Let’s Not Shake On It

Boston Statehouse

MBTA worker Francisco Pena wiped down a column with disinfectant in Government Center Station on Thursday, part of the T’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

SHNS, Boston, (WWLP) – “Super” wound up not being the superlative to describe Elizabeth Warren’s night on Tuesday as a resurgent Joe Biden carried not just Massachusetts, but 10 of the 14 contests on the biggest voting night of the primary season.

Finishing no higher than third anywhere on the map had to hurt, but finishing third in one’s home state – behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as well – must have really stung. 

By Thursday, Warren’s campaign for the White House was over, and on Beacon Hill there were many glum supporters wondering how it went south for the woman with a plan for everything.

Warren, at a press conference outside her Cambridge home with her husband Bruce and dog Bailey, said she thought she could create a lane for herself between Sanders on the left and Biden in the center.

“I was wrong,” she said.

While she didn’t immediately endorse like Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar had when they dropped out, Warren promised that she had not been heard for the last time.

“I may not be in the race for President in 2020, but this fight — our fight — is not over. And our place in this fight has not ended,” Warren told staffers on a call before she faced the cameras.

Warren’s campaign had a mantra: “I have a plan for that.” That playbook included a tax on the ultra wealthy.  Here in Massachusetts, state Democratic leaders are looking to tax just the plain old wealthy.

But before that can happen, House Speaker Robert DeLeo has set about building a “bridge” to the “millionaires tax” that he hopes to help put on the ballot in 2022. That bridge rests on a foundation of gas, diesel, and corporate tax hikes, as well as increased Uber and Lyft fees.

The long-awaited tax bill hit the floor Wednesday, and leadership rebuffed Republican attempts to make the bridge a temporary one, proposing to sunset the gas and other tax hikes if and when the surtax on household income above $1 million becomes law.

That didn’t happen, but what did was a veto-proof vote in the House in an election year for a tax package worth as much as $612 million. The money, lawmakers like Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said, was not a luxury but a necessity to deliver the type of transportation system residents expect.

The revenue bill made it palatable a day later for House leadership to let members pad a $14.5 billion, 10-year transportation borrowing bill with close to $3.8 billion in additional spending, including some items Gov. Charlie Baker had criticized the House for leaving out of its original bill.

Baker has repeatedly insisted that his $18 billion bond bill was affordable without new taxes, and produced a four-page presentation, shared with the News Service, that the administration said proved it.

But the House wasn’t buying.

“The responsible and financially prudent thing is what the House is doing,” said Rep. William Straus, the House chairman of the Transportation Committee. 

He told his colleagues on Thursday that because of the “difficult” vote many of them took the night before, the state could afford to spend at the levels Baker wanted, but only because of the new revenue.

So both bills move to the Senate where Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said the Senate hopes to act before its budget debate in May, and intends to take a more policy-focused approach to transportation, whatever that means.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren embraced a supporter while walking to her polling place on Tuesday morning. Warren said Super Tuesday wasn’t “do or die” for her campaign, but after a bleak performance, she dropped out of the presidential race two days later. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

At the rate coronavirus is spreading in the United States, public health officials would be winning if people are still meeting in groups large enough for the Senate to convene to debate its budget in May.

No matter how low the risk of contracting coronavirus remains, fear and anxiety was inarguably spreading through Massachusetts this week as Baker and state health officials provided periodic public updates on case numbers and monitoring activity, hoping to keep people’s hands sanitized and their lives minimally interrupted.

The latest update came Friday when Baker joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to detail the jump in the number of residents who have tested positive for coronavirus from three to eight. The five new cases were all linked to a leadership meeting of Biogen employees at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel last week, including three Boston residents and two Norfolk County residents.

At least one other person who attended that meeting wound up on Tennessee’s infected list.

The state also said it would begin to take steps to protect the public, like disinfecting MBTA trains, though that was not why the new Orange Line cars were pulled out of service again. That had to do with “a fault with the bolsters,” steel center beams that allow the truck of the train car to navigate turns.

Even if it means singing Happy Birthday to himself twice in the airplane bathroom while he washes his hands, Baker was not going to let coronavirus ruin his vacation and send a message that he, too, was starting to panic.

The governor planned to leave Friday night for a week away with his family in Utah, where the Baker’s frequently vacation around this time of year. While away, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is in charge and the governor will be getting daily public health briefings from his team.

The rest might be needed after a tough election night in his own right. It wasn’t as bad as Warren’s night, but the attempts by Baker and his allies to tip the scales of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee back in his favor appear to have fallen flat.

Despite what party insiders described as heavy spending by pro-Baker factions to wrest some control away from the conservative, pro-Trump wing of the MassGOP, those same insiders said Chairman Jim Lyons’ position atop the party was most likely strengthened by the results of the state committee contests.

Baker, who cast his ballot in Swampscott not long before the polls closed on Tuesday, continued to resist discussing how he would vote, except to say again that it would not be for Trump. He told the small number of reporters who waited to hear his verdict that he still didn’t want to talk about presidential politics.

“I have a day job that people pay me to do and it’s not about that,” Baker said.

The day job he was referencing presumably covers the development of a $250 million economic development bill he filed this week that would make new money available for things like market-rate housing near public transit.

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