Editorial: For the Legislature

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Question 1, the ballot initiative repealing the state income tax, isn't just a bad idea. It is a symptom of a disillusionment with state government that runs deep in the Massachusetts electorate.

This public cynicism has grown over the last several decades, fueled by a series of failures: Cost overruns on the Big Dig; the Legislature's rejection of voter-approved initiatives; rising Mass. Pike tolls; state employee pension scams. Each is a separate story, but together they have undermined confidence in state government.

Many are responsible for this problem, none more so than the state Legislature. There are some fine legislators, and the body often gets things right, but there is an entrenched culture on Beacon Hill and throughout state government that feeds negative perceptions.

The Legislature's institutional shortcomings stem in part from its domination by Democrats. There are just 19 Republicans in the 160-member House and five in the 40-member Senate. Unchecked power leads to arrogance, secrecy and cronyism. Taking care of friends and allies becomes more important than accountability and oversight.

We've seen this dysfunction in the last two years. The Legislature's Democratic leaders, with no statewide mandate of their own, have refused to even let some of the governor's top priorities come up for a vote. The House budget process played out behind closed doors, amid reports that appropriations were being used as chits in an insiders' game of who'll succeed Sal DiMasi as speaker. The result was a spending spree at a time when there were ample signs that the economy was falling and would take state revenue projections with it - followed by what will likely be the worst fiscal crisis state and local government have experienced in decades.

Fixing Beacon Hill will require, among other things, more Republicans. A vigorous opposition party can open the process, present alternatives and help ensure proposals are debated, not just gaveled through. It takes five senators to force a roll call vote, the minimum requirement for accountability, and 16 representatives. That could be lost in a Democratic sweep on Nov. 4.

These thoughts guide our endorsements in this year's legislative races. As always, we look for candidates who have experience at the state or local level, who will serve their districts, who can work effectively with MetroWest legislators of all parties on issues of importance to the region, who are committed to bringing more transparency and accountability to Beacon Hill.

There is no Democratic or Republican way to deliver constituent services. Party is secondary when it comes to serving the needs of the district. No district should be saddled with poor representation just for the sake of tipping the partisan balance in the Legislature. But between two equally qualified candidates, we put a thumb on the scale this year in favor of Republicans.

Here are our endorsements:

- State Senate, Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex: Republican SCOTT BROWN is an articulate leader of the minority party who has worked across the aisle on issues like Metco funding, environmental protection, Mass. Pike tolls and veterans issues. His 10 years experience in the House and Senate, following service as an assessor and selectman in Wrentham, trumps that of his Democratic opponent, Sara Orozco, who is seeking her first public office.

- State Senate, Middlesex and Worcester: During his three terms in the House, Democrat JAMIE ELDRIDGE, has established a reputation as an independent voice, an advocate for reform and an effective coalition-builder. His opponent, Republican Steven Levy, brings experience as an accountant and Marlborough City Council member to the race, but we believe Eldridge shows more leadership potential.

- House, 8th Middlesex: The race to succeed Republican Rep. Paul Loscocco features two attractive candidates. Democrat Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Planning Board member, would be another fine voice in a large Democratic chorus. Our scale tips to Republican DAN HALEY, former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who has a keen eye for how Beacon Hill works and good ideas on how a moderate Republican can serve both the district and the state.

- House, 4th Middlesex: Democrat Danielle Gregoire served ably as Rep. Steve LeDuc's aide before he resigned earlier this year and has filled in for him since, but her experience outside the State House halls is limited. Republican ARTHUR VIGEANT, a CPA who has served 15 years on the Marlborough City Council, brings an understanding of small business and municipal government that would give him a strong voice in the House.

- House, 13th Middlesex: This is a rematch from two years ago, when Democrat Tom Conroy unseated Republican SUSAN POPE. Conroy has expertise in economic development - in his other job, he's an international business consultant - he hopes will vault him into a leadership role. We're more impressed by Pope's experience as a Wayland selectman, school committee member and current finance committee member. In 10 years in the House, she always put the needs of her district and her constituents first.

- House, 4th Middlesex: Democratic activist Kate Hogan speaks passionately about economic and environmental issues, but Republican SONNY PARENTE brings four years' experience as a Hudson selectman, a commitment to helping people and a lot of creative energy.

MetroWest Daily News