Week Ending November 19, 2010
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unsealed a report compiled by prosecutor and independent counsel Paul Ware this week. The report found systemic abuse and corruption within the Massachusetts Probation Department. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan tasked Ware with investigating allegations about hiring practices within the probation department after initial reports of patronage surfaced in May. When the allegations arose, Commissioner John O’Brien was placed on immediate administrative leave. The unsealed report alleges Probation Commissioner O’Brien and four of his deputies favored candidates with political connections and engaged in legislative quid pro quo in making hiring decisions and promotions. The report was referred to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office and US Attorney Carmen Oritz for potential criminal investigations.
According to a Patrick administration jobs report, Massachusetts gained 10,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate in the state fell from 8.4% to 8.1%. The unemployment rate is now the lowest it has been in Massachusetts in the last 18 months and the decline from the last two months is the steepest since 1976. Coming on the heels of two consecutive months of job losses (21,000 in September and 3,000 in August), Governor Patrick said that the recent job creation is a sign that Massachusetts is emerging from the recession faster than other states. However, economists at the New England Economic Partnership (NEEP) this week forecasted that economic and job growth in Massachusetts will continue to fall through the end of the year and not climb upward until early 2011. NEEP Director Alan Clayton Matthews said the state’s economic growth is expected to slow to 3.7% in the third quarter and 3% through March 2011. Following that, NEEP projected that unemployment will fall to 7.3% by 2012 and below 6% by 2013.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue released the tax collection figures for the first half of November. The state collected $540 million during this period, a $21 million drop from the same period one year earlier. Navjeet Bal, the state revenue commissioner attributed the decrease in income, sales and corporate tax collections to the two week period measured. She estimated that over the course of the full month Massachusetts will collect $1.327 billion in taxes, which would be an increase of $38 million from November, 2009.
Released this week, a new report by the Department of Transportation estimates that the 2009 transportation reform law saved Massachusetts $130 million. According to the report, titled “Transportation Reform – Year 1,” the state saved $38 million by restructuring highway debt and $5 million annually by moving MBTA employees to the state’s health insurance plan. The restructuring of the state’s transportation bureaucracy as laid out in the 2009 transportation reform act was one of the signature accomplishments of Governor Patrick’s first term. Under the reform plan, the former MTA was dissolved and all transportation agencies were consolidated under a new agency, MassDOT, to oversee state transportation functions.
The Warren Group, which monitors home sales in the state, said initiated and completed home foreclosures in October were down 39% over the year, a 50% drop compared to October 2009. This is the first month since the beginning of the year that the number of foreclosure petitions (1,127) is below 2,000. Tim Warren, CEO of the Warren Group called the large decline in completed foreclosures encouraging, although he warned that Bank of America’s decision to temporarily suspend foreclosure activity may have affected the reported numbers.
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
BSA/AIA MA Public Policy Director
Boston Society of Architects/AIA
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301