Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Murray and the East...

Ending weeks of speculation, Senate President Robert Travaglini is expected to resign the Senate Presidency and his seat tomorrow. His departure from the Senate will send ripple throughout Massachusetts as the balance of power in Boston shifts once again.

His replacement, expected to be Senator Therese Murray or Plymouth, will take her place within the triumvirate of power on Beacon Hill, which includes the House Speaker, Salvatore DiMasi and the governor, Deval Patrick.

However, the rise of Murray, who will be the first woman to lead
either house of the General Court, will also upset the political character of the Statehouse as a whole. Patrick and DiMasi are decidedly left of center in the political spectrum, as indicated by the Globe. Travaglini is more moderate. He has been a bulwark against overtaxing business in the Bay State. He went up against DiMasi during the Universal Health care debate opposing an additional tax on businesses. Murray, however, reportedly sided with Travaglini on that issue. Nonetheless, she holds more liberal stances on social issues, more in line with DiMasi.

DiMasi stands opposed to Patrick's corporate tax hikes. Perhaps no longer having Travaglini as a foil on taxing issues may encourage DiMasi to show more restraint. On the other hand, DiMasi is on the record opposing giving municipalities local option taxes, claiming taxes are too high already. Murray has given no recent statements on the issue. DiMasi and Murray will remain more centrist than the governor given cool receptions to tax hikes and opposition to expansion of gambling statewide.

Murray's ascendancy has implications out West, too. Sen. Stephen Buoniconti has cultivated a very strong relationship with Travaglini. The status of his relationship with Murray, current Chairperson of the Senate Ways & Means committee, is unknown. Springfield's other Senator, Gale Candaras, only took office in January. Travaglini's exit may shake up area politics just as the current Senate President entrance had done. Prior to taking the Senate Presidency, Senator Linda Melconian was Majority Leader. After Travaglini's election in 2003, she no longer held that position. Murray's position on the Control Board and other Springfield related issues could steer the debate on these issue.

In any event, while Therese Murray is certainly a Beacon Hill insider, she is not from Boston, which makes a difference. Plymouth is far enough away from Boston to not be called part of Boston, if you know what I mean. It is far more Cape Cod than anything else. If we're lucky and Murray is as Progressive as she is liberal, she could be the key to breaking state's inertia on several fronts and put this state back on track. Then again, I have been wrong (or idealistic) before.

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