Speaker Ronald Mariano

At last check, budding standup comedian and House Speaker Ron Mariano was still honing the laugh-out-loud claim of the year on Beacon Hill – that he and his legions of staffers were blind-sided by revenues far outpacing wage growth, the trigger for the 1986 tax-rebate law. “It was never brought to our attention,” he told the Globe in the process of lamely trying to pin a bizarre claim of subterfuge on Gov. Charlie Baker. “We went through May, all through June, and into July without getting a heads-up that this might be a problem.”

This is like saying they didn’t know the session was supposed to end on July 31, or that it gets hot in Boston in the summer, or if you leave a pint of milk in the sun for a couple days it might grow fur.

And no one has called b.s on Mariano’s b.s. more authoritatively than Bob Tannenwald, a brilliant tax expert at the Boston Fed for decades who was part of no less than four special legislative commissions dealing with tax policy over the years.

“The governor’s warning should have surprised no one,” he wrote in a recent letter to the Globe. “Publicly available data released months ago foretold that a huge refund would be required….Annual growth in the Commonwealth’s wages and salaries averaged 5.3 percent from 2019 through 2021. However, according to data posted June 8 by the Department of Revenue, tax revenues during the first 11 months of fiscal 2022 were already 8.4 percent above collections for all 12 months of fiscal 2021.”

His conclusion: “Those advising legislators on tax policy — watchdog groups, advocates, committee staff, academics — were either asleep at the switch or ignored by legislators.”

And Tannenwald ends with a great idea – that Beacon Hill should have “an in-house independent legislative fiscal policy unit charged with providing nonpartisan, unbiased, timely analysis” – like the Congressional Budget Office in D.C.

Maybe that could be a priority for a new speaker, coming soon to a State House near you.


recent edition of the Boston Globe’s “Love Letters” column veered into the netherworld of hate, otherwise known as modern-day partisan politics, with a letter from some poor woman at her wit’s end over her nearly-30 year marriage. She’s a “moderate to liberal,” but reports hubby has morphed from a disinterested moderate into a Trumpkin. (Is that Fox News we hear blaring in the background?)

And when politics comes up, the marriage hits the fan. “At this stage of my life, I want peace,” she writes. Columnist Meredith Goldstein wasn’t offering much hope in response: “You should consider whether it’d feel better – and less lonely – to be single,” she writes.

Good grief, have things gotten that bad in our forlorn political culture? Apparently, according to respondent “Catcherinrye,” who wrote “I personally cannot imagine living with someone whose values did not mirror mine. That’s what politics are, especially now — values.”

This wasn’t always the case. American politics was often harsh, but shared values – of the sort that rallied Americans to help one another during the Depression and stand united during World War II – were once a thing. But under the self-righteous sway of the Baby Boom generation, political beliefs became cultural artifacts. “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” said student activist Jack Weinberg in 1964, a truism aging Boomers have adjusted to mean those over 80. “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be a part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem,” added Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver in the late 1960s, and conservatives agreed when it came to their hot buttons like abortion.

And now, here we are, 30-year marriages circling the bowl because of simple political disagreements. Ugh.

Gen Xers, Millenials etc., please hurry and take over before the whole thing implodes.

Join me every Tuesday for more analysis of local politics and policy right here on MASSterList.

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Jon Keller has been covering Beacon Hill for nearly 40 years, giving you a candid take on what’s going on up there. From calling out politicians to the common voter, he shares his take in a weekly column published every Tuesday with MASSterList.