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A chance to talk about the budget is coming

Date: 12/7/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

So the governor is sending out cabinet members to hear what we, the unwashed masses, think about the state budget.

The meetings will take place at three venues in Springfield. On Dec. 7, Secretary of MassDOT (Department of Transportation) Jeffrey Mullan will conduct a budget hearing from 6 to 8 p.m. at Springfield City Hall. On Dec. 10, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne Bump will preside over a budget forum at Futureworks Career Center at the Springfield Technical Community College Technology Park from 5 to 7 p.m. On Dec. 17, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki will moderate a budget hearing at a location yet to be announced from 6 to 8 p.m.

Get out your calendars and write it down.

Now the true believer in me likes to think this is an admirable exercise in democracy. Taking away the legislative filter, Patrick Administration officials get the straight dope from the voters themselves.

The cynic rambling around inside me has an opinion in this matter as well. That crusty little guy sees this all as simply political theater, something to make people feel soft and gooey about the governor who cares about the average citizen.

The cynic thinks that all of the testimony from averages Joes could be derailed by a whisper in the ear from a political insider.

When I attended UMass back in the early 1970s, the journalism program didn't even have a room of typewriters for students, while other programs had resources to burn. I learned then how those with political power are able to protect themselves from events such as budget cuts. What I fear is those entities with power will make sure other programs or departments feel the cuts before they do.

Now what would you say if you had a chance to corner one of these folks? Since I can't speak at one of these meetings if I'm covering it, let me share a couple of thoughts now. They might make their way onto someone's desk.

There is a Massachusetts company that manufactures solar panels that is reportedly shutting down it operations in central Massachusetts and moving manufacturing overseas. How can we use the budget to keep this company here in state and allow it to grow?

What if there was a real tax incentive for people to install those panels on their commercial buildings and homes? What if the incentive was greater if the solar panels were manufactured here in the state?

Are there other "green" industries here, which could benefit from a similar program? Keeping the money here in state would be a great advantage.

Wouldn't such a measure employ people, which in turn would help build back the state's tax revenues?

And no, funding incinerators to burn construction waste to generate a little bit of electricity is not green nor is it smart development.

A budget just shouldn't be about reacting to the current economic conditions, should it? Shouldn't budgets be seen as strategic plans to build the future?

High-speed rail is a real economic development issue out here. How does the budget address that issue? We need to have access to Boston. Actually, Boston area residents need access to the more affordable lifestyle we have here.

Improved train connections between Springfield and New Haven, Conn., through the proposed commuter line in Connecticut and greater service between Springfield and Vermont also should be addressed by the budget.

The needs of the state's veterans must be addressed, considering more of them are being generated by the current Middle Eastern conflict.

That's enough. Give them too much and they start to lose interest.


So what do you think the long-term health effects will be from using the new hand sanitizers instead of just washing your hands on a regular basis? Will germs just get stronger?


Please, a show of hands how many people care about the Tiger Woods "story?" I made the mistake of tuning into the "Today" show the other day to see a panel of earnest observers comment on how this story would affect Woods' endorsements.


This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St.,East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.