Analyzing the Election Results

While it was a good night nationally, it sure was a disappointing night in Massachusetts. Nationally, the Republicans took back the house, winning over 60 seats from the Democrats. They came up short in the senate, mostly because the Democrats only ever had 17 seats in play, though the Republicans appear to have won 7 or 8 of those (Colorado and Washington are still too close to call, so it’s only +6 as of this writing). I’m disappointed by the Nevada and Connecticut results. Connecticut in particular seemed like such a clear cut choice to me, but nothing compares to what happened in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, liberal voters felt under siege and turned out in high numbers. Charlie Baker was a terrible candidate, and Tim Cahill made the mistake of not running for the Republican primary. Regardless, the ballot questions were surprising to me as well. Question 1, to repeal the double tax on liquor in the state, barely passed. I’m convinced that there’s a certain population in this state that is basically neo-prohibitionist, and will vote for anything to restrict the sale of alcohol. Question 2 to repeal the low-income housing requirements failed. And Question 3 to reduce the state sales tax failed.

A few lessons from the question 3 initiative: The measure polled well before TV ads were run, and polled poorly and lost after TV ads were run. This says two things: TV ads are still effective, and the Libertarian apparatus in the state is incapable of raising money for TV ads. Question 3 had a natural constituency in retailers who must be feeling the heat from the increased sales tax. The fact that they evidently couldn’t raise money from those retailers to run ads indicates a certain degree of haplessness.

I have to say I was absolutely right on Sean Bielet, though even I got sucked in to some of his excitement thinking he might pull close. Here’s what I wrote in a comment on a Pajamas Media article predicting Barney Frank’s defeat:

Simply not happening. It may be close, but I do not see the Jewish populations of Newton and Brookline turning on the only Jewish member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. More likely they feel under siege and will turn out for Frank in high numbers.

Brown won the district, but there was no Jewish candidate in that race. Reagan won Massachusetts, but don’t forget he was Irish, and had that ethnic solidarity going for him as well. Were Bielat of Portuguese descent then maybe he could motivate the voters of Fall River enough to push him over the edge. Alas, he is not, and I’m afraid this race may not even be particularly close, much as I would like to see Bielat win.

At this point, part of me wonders if Bielat didn’t energize the opposition with his spirited campaign. At any rate, for all the money he spent and sucked out of other potential races, he only did as well as Gerry Dembrowski, who lost to Ed Markey and nobody thought had a real chance to win. Maybe Bielat will run for something else in the future. Or maybe we’ll never hear from him again.

I do have to say that the most disappointing race of the night for me was to see Mary Z Connaughton lose to Suzanne Bump. Suzanne Bump cheated on her taxes, accepted gifts inappropriately while in the legislature, and has never been a financial professional to my knowledge. Connaughton, OTOH, is a CPA who never cheated on her taxes. The auditor’s job is a technical one that requires real financial knowledge, and one that is the watchdog over the state. To be a CPA one must, among other things, apprentice for a number of years as an auditor, learning how audits work. It was appalling to me to hear Bump run ads implying that Connaughton’s claim to be an auditor was bogus. And it is deeply confusing to me how people could vote for an unqualified tax cheat over a qualified professional.

When you add these three things together, Patrick’s re-election, the loss on Question 3, and the election of Suzanne Bump, you have the makings of a fiscal catastrophe. The establishment on Beacon Hill will interpret this as a mandate to raise taxes, to spend without oversight, to really gorge themselves at the trough. So hold on to your wallets, kids, because it’s gonna be a rough couple of years here in Massachusetts.

2012 prediction: Stephen Lynch runs against Scott Brown and beats him by 5 points.

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3 Responses to “Analyzing the Election Results”

  Sam Says:

Massachusetts ranks right in the middle of the 50 states in state and local tax burden per capita, slightly under the national average. Tax burden is slightly down over the last four years.

MA created more private sector jobs than any other state in 2010, and was the only state to have positive job creation in the last 7 consecutive months. 98% of MA residents have health care (first in the nation). MA schools rank 1st in the country. Patrick froze salaries in the executive branch, passed pension reform, and consolidated transportation agencies to eliminate redundant positions (most of which were created by the four Republican administrations that preceded him and had no problem creating patronage jobs while they cut taxes and services).

We’ve done better than any other state under the recession and supposed recovery, and under Gov Patrick we’ve done more with less than under 16 years of Republican Governors. People voted for good government; not a mandate to raise taxes.

The next four years will prove me out, if you are willing to take off the “cut taxes” blinders and look at results and facts.

 
  Rob Sama Says:

Massachusetts ranks right in the middle of the 50 states in state and local tax burden per capita, slightly under the national average.

Agree so far.

Tax burden is slightly down over the last four years.

I’d want to see some stats on that. That seems hard to believe while the sales tax was raised by 25%.

MA created more private sector jobs than any other state in 2010, and was the only state to have positive job creation in the last 7 consecutive months.

Ahh. that’s a neat trick. Can I select 7 months that make Patrick look bad and use that instead?

The fact remains that Patrick promised tax relief to Massachusetts families, but raised taxes instead. The fact remains that Romney submitted a $21 billion budget when he left office, and Patrick’s latest budget is $26 billion, a 25% increase over 4 years. And what have we gotten for that money? Nothing noteworthy, that’s for sure.

