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October 25, 2010

Baker’s Big Dig Memo

by at 10:53 am.

BMG has a full post on this, but I wanted to make a comment or two.

The memo found by an AP reporter is summed up thusly:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker wrote a memo labeling Big Dig spending “simply amazing,” warning that it would force “draconian” cuts to other road and bridge projects - and recommending they be taken only after his boss was re-elected in 1998.

So the smartest man in government played politics with the Big Dig, despite his claim that everything was hunky dory under his tenure as state budget guru? Shocked, I’m shocked.

Now, it is commendable that he would take a realistic look at the costs, since that was his job - but to suggest hiding it until after reelection (while understandable from a political point of view) is to not serve the public interests.

And the little-known fact is - fact, folks, yes - that the final price tag for the Big Dig was known about a decade before the number went public. The state knew that number, and they kept it hidden in fear of the political consequences. (The biggest problem was that since the project went on over such a long period, costs rose quite a lot - and of course, scope creep was another big factor.)

So really, it’s shocking for Baker to “discover” about the costs of the ‘Dig late in his tenure as Secretary of Administration and Finance, it really makes me wonder about the Republican executive branch’s handling of the whole project (Weld, then Cellucci). Who the hell in the executive branch was monitoring the thing??

And then, instead of leveling with people when the federal government threatened to, then cut off funding for the project, that it would be a burden to the state infrastructure budget, Baker and the Republicans came up with a crazy funding scheme that kicked the can down the road and nearly soaked the budget under Patrick’s tenure (luckily, Patrick was there to steer the “swaptions” ship to a better port.) They also hid the debt, in a manner of speaking, by burdening the Pike and the MBTA, among other agencies, with substantive portions of that debt - all while forcing the MBTA into “forward funding,” which set the MBTA budget in stone (instead of reimbursement for net cost of service, beyond revenues). This in turn has made it necessary for the MBTA to substantially raise fares, and the Pike to raise tolls.

Spot a pattern here? Baker wants you to believe that he was the smartest man in government back in the day, and that he would be again if elected. But all I see is politically-motivated coverups, schemes to put off the pain of debt, and mismanagement and subterfuge. I have not yet met a Republican businessman politician who doesn’t claim to be the guy who will be smart about managing the state but yet whose record says the exact opposite.

Democrats are better for business, better for our economy, better managers of taxpayer money, and at the same time more dedicated to providing a fair playing field for people and businesses to reach their potential, whether that’s strong education funding (first in the nation!), good public universities, ending homelessness while at the same time spending less, or reforming the state pension system, transportation system, or streamlining the permitting process for businesses - hands down, on all fronts, we deserve government under Deval Patrick…not tricks, lies, subterfuge and undue pain and suffering for our citizens from Republican slash and burn politics.

5 Responses to “Baker’s Big Dig Memo”

  1. waittilnextyr Says:

    Baker has claimed that the cost of the Big Dig was the same when he left as it was when he started - but now there is proof that he has been lying about that, as he did at the time when he buried the cost problem until after the election.

  2. Mr. Lynne Says:

    The state knew the $14.3B figure as early as 1993. Why the press didn’t know until much much later is the question you have to ask.

  3. C R Krieger Says:

    I am with Mr Lynne on this one.  Heck, when I rolled into the area in February 1994 I quickly guessed $15 Billion and I didn’t have the tools available to either the press or the state.  My guess was as much luck as it was insight, but still, where was the General Court?  Does the General Court do ANY oversight work?

    Mr Lynne; want a vote for 17th Middlesex come Tuesday-a-week?

    Regards  —  Cliff

  4. Lynne Says:

    I don’t know the role of the General Court regarding specific oversight, etc and what they missed or knew and didn’t say at the time. However, it IS the job the executive branch to actually spend the appropriations made by the legislature - ie to execute the laws and budget they enact. How well or badly they do this, is largely the fault or credit of the Governor, and his administration.

    Obviously there is a huge role for oversight by the lege, but it is unwieldy to expect micro management from the legislature on every item in government, though I will admit they tend to micro managing in general (less control for local taxation by muni’s, fingers in the pie of the executive branch via quasi-independent executive branch bodies created by statute, etc). But the buck does need to stop with the executive branch which should have a handle on its execution of the laws and appropriations. And on that front, past Republican governors failed miserably. How could they not fail?? The only tools they leave at their disposal are cutting taxes and gutting services. Eventually, that degrades the economy and the very quality of life in the state. We’ve seen a nice reversal of this during Patrick’s term, and I want more of it. He’s just a better manager, hands down. Nevermind the ridiculous attacks on Caddies and the like - most of that was made up crap that wasn’t even scandalous in context. Only a couple of the minor things the media/Republicans battered Patrick about in the last four years were actually slightly scandalous in the least - and they certainly were NOT big enough things to really take into account in one’s vote (except maybe the casino thing - but I am not a one issue voter despite my vehement opposition to them).

    Cliff - are you giving us your vote? I have a whole slate of good candidates for you to vote for from state Senate on up through Treasurer and Governor/Lt Gov! :)

  5. C R Krieger Says:

    I’m good, except for the 17th Middlesex and voting for oneself seems a little vain when it is a write-in.  Seems CH would do a nice job, as Democrats go—heck, he would go a great job as Democrats go.

    Regards  —  Cliff

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