Entries by Charles Chieppo

Sensible police reform includes changing ‘qualified immunity’ laws

Even in a time of painful divisions in our country, there is little doubt among people of good faith that what Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was criminal. If they are indeed convicted of a felony, how is it that the former officers could very well be immune from civil liability?

The Federal Coronavirus Relief Act impact on Massachusetts

Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, providing $2.2 trillion in financial relief to laid-off workers, hospitals, and distressed industries. The bill provides an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to each recipient for up to four months and extends benefits to previously ineligible categories of workers, including independent contractors, those with limited work history, and self-employed persons.

Congress should fix aid, provide block grants

This op-ed by Greg Sullivan and Charlie Chieppo appeared in the Boston Business Journal on March 27, 2020. While passage of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Actis surely good news, it will come nowhere near fully addressing the pandemic’s impact on the commonwealth’s finances. Large block grants would be the best way to provide states with much needed relief. Thanks to the virus, state revenue sources from sales taxes to pension fund receipts are plummeting. At the same time, expenses connected to the outbreak are rising sharply. Just look at unemployment insurance. Weekly state unemployment claims rose from 4,712to 147,995in just two weeks. And while the new stimulus bill will add $600 to each unemployment check for up to four months and […]

When The Commonwealth Pays The Education Bill, It Should Get A School Committee Say

Local education officials were up in arms earlier this year when Pioneer Institute proposed giving the Commonwealth the power to appoint some school committee seats in urban districts that are mostly state-funded. It would be hard to imagine a better example of why we need to adopt that reform than the current mess in Fall River.

How Massachusetts Showed the Way on Education Reform

By Jamie Gass & Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed in The American Conservative We are now nearly four decades beyond the publication of A Nation at Risk, a federal report that indicted the “rising tide of mediocrity” and initiated a well-deserved period of hand-wringing about K-12 public education in the United States. Massachusetts was the only state to respond to the call to create a school system that would be among the best in the world. Sadly, now even the Bay State is retreating from the policies that delivered its historic success. The landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which was entirely state-led, pushed academic content and high standards over the Bush I and Clinton administrations’ agenda of K-12 […]

Action on health care pricing transparency needed to stem rising costs

The Hill BY JIM STERGIOS AND CHARLES CHIEPPO, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS — 04/12/19 10:35 AM EDT A patient repeatedly tries to find out the price for a medical procedure. The hospital refuses, but eventually quotes the price as $5,500. But one health insurer’s website includes a page with price guidelines for various procedures. Seeing that the expected cost for the test he was to undergo was $550, the patient pulled off his identification bracelet and left the hospital. What makes this story stand out is that the patient was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. If even someone who’s so knowledgeable about the health care system struggles to gain access to price information, then discovers a hospital is charging 10 times the […]

Op-ed: Education establishment ruining reform

This op-ed appeared in the Boston Herald on Wednesday, November 29, 2017.  The history of education reform in Massachusetts over the past quarter century could be a case study in playing the long game. A 1993 law provided a massive increase in state funding in return for high standards, accountability and more choice. Teachers unions, school committees, superintendents and others in the education establishment liked the money, but not the reforms. They kept fighting, and less than 25 years later, little but the money remains. The sad thing is that the establishment’s success at eliminating reforms has brought a steep decline in the quality of public education in Massachusetts. Once the 1993 combination of money and reforms took hold, state […]

Op-ed: T must seize money-saving moment

Here’s another one for that bulging “It could only happen in Massachusetts” file. Outsourcing bus maintenance would save $11 million a year and bring three of the MBTA’s nine garages into the 21st century. The work would continue to be performed by the mechanics (albeit slightly fewer of them) who do it now, and they would remain members of the same union, earning among the highest salaries in the industry. A slam dunk, right? Not here. While Gov. Charlie Baker remains strongly behind the proposal, his appointees to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board are reportedly wavering in the face of fierce opposition from the Machinists’ Union.  Read this full op-ed in the Boston Herald.

Op-ed: T privatization survives key union challenge

THE MBTA’S BUDGET SHORTFALL, once pegged at $335 million for the current fiscal year, is now down to $30 million.  That’s good news for riders, taxpayers, employers, and legislators—really everyone except the T’s unions.  Much of the savings is the result of a three-year exemption from the Commonwealth’s anti-privatization law that the authority was granted in the wake of its 2015 winter implosion. In June the MBTA unions got even worse news when an arbitrator ruled against them on a grievance they brought under Section 13(c) of the federal Urban Mass Transit Act. For years, the T unions have used 13(c) as a “get out of jail free” card when faced with even the most modest reform proposal.  Read more at […]

Op-ed: Neglect creates pension tsunami

A version of this op-ed appeared in The Berkshire Eagle, The Salem News, The Gloucester Times, the Patriot Ledger, The Brockton Enterprise, and The New Bedford Standard-Times. BOSTON — Moody’s Investors Service estimates that total U.S. state and local government pension unfunded liability will reach $1.75 trillion this year and the commonwealth is hardly immune from this alarming trend. The Massachusetts Teachers Pension Fund pays out over $2.6 billion in annual benefits and has barely half the money it needs to meet its long-term obligations. Many of the commonwealth’s more than 100 local pension systems are in a similar condition. This isn’t just a nightmare for the commonwealth, local governments and state taxpayers; more than 10 percent of all adults […]

Op-ed: Will DeVos avoid the Beltway education trap?