98% of MA residents have health care (first in the nation).

By coercing otherwise healthy people to by insurance they may neither want or need. That metric is hardly a measure of success, as healthcare costs have risen to become among the highest in the country since the imposition of Romneycare.

MA schools rank 1st in the country.

But Patrick wants to gut the MCAS program that got us there. Regardless, this is not a metric that has changes significantly since Patrick took office, and if not the result of anything Patrick did while in office.

Patrick froze salaries in the executive branch,

ok

passed pension reform,

A worthy start, but more needs to be done.

and consolidated transportation agencies to eliminate redundant positions (most of which were created by the four Republican administrations that preceded him and had no problem creating patronage jobs while they cut taxes and services).

Does the name James Aloisi mean anything to you? Not exactly a bright spot for the Patrick administration either.

We’ve done better than any other state under the recession and supposed recovery,

That is largely because the real estate madness largely passed us by, as we’re an older state that is already developed.

and under Gov Patrick we’ve done more with less than under 16 years of Republican Governors.

Spending more and raising taxes is an odd thing to describe as “doing more with less”.

People voted for good government; not a mandate to raise taxes.

Here is think we agree. The question is how with the current occupants of Beacon Hill interpret the events that just transpired. I maintain that they will interpret it as “Well, teh people don’t seem pissed after we raised the sales tax by 25%. They must be able to handle even more in the way of taxes. And with Suzanne Bump as out auditor, we have free reign to go nuts hiring our friends and family into state jobs with the still lucrative state pensions!” I agree that the voters don’t think that way, but that’s hardly the point.

The next four years will prove me out, if you are willing to take off the “cut taxes” blinders and look at results and facts.

I’m looking quite clearly at the facts, thank you.

 
  Sam Says:

>> I’d want to see some stats on that. That seems hard to believe while the sales tax was raised by 25%.

The third chart on this page shows % of total personal income paid in state taxes from 1998 to 2009; it declined from 2007 to 2009 and in 2009 was significantly lower than any year under Romney. My understanding is that the 2010 number will be the second lowest on that chart.

http://browser.massbudget.org/TaxRevenueInfo.aspx

>> Can I select 7 months that make Patrick look bad and use that instead?

You can try but I don’t think you’ll find such a period. The Patrick administration has done well at encouraging job creation by the private sector.

>> The fact remains that Patrick promised tax relief to Massachusetts families, but raised taxes instead.

Nope. As you saw above, the overall tax burden as a percentage of income is down by 10-15% from the levels under Romney.

>> The fact remains that Romney submitted a $21 billion budget when he left office, and Patrick’s latest budget is $26 billion, a 25% increase over 4 years.

I don’t know where you get your numbers for “submitted” budgets. Romney had line-item veto power and the actual FY06 budget was $32.376bn, while the FY10 budget is $32.909bn – an increase of less than 2% adjusted for inflation. http://browser.massbudget.org/

>> Does the name James Aloisi mean anything to you?

I was living in Chicago at the time, so not as much as it should. My understanding is that Patrick appointed a flawed candidate who he thought could push for an unpopular gas tax and push through major reforms to our dysfunctional transportation agencies. In the event, DeLeo shot down the gas tax and opted for the sales tax increase.

>> Spending more and raising taxes is an odd thing to describe as “doing more with less”.

Lowered our debt service costs by $200mn a year and kept our bond ratings at AA. Moody’s and Fitch attribute the bond ratings to sound fiscal management and controlling costs.

Baker’s big dig financing relied on grant anticipation notes that spent 18 years of federal highway funds and cost $850mn in interest out of the general fund, meaning all transportation projects require bonding. Romney’s solution was not to invest anything in transportation for 8 years; Patrick has made the tougher decisions and made them responsibly.

Take out mandated spending on Medicaid and unemployment (which comes with federal matching dollars to offset the cost), and this year’s budget would be significantly lower than Romney’s final instead of 2% higher

Patrick wanted to raise revenue with a gas tax tied for transportation funding, and resort casinos for more general revenue – DeLeo gave us a sales tax increase and stalled the casino bill trying to keep no-bid slot licenses for racetracks instead.

The sales tax raised $800mn, but came along with $2bn in cuts – Patrick has cut 33% from the $626mn “general administration” budget Romney left; 15% from executive and legislative budget (very concentrated on the executive side).

Pension reform and civilian flaggers – agree we need more, but nobody had successfully taken on those special interests before.

The $1.5 billion in increased spending on MassHealth was a direct result of the downturn and the bill Romney signed (and Deval supported), but rejecting double-digit premium increases from major HMOs to control costs was a first.

A state-of-the-art computing center in central MA. Good jobs from Cisco and IBM. A #5 ranking from CNBC’s annual list of Top States for Business – the first time any New England state finished in the top 10.

==

Look, I’ll grant that the universities, older state, higher income and education levels all give us structural economic advantages that few states enjoy, and that the Patrick administration can’t take all the credit for those things any more than previous administrations. But regardless of what you think of mandated health coverage and other social programs, this administration has managed the budget and the economy well.

 
 

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