency flexibility, while recognizing the Legislature's important role in the process; "looking forward to working with..." blah blah blah.

But look closer: does that verbiage about "effective oversight," "efficient delivery of services," and "a competitive and transparent grant process," etc., not look like a direct shot at senate president Therese Murray, who is currently under investigation by the Inspector General for allegations (made by me) that she used earmarks to bypass an open competitive grant process, leading to the waste of millions of unaccounted-for taxpayer dollars?

It almost sounds like he's saying: a vote to override my earmark vetoes is a vote to condone Terry's alleged abuses -- and if the IG confirms those charges, you're all guilty by implication.

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