May 14, 2017

On Beacon Hill: Chasing unicorns from Boston to D.C.

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

During an announcement of the state's fiscal 2018 capital plan, Speaker Robert DeLeo listed areas where Massachusetts is "ranked first." "Whether it's education, the environment, the U.S. News and World Report — yes, and you're a part of that, as well," DeLeo said as Gov. Charlie Baker leaned toward the mic to add "innovation" to the list. Laughing, DeLeo said, "See the way he's like with me? See what I mean?"

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

The stage was set this week for what could be an awkward two weeks as senators prepare for their annual budgeting exercise knowing whatever they approve appears unlikely to stand up to the stress test it will go through in negotiations with the House later this spring.

But even the state’s latest mini budget crisis couldn’t compete for oxygen with the conflagration that engulfed the nation’s capital and had tongues wagging 450 miles north, up the I-95 corridor, after President Donald Trump swung the ax that landed on FBI Director James Comey.

Comey’s firing led to breathless questioning and speculating about the president’s motives, conflicting accounts from the White House of how and why it happened, and a made-for-SNL moment starring Sean Spicer emerging from some shrubbery ordering camera lights killed before he would take any questions.

Gov. Charlie Baker said he was “shocked” by the Comey firing, and joined with the state’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation and Attorney General Maura Healey in calling for the FBI’s investigation into Trump campaign ties with Russia to be transferred to an independent authority.

“Can you believe what’s happening?” a flabbergasted state Sen. Linda Forry asked a reporter.

The Comey flap also seemed to draw attention away from the fate of the American Health Care Act in the U.S. Senate, where U.S. Sen. Edward Markey equated attempts by Republicans to strike a deal that would appease all factions of the GOP to “looking for a unicorn.”

While cable news flickered in the background last week, Beacon Hill’s top three elected leaders got it started by commiserating in House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office over the state of the state’s financial affairs.

“There were no answers today other than, I think, a shared commitment to find the right way forward,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said after the meeting of minds resulted in a number of theories being batted around as to why, in a period of economic growth, the state seems to lurch from budget crisis to budget crisis.

Baker said he’s working through a solution to the $462 million shortfall in revenues, hoping against hope that May tax collections will alleviate some of the pressure on this year’s state budget.

— Matt Murphy

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore said the fiscal 2018 capital plan prioritizes funding to “maintain and modernize the state’s existing assets while also making targeted investments for the future.”

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Baker touts capital plan, $4B in investment
  • Video: DeLeo, Lepore join Baker heralding new spending
  • Senate takes on budget; House OKs pregnant workers bill of rights
  • McGovern, Warren and Healey tweet Trump takes
  • Offshore wind progress hinges on supply chain, experts say


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