Polito works to stall $400m bill, drawing criticism from DeLeo

By Michael Norton
State House News Service / October 2, 2010

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Saying that State Police gang and drug units are at risk and that disabled children are not receiving needed services, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo expressed disappointment yesterday about state Representative Karyn Polito’s decision to singlehandedly hold up passage of a $400 million spending bill.

A Shrewsbury Republican, Polito camped out at her desk in the nearly empty House chamber all day yesterday and into the evening, ready to block the bill’s passage if DeLeo deputies brought it up and boasting about her weeklong efforts to thwart legislation she believes should be debated by the House.

In an interview with State House News Service, DeLeo said he had not spoken to Polito about her concerns, instead communicating for weeks with Representative Bradley R. Jones, House minority leader, and his top deputies, who urged him to address only immediate needs in the spending bill. “We did that,’’ DeLeo said.

“There’s no frills in there,’’ he added, asserting that the budget only refilled accounts with deficiencies and allocated funds to avoid problems in public safety, senior care, health care, and disabled care.

DeLeo said that in addition to concerns registered with him by the State Police, disability council members had advised him of children and adults with disabilities “who aren’t getting treated right now because they’re waiting for this money.’’

DeLeo said: “Those folks have to be treated. I just can’t say to those folks, ‘You know what, wait until the recession gets over and then we’ll worry about you.’ ’’

The Winthrop Democrat also called the bill’s provisions to put $195 million into the rainy day fund, battered by heavy withdrawals during the recession, “fiscally responsible.’’

Polito spent the day alone in the chamber, talking on her cellphone as Democratic and Republican leaders across the chamber eyed her occasionally.

Just after noon, Polito, holding up an empty water bottle, asked a court officer to get her some water.

He left and returned with a full bottle, and she then handed him her cellphone and a charger.

The standoff continued into the evening, although House leaders did not act on the supplemental budget even when Polito left the chamber briefly a couple of times.

Just shy of a 9 p.m. deadline to adjourn, the House gaveled to a close, agreeing to meet again Monday at 10 a.m.

Polito, who is running for state treasurer, told State House News Service in a phone interview during the session that she had “scheduling needs’’ she planned to meet in connection with her campaign and said House leaders were likely to win a parliamentary fight eventually.

“It could be,’’ she said. “You know the rules stand on their side and I’m only one person.’’

House Republican leaders endorsed the spending bill on Thursday. But Polito believes the legislation is fiscally irresponsible and will add to next fiscal year’s budget gap.

“Every penny we add today will make it harder to balance the budget next year,’’ she said.

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