By Jim Stergios and Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed online at USA Today. Education nominee could improve on past secretaries by backing state and local innovation. Every administration since President George H.W. Bush’s has pinned its hopes of transforming American K-12 education on several thousand bureaucrats in the Lyndon B. Johnson Building in Washington, D.C. and the Beltway lobbyists perched on their doorstep. Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Education Department, needs a different plan. Given that the federal government contributes approximately 10% of the total spending in the nation’s sprawling, decentralized landscape of 100,000 public K-12 schools, it is neither plausible nor desirable that an Education secretary chase the chimera of a transformational national education policy. Arne Duncan’s seven years as President Obama’s secretary of Education were just the latest iteration […]

OpEd: Shine a light upon MBTA pension fund

By Mary Z. Connaughton and Charles Chieppo Guest Columnists Originally published in The Berkshire Eagle, the Milford Daily News, New Bedford Standard-Times, and The Lowell Sun. It would be easy just to shake your head and turn the page upon learning that the MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF) is underfunded by nearly $868 million. Unfortunately, you cannot. Every year, the pension plan receives tens of millions of state dollars that flow through the MBTA. The T, in turn, has a contractual obligation to bankroll three quarters of any shortfall. Read this entire article in The Berkshire Eagle, the Milford Daily News and the New Bedford Standard-Times.

COMMENTARY: More is needed to fix the MBTA

Read this op-ed in The Patriot Ledger, the Brockton Enterprise, the Fall River Herald News, the Taunton Gazette, the Salem News, the Gloucester Times, and The MetroWest Daily News. The budget lawmakers sent to Gov. Charlie Baker includes important new powers to reform the beleaguered MBTA, but ensuring an effective transit system will require additional common-sense policy changes in a pending transportation bill. The budget created the Fiscal and Management Control Board that Baker proposed and gave the MBTA a three-year exemption from the commonwealth’s anti-privatization law. These steps may improve service for 1.3 million transit riders, but they are insufficient for the momentous task ahead. That job requires that legislators protect current and retired transit employees’ pensions, eliminate union […]

Analyzing the Convention Center Authority’s Inflated Claims

The analysis reveals that only eight events booked at the BCEC over the next 13 years – not 18 as the MCCA has claimed – have escape clauses that allow them to go elsewhere if expansion doesn’t go forward.  It also finds that despite claims that the facility would not be able to host the BIO conference again without expansion, the show is booked five times between 2021 and 2029 without expansion-related escape clauses. 

Rebuilding the Ladder to Self- Sufficiency: Workfare and Welfare Reform

The full implementation of welfare reform in Massachusetts required a waiver from the federal government. The commonwealth requested such a waiver to allow for the work requirement, time limits, job training, and the centralization of its public assistance system. The waiver was granted for all except time limits.

Boston Herald: New convention center math

This article was published in the Boston Herald on June 9, 2014. Author: Charles Chieppo Rarely is state government’s dysfunction on display more than in the waning days of a legislative session. This time around, exhibit A is the rush to approve a $1.1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) despite enough red flags to fill the quarter-mile-long building. Apparently the $620 million the Massachusetts Convention Center Authorityclaims the BCEC and the Hynes Convention Centers pumped into the local economy last year makes it easy to set aside doubts. But a closer look at how the MCCA arrives at that estimate makes you realize why there are no real numbers in the convention industry. Convention centers are […]

WGBH News Commentary: Does Expanding The Convention Center Make Economic Sense?

By CHARLES CHIEPPO Date: April 10, 2014 Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of doubling the size of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). But two things are indisputable: The expansion would not, as the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) claims, pay for itself, and the convention industry is one that remains mired in decline. The original 1997 convention center finance plan levied a series of taxes, including a rental car surcharge, an additional tax on hotels in Boston and Cambridge and on tourist trolleys, to fund BCEC construction. Once BCEC bonds are paid off in 2034, those tax receipts could revert to the commonwealth. But expansion would push back the date when tax receipts could revert to the […]

Does Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Expansion Really Pay for Itself?

With the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) claiming that no new taxes or fees would be needed to expand the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), it came as no surprise that a $1 billion convention center expansion bill sailed through a November Joint Committee on State Administration hearing without opposition. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and a closer look at the convention center legislation reveals that the “no new taxes or fees” claim isn’t quite as airtight as they’ve led us to believe.

Massachusetts’ Technology Tax an Unnecessary Detour

Governor Patrick now concedes it was a bad idea and it appears that the so-called tech tax will be repealed. Repeal will leave a $160 million hole in state transportation funding. But that hole need not be filled exclusively by new revenue. It can be filled by savings, revenue, or a combination of the two, and Pioneer Institute research shows there are plenty of savings to be had from a series of reforms.

Accountability Overboard

Special interest groups opposed to charter schools and highstakes testing have hijacked the state’s once-independent board of education and stand poised to water down the MCAS tests and the accountability system they support.