Hooray! Treasurer-elect Grossman puts state checkbook online

After being elected Treasurer in November 2010, Democrat Steve Grossman announced he will fulfill one of his key campaign promises:

Grossman to put state checkbook online

Grossman ran on government financial transparency after one of Question 3′s sponsors, Kamal Jain, rain on the issue in his 2010 campaign for auditor. Spokespersons for Question 3 also discussed the state’s lack of transparency at length on the campaign trail. Many more voters became aware of the severe opaqueness of the Massachusetts state budget as a result, making it a prime issue for candidate Grossman to run on.

In 2011, Grossman followed through on his pledge and launched a website, which confirmed Question 3′s sponsors assertion: the state spends approximately $52 billion dollars every year.

For years, mainstream media in Massachusetts helped to cover up the state’s high spending by only reporting on what’s called the Statutory Budget, which is the portion of total state spending on which lawmakers vote. Prior legislatures set up the “off-budget” spending to be automatically renewed, thus avoiding a vote.

Many in the media, such as WBZ Radio NightSide host Dan Rea, were not even aware that the state spends almost double the amount that is regularly reported in the press. Carla Howell, head of the 2010 Question 3 initiative, and also head of a 2008 Massachusetts ballot initiative to end the state’s income tax, was on Rea’s show that year. Rea challenged and refuted Howell’s claim that total state spending was almost double what the press reports when she was on his show that year.

However, Charlie Baker, who later became governor of Massachusetts, let the cat out of the bag on the WBZ show during the 2010 campaign. You can hear Baker clarify that total state spending was not just $28 billion, as the Boston Globe and virtually every other outlet in the state regularly reported, but $51 billion.

Baker’s admission of the level of total state spending was likely prompted by the fact that he and Kamal Jain, who ran that year on the Republican ticket while Baker made his first attempt to become the Republican governor, often appeared at the same campaign events. Jain constantly pointed out the true level of state spending – $51 to 52 billion (it grew by a billion during the election year). Baker heard this repeatedly, and knew it to be true. He had served as Secretary of Finance under both Governors Cellucci and Weld in the 1990s.

This illustrates an important benefit of bold campaigns for less government. Win or lose, they replace the inane, inconsequential rhetoric that dominate most elections with substantive discussion, and as in this case, action that serves to advance the cause of freedom and small government.

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