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Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday Column Rundown

Yesterday's political columns were, well, political. But they did report some on state policy as well.

Under the State House Dome, Tom Fahey writes about the upcoming SEA vote on the state contract, and some problems the union has had getting the ballots out properly.
SEA leaders are downplaying the errors that led to some members getting more than one ballot. Spokesman Mike Barwell said a problem with an address label printer led to some duplicate envelopes being sent out. In other cases, two ballots got stuck together and went into a single envelope.

Best reckoning by SEA is that 16 duplicate envelopes went out, and that 40 or 50 people got double ballots.

"At worst it amounts to .008 percent of the membership -- statistically pretty insignificant," Barwell said.
Fahey also writes about the upcoming Veto Day in the Legislature, with the medical marijuana bill drawing the most attention, and on our recent study on vanity license plates.

In the Monitor's Capital Beat column, Shira Schoenberg reports that the State Employees Association is pointing to the large number of vacancies in state positions as an alternative to furlughs or layoffs.
The Legislature has mandated that Lynch find $25 million in personnel savings. "It's hard to believe that the governor can't find $25 million of general fund monies somewhere in that 123-page list of vacant positions," the State Employees' Association said in an e-mail to its supporters last week. Jay Ward, SEIU political director, said the state should examine unfilled positions before resorting to layoffs.

Ward said the list proves that state employees have already taken a hit. "For every person that doesn't get hired, we're picking up the slack for all of those unfilled positions," Ward said. Lynch is asking state employees to give up another $25 million, Ward said, but "how much has he already taken in personnel cuts?"
The vacancies won't save the day for the SEA. Many are not funded with General Funds, where the $25 million in savings has to be found, many are unfunded already in the budget, and more importantly, many have already been counted in the budget. We've done extensive reporting on the Executive Order hiring freeze put in place in February 2008. Those savings have been built into the Legislature's plans, and can't be tapped again. Schoenberg also writes about the 680 House bills filed for next year's session.

In the Nashua Telegraph, Kevin Landrigan writes on the SEA's vacancy argument, the dispute over whether state agencies should have emailed an op-ed on the contract to employees, and the latest news on state revenues.

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