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After triumphing in Monday's showdown in the Senate, Gov. William F. Weld '66 would probably like to breathe a sigh of relief and spend the upcoming weeks rededicating himself to the task of balancing the budget. But if some Democratic senators have their way, Weld will have to fight the battle over again.
In the second clash in as many months between the governor and the predominantly Democratic legislature, many Republican senators fought to uphold Weld's veto of a bill which would roll back his cabinet member's salaries from $85,000 to the lower levels that the Dukakis administration paid.
Weld, who needed exactly 14 votes in order to stave off the threat, barely pulled off his victory by winning 14 of the 16 possible Republican senators' votes. All 24 Democratic senators voted against him.
But no matter how they voted in Monday's session, many senators complain that the entire issue was little more than party bickering between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature.
"It was absolutely a symbolic battle," said Lewis C. Howe, spokesperson for Senate minority leader David Locke (R-Sherborn). "There was very little of substance there. It's time we got down to the matter of actually debating real budget issues."
Even if the measure to reduce salaries is approved, it will shave only $36,000 off the budget--barely a dent in the current Massachusetts deficit of approximately $850 million.
"This was nothing more than a partisan battle between the Democrats and Governor Weld," said Sen. Jane Swift (R-North Adams). "The reality was that this was a $36,000 item that would have no bearing on the budget deficit."
And other senators worry that the much-publicized battle will increase public suspicion that elected officials are incompetent at solving the deficit problem.
"I do not think the partisan bicking helps the Democrats," said Sen. Michael J. Barrett '70 (D-Cambridge). "We are hurt as much as the Republicans by being seen as sticking it to the Governor on a few minor points."
Once the dust settles on the issue, it remains to be seen whether the Republican governor and dominantly Democratic Senate and House of Representatives will ever be able to look past their differences and work together in solving the deficit crisis.
"That's up to the legislature," said Howe. "They've got to realize that now there is a Republican in the Governor's office who was elected by the people."
Some Democrats are equally skeptical whether the two branches will work together harmoniously in upcoming sessions.
"I predict this will be the most frustrating legislative session in 30 or 40 years," said Sen. Robert A. Havern '72 (D-Arlington).
The legislative fracas has also led insiders to wonder whether pushing the salary rollback issue so hard was a wise political maneuver for Weld.
"I believe he's squandering his moral authority in pressing this issue," Barrett said. "He should come back with this pay-raise issue in better economic times."
Opponents have also critized Weld for vetoing the bill while signing legislation only minutes later that will require state employees, many of whom have not received pay increases in three years, to take unpaid furloughs.
"It's very difficult to justify giving a select number of people raises when you're dealing out furloughs to others," Havern said. "It just plain doesn't make sense."
Havern pointed out that even though the Republicans may have succeeded in sustaining the veto, recent polls suggest that the public strongly disagrees with Weld on this issue and that the publicity may cost him dearly in terms of his popularity rating.
"He won an inside victory but lost the outside fight," Havern said.
But Weld's supporters argues that even if the battle was largely
Meanwhile, Several senators said they are skeptical that a reconsideration of the issue will achieve anything besides wasting time.
"This was a very tough vote for all of us to make," said Sen. Matthew J. Amorillo (R-Sutton). "I really don't think that any of the 14 Republican senators who went with Weld will change their minds."
"[A revote] is such a crock," said Sen. Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth). "Nobody's going to change their vote on this. "It's just a way of milking the newspapers a little longer. I say let's put this partisan baloney out of the way and get down to business."
symbolic, it was vital to proving that the GOP has established a strong presence in the legislature and that a healthy two-party system now exists on the Hill.
One More Try
Before Weld and his supporters can count Monday's vote as a win, they may have to stand up to the Democrats one more time.
On Monday afternoon Sen. Patricia McGovern (D-Lawerence) moved to reconsider the issue in yet another Senate vote. The legislature will probably revote in their next formal session, which will take place either next week or the week after that.
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