Here's a proposal for a different approach to a political issue currently facing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one that would enhance the stature of the Governor and would also achieve the result most people think is correct.
The issue is this, as outlined in a Boston Globe editorial today.
The absurd state law that allows legislators turned out of their jobs by the voters to collect enhanced pensions is bad enough. Now Globe reporter Sean Murphy has found that 10 former state lawmakers were able to snare early pensions without having lost election, thanks to favorable arrangements with the state Retirement Board. The 1950 law allows enhanced pensions for legislators if they lose an election or fail to qualify for the ballot. But the 10 legislators in the Globe report who got retirement benefits - most when they were in their 40s - left their seats voluntarily.
Imagine the following. Each of those 10 former legislators receives the following call from the Governor's office: "I'm calling to let you know that at 3pm this afternoon, Governor Patrick is going to call on you and the other nine former legislators to voluntarily relinquish this pension benefit. He would be honored to have you stand by him during this press conference to announce that you have agreed to do so -- to give you a chance to receive credit for a selfless act that sends a signal to the people of the state that former public officials realize that this kind of benefit undermines public confidence and current efforts to balance the state budget and retain important services."
The second part of the conversation, to be held in reserve pending the reaction to this request, would be the following:
"I'm sorry to hear that you feel this way. The Governor want me to let you know that, in that case, we will display a picture of you with the amount of payments you will receive in your lifetime both at this press conference and in every public appearance the Governor makes and on his websites, where hundreds of thousands of people will see this until the situation is legally reversed. He would prefer not to do that because he appreciates your years of public service, but there is something more important at stake here."
Now, perhaps those ten people wouldn't care about this, but I am guessing that their reputation in their community matters to them. Maybe that would help them to do the right thing.
Whether they did or did not, it would give the Governor additional moral authority to pursue appropriate legal action to undo this benefit and achieve other reforms. It would set him apart in the public eye and help in pending budgetary and pension fund matters.
(By the way, imagine if President Obama had done a similar thing with the AIG bonus holders. I bet 90% of them would have voluntarily given up their bonus for a chance to stand by the President and receive the approbation of the entire country. And it would have likewise enhanced his moral authority.)