Mariano: Area Trump supporters have their say

“I often ask myself: How could anyone support this guy? What kind of a person would support someone who, to me, was such a ‘total disaster?’ … So I contacted my friends (who support Trump) and asked them to tell me why they supported Trump.”

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 166]: Elizabeth Warren has a fever

The popular and outspoken senator for Massachusetts has made no bones about her disdain for President Trump.

Day after day, she can be found on Twitter and TV and news feeds around the globe chiding and chastising the latest Trumpian policy blunder. In the wake of a divisive budget outline that shot panic straight into the veins of liberals everywhere, she’s tweeted herself to the point of exhaustion.

A remedy is required. As it happens, Dr. Hitch has just the prescription.

Worcester Sun, May 28-June 3: Mariano gives Trump supporters the stage, not-so-Great Wall, Live Action Escapes expands + more

Sinacola on Manchester. Hitch on Elizabeth Warren. Giselle Rivera-Flores on leadership. The Bravehearts are back. And, still, there’s more inside your May 28-June 3 Worcester Sun.

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

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

Editorial: On health care, a sickening display

Republicans’ years-long, devil-may-care and glaringly unprepared push to repeal and replace Obamacare has households across the country today confused and scared, and rightfully so.

Last week, the national sickness that is politics took a turn for the worse.

The U.S. House barely passed its atrocious healthcare legislation, then gathered in all-Republican force at the White House Rose Garden as if in triumph.

It’s not, first of all, a triumph in the furious quest to overturn Obamacare just yet. This dishearteningly flawed bill, the House’s second try at writing a healthcare measure since President Trump took office, must next face the Senate, where the knee-jerk “repeal” reflex is less pronounced.

Some Republican senators have already signaled a more cautious approach to this serious and complex matter. And in terms of party representation, the Senate makeup leaves them less margin for error.

We will surely get better from that chamber. The hope, now, is that Americans in need of universal, high-quality health care will get far better treatment than received from the House.

Last week’s most popular, April 23-29

Here are the most popular Worcester Sun articles April 23-29

Boys & Girls Club has Worcester Police on the run
Mariano: What happens if Trump gets impeached? Valentino’s has ambitious plans for heart of Shrewsbury Street
Mandell: Five great ideas to nurture the Worcester Renaissance
Grafton’s Obi Melifonwu is ready for his NFL Draft moment
Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 157]: Jim McGovern’s imperfect storm

Worcester Sun, May 3: State reps highlight Worcester budget earmarks, a pipeline plea in Grafton, top stories + more

It’s Wednesday and summer’s closing in — you know what that means: time for your midweek Sun treatment. So, apply the proper SPF, sit back and enjoy your Wednesday, May 3, Worcester Sun.

On Beacon Hill: House lawmakers vote for expediency in budget process

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

House “budget week” — once as sure a rite of spring as Patriots Day and the marathon — became something altogether different this year, a slow evolution from a colorful and messy, sugar- and caffeine-fueled test of wills and endurance into something far more antiseptic.

And yet, the House achieved a notable milestone last week that had nothing to do with its pace-setting debate.

For the first time in the state’s history, a branch of the Legislature approved an annual budget north of $40 billion in spending, and with near unanimity to boot. The fact that it took just two days to accomplish such a feat only makes it more remarkable.

Rep. Brian Dempsey, the Rooseveltian wizard of Room 348 who oversees the behind-the-scenes blending that allowed the House to dispatch 1,210 amendments in nine bulk amendments and a scattering of individual votes, shepherded his seventh budget to completion.

Seldom seen or heard, the Ways and Means chairman’s style has become one that emphasizes ruthless efficiency.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey.

Budgets, politicians like to say, are value statements and a series of choices about where to allocate finite resources to achieve a goal, or many. But they’re also about basic math — making sure the revenue coming in matches the spending going out, and using whatever tricks of the trade are necessary to make that math work.

From the time the budget was introduced on Monday to the moment when the applause for Speaker Robert DeLeo and Dempsey subsided and the House called it quits on Tuesday evening, representatives spent a total of 1,283 minutes in session.

That averages out to a little more than a minute spent on each of the 1,210 amendments filed, with tax dollars being appropriated at a rate of $31.5 million per minute. And all of that was done while taking just 30 recorded roll call votes, some of which were simply to take attendance.

Before the clock struck midnight Tuesday, the aroma of celebratory cigars wafted through the smoke-free halls of the State House, marking the conclusion to another year’s budget week, which is slowly losing its right to that designation.

There are many factors why House leaders ran out of reasons to try to extend debate for optics’ sake into Wednesday, when the process has ended the past five years. As Dempsey has honed his amendment-crunching process, members of both parties have also seemed to lose their lust for the fight.

Liberal Somerville Democrat Rep. Denise Provost sparked a mini-debate over freezing the income tax rate at 5.1 percent, rather than allow it to possibly tick down in January. But she withdrew her amendment rather than put her colleagues on the spot by forcing a recorded vote that might become election fodder in 2018.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. James Lyons rolled out a multi-pronged plan to reform MassHealth, a program whose size and growth is making many other investments impossible. Lyons couldn’t even get his GOP compatriots to help him force a roll call on a measure that included a control board for MassHealth.

“We really need to understand what we’re voting on, and we don’t,” Lyons lamented, a sentiment echoed from time to time by members of both parties.

There’s also the issue of money. After increasing local aid and paying for MassHealth, pensions and debt, there was precious little discretionary money to spend.

Just north of $75 million was added to the bottom line during deliberations, most of it in the form of local earmarks. Those funding carve-outs can be a reward to the rank-and-file for fealty, if they can make it past the governor’s veto pen and somehow find their way into a constrained capital budget.

In the end, only Lyons voted no on the budget.

The House went second in the annual budget dance, and used lower caseload projections at MassHealth than those used by Baker to put together his budget. On paper at least, that freed up some money to spend on local aid, early educator salaries and more.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

State House News Service

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito

  • McGovern lambastes Trump, Warren takes on GOP moves to halt finance reform
  • Silver Tsunami, outdated tech pose threat to state government
  • Video: Polito, others speak out against sex assault on ‘Denim Day’
  • Study recommends ‘in-classroom’ breakfast in low-income school districts

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 157]: Jim McGovern’s imperfect storm

Local pundits like to joke about U.S. Rep Jim McGovern’s “crime family,” deriding what they see as his undue influence over city government and politics.

Forget Worcester, though. This side of Elizabeth Warren (and due respect to the longer-serving Richard Neal and legacy-holding Joe Kennedy), no state lawmaker wields more D.C. influence than the 11-term congressman.

And in general he uses that high ground to laudable effect. A little birdie tells Hitch, though, that McGovern might be slipping from his lofty perch.

Mariano: What happens if Trump gets impeached?

In my opinion, Donald Trump is a terrible president, a national embarrassment and an international laughingstock. But should he be impeached?