STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 22, 1999
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240

A COMPACT WE CAN ALL LIVE WITH

Back in the 1600s, the earliest European settlers of America, the Pilgrims, were in a difficult situation because of disagreements with the King of England. Since their religious beliefs were at odds with those of the royal Court, they decided to leave rather than face life in the Tower or death on the gallows. They were through with monarchy and its tendency to crush personal liberty, coming to the realization that while it may be "good to be the king," it is not so pleasant for everyone else. They boarded the Mayflower to find a place where there was no king to tell people what to believe, where individual freedom would be respected.

As they trekked across the Atlantic to the New World, however, the Pilgrims faced a new challenge. Originally, they were supposed to settle in what was then called Northern Virginia, ruled by the British government. Plans changed, though, and the Pilgrims decided to go to "Plimouth," where there was no government in place.

The question of who would rule the colony caused arguments among members of the London and Leyden factions, and there were fears of a possible revolt. Ironically, a group of people who had left their homes because of a king's rule were now troubled by its absence. While the Pilgrims knew that they disagreed with the king, they did not realize that there might be some discord amongst themselves. Without guidance from above, the colonists (who were relatively equal socioeconomically) were left squabbling over the issue of how decisions were to be made in the New World.

Aside from the option of killing each other, the Pilgrims' only choice was to compromise. Their reconciliation resulted in our first Constitution, the "Mayflower Compact," which was signed in November of 1620. This document did not give special privileges to any particular group, but provided for the "generall good" of the "civill body politick." A year later, the very same individuals who signed the Compact sat together as a cohesive group to celebrate the first Thanksgiving with members of the Wampanoag tribe.

This year, we will sit down to celebrate our 378th Thanksgiving. As we pile turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on our plates on November 25th, we should give thanks to those who struck that compromise on the Mayflower so many years ago. The Pilgrims' agreement to settle differences in a civil manner planted an ethos of cooperation that has been the foundation of modern society. While our history may be laden with conflict, the overall trend has been towards the peaceful resolution of internal disputes, and this is what has made America the great nation that it is today.

Just recently, the government of Massachusetts demonstrated that the tradition of compromise is still vibrant in today's political culture. For some time, we have be working on the final stages of the FY'00 budget. We were unable to complete the process until now because of philosophical differences between the House and Senate, with each branch positing its own solution to the several long-term issues that we dealt with this year.

After months of deliberating, we finally arrived at an agreement that would provide substantial aid to our cities and towns, create several new programs and initiatives, and resolve some of the most important issues facing the Commonwealth. We had taken into consideration things that the Pilgrims would never have dreamed such as pharmacy services, flooding prevention, and transportation funding mechanisms. Although neither side could claim a victory in the debate, the citizens of Massachusetts turned out to be the true beneficiaries of the compromise struck by the Legislature.

In spite of our agreement, however, the Governor attempted to sink the ship with a barrage of vetoes. This, of course, is what the Constitution of our state allows him to do. In the spirit of compromise and balancing powers, the Governor is permitted to veto individual line-items and outside sections of the budget (or the whole document, if he chooses). This power helps to check the Legislature and prevent unwise fiscal policies from being implemented.

Fortunately, there is a last line of defense for the Legislature in case the Governor is overzealous with his veto pen- the override. Last week, we overrode a "Mayflower" full of vetoes and reinstated about $190 million to the FY'99 budget that had been chopped down by Governor Cellucci. In doing so, we reaffirmed our confidence of the agreement reached by the House and Senate.

By overriding the Governor's vetoes, Winchester, Stoneham, and Reading- the three towns in my district- were spared losses in education funding of $76,450, $68,275, and $435,754 respectively. Each town will enjoy the incredible boost in education that we originally included in the budget, including $23.8 million for kindergarten and early literacy programs. In addition to education, we overrode a $200,000 cut in funding for Spot Pond and a $150,000 cut for the study and reconstruction of the Mystic Dam.

We also overrode vetoes of appropriations for statewide initiatives that will trickle down to the local level. In our budget agreement, the House and Senate earmarked funds from the Tobacco Settlement for a range of health and education programs. We revived several line-items that will expand pharmacy services to children and elders, boost community health centers, support emergency medical services, create smoking prevention and cessation programs, and support in-school health services for children.

State, county, and municipal employees were kept financially secure when we overrode the Governor's vetoes of a number of budget items. Human service workers, who had been suffering from stagnant wages, were spared a $6.5 million reduction and kept the full $28 million that had been appropriated for wage adjustments. The contribution percentage for state workers' heath insurance was brought back down to 15% after the Governor attempted to increase it to 25%. A cost of living adjustment (COLA) provision for public retirees was also reinstated so that former employees would receive the pension they were entitled to.

All of these overrides bring completion to the arduous and time-consuming struggle to give citizens the best budget we possibly could. Some may complain that this has taken too long, but that is what sometimes happens in a democracy. Because we do not have a king to make all the decisions, we have to debate, discuss, and negotiate until we reach an agreement. It is the very process of deliberation amongst equals that guarantees our freedom and well-being. King George might have run things on a tight schedule, but he did so at the cost of personal freedom. The budget process may have seemed long, but in the end, it is a compact that was worth waiting for.

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