Curious Why Lawmakers Fail To Get Much Done

The clock’s ticking for legislators on Beacon Hill. Their session ends Saturday night and there’s a lot of unfinished business.

For example, there’s still no deal on casino gambling.

Some of you are wondering – what are lawmakers doing?

Brian from Watertown Declared his Curiosity to WBZ:

“Why do we need 200 legislators…? What is the cost to the taxpayers if you add up all of the salaries… benefits…?”

We checked to see how Massachusetts stacks up to other states.

Take Arizona. It’s population is about the same, 5 million people each.

It’s legislature is half the size of Massachusetts’.

The budget for lawmakers is half. Massachusetts needs $55 million to operate, Arizona just $21 million.

Legislators’ average salary in Arizona is $24,000 a year.

The base salary for lawmakers on Beacon Hill is $61,000.

Now it’s time for lawmakers to take their five-month break.

So what have they accomplished this session?

Everyday folks we spoke to in downtown Boston can’t seem to figure out what they’ve done.

Republican state senator Bruce Tarr of Gloucester read off a long list of items the Legislature has failed to finish.

“A bill that promotes ATV safety, 132 days and counting,” he told WBZ.

“Foreclosure protection critical for folks trying to hang on to their homes, more than 89 days and counting.”

“It seems like we ought to be getting more productivity and moving forward on some of these issues,” Tarr said.

The governor has defended the Legislature, saying this has been a productive session already.

But, Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei says not much has been accomplished.

Besides finally passing a ban on texting while driving and an anti-bullying bill, he says lawmakers have done little to deal with a nearly $3 billion deficit and more than 300,000 unemployed.

“Crazy place,” Tisei told WBZ “and (it) doesn’t really represent the people very well.”

As for the Democrats, the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader never got back to me.

“It’s not a pretty system necessarily. I wish we could do things a lot earlier, but in the end, this is what happens at the end of every legislative session,” state senator Jack Hart, a Democrat, told WBZ.

In case you didn’t know it, the Legislature is made up of 200 members – 160 in the House and 40 in the Senate.

All told for their staff and themselves, it costs more than $50 million to operate.

Here’s the question – With all those people and all that money, why do they wait to the very last minute to get things done?

“It is mind boggling that it happens that way and it seems to be a part of the legislative gene that it happens,” said Michael Widmer, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation.

And true to form, they are doing it again this year.

If you’re curious about something, Declare Your Curiosity to WBZ.

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