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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

SPECIAL EDITION For 11/20/98

Thomas Finneran is nothing short of a complete disgrace to the House of Representatives. Whenever he tries to pass himself off as a champion to the taxpayer, I want to puke. This has nothing to do with sports or whether or not you care about the Patriots. This issue was a simple matter of economics, and Finneran seems to be having trouble with 3rd grade math.

The New England Patriots have an $80 million payroll. Just in income tax alone, that is $4.7 million per year added to the state coffers, and the payroll in the NFL increases each year in accordance with revenues. Income tax is traceable income. Additional traceable income, according to extensive analysis, increases the Patriots benefit to the state to around $10 million per year.

Drew Bledsoe bought an $80,000 Porsche and had a $20,000 stereo system added into it. The sales, luxury, and excise taxes associated with this purchase are all examples of untraceable income. What about Drew’s new $2 million home in Medfield? I’ll bet there are plenty of carpenters, plumbers, tile men, and kitchen designers in Hartford just dying to get Drew’s business on his next home. That is also an untraceable benefit. Every piece of material used in the construction of that home was taxed, as was the income of the hundreds of workers who built it. Only millionaires can afford such luxuries, and Tom Finneran has just forced about 30 millionaires to contact real estate agents in Connecticut.

What about the hotel rooms, travel, the Foxboro police and fire departments, TV, radio and countless other incidentals associated with the team? It is difficult to give an accurate estimate on the complete impact the Patriots have on the Massachusetts economy, but other NFL cities have done studies along these lines, and the numbers quickly exceed $50, $75, and even $100 million dollars per year being injected into the states economy. Connecticut seems to understand these numbers that our Speaker of the House does not.

With the above numbers in mind, Senate President Tom Birmingham, a Democrat, authored a bill early in 1998. It called for infrastructure support along Route 1 and Interstate 95, and included a provision for the state to buy the stadium land from Kraft for $20 million and lease it back to Kraft for $1 million per year over 20 years. This buy/lease provision was necessary because it is against the state constitution to provide infrastructure support on private property. As a side note, the land had recently been appraised at nearly double the $20 million price tag the state would have paid.

To the surprise of Senator Birmingham, Bob Kraft actually agreed to the provisions of the bill, and was prepared to privately finance a new $250 million stadium in Foxboro. As written, the Senate bill provided less public money to aid the Patriots than any other team in the NFL has received, but Kraft still went for it, indicating his strong genuine desire to keep the team in Massachusetts.

The bill had the support of Governor Paul Cellucci, and the overwhelming support of Birmingham’s constituents in the Senate, a great majority of whom are also Democrats. The Bill passed the Senate by a vote of 36-1, and was then passed onto the House of Representatives for what should have been a rubber stamp approval. Not many bills which pass one legislative body in a landslide are defeated in the other branch, particularly when both branches are controlled by the same political party. If a small bill on Gloucester fishing laws passed the Senate 36-1, would you expect it to be defeated in the House? No way.

This is where the democratic process broke down. This is where this issue is no longer about how much money Bob Kraft has and how much he decided to pay Ted Johnson. Finneran, the Speaker of the House, was quoted back in March after the bill was passed to the House as wanting to be known as the guy "who fired the shot heard ‘round the world on sports stadiums." In case Mr. Speaker is lacking in his knowledge of American history, the "shot heard ‘round the world" started off a war known around these parts as the American Revolution. Perhaps you have heard of it? That entire war was fought by men who fled oppressive rule in England and mainland Europe, and came to the new world to form a government of, for, and by the people. A couple of famous documents such as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were drafted following that famous "shot." Maybe you’ve heard of those? Apparently Tom Finneran has not, for his choice of words was very poor. He used them to effectively mock the very democratic system the American Revolution was fought to preserve.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives is made up of 155 members, elected by the people across the Commonwealth to be their voice in state government. Tom Finneran did not feel the bill, which was authored by the Senate President, and passed the Senate 36-1, was worthy of going to the House floor for a vote. It is at the discretion of the Speaker of the House which bills to submit to committee. He was handed this bill which had wide spread political support with more than 6 months remaining in the legislation session, and 155 elected officials were never permitted to cast their vote. Thomas M. Finneran single handedly buried this bill. King George III would be proud.

Finneran had drafted his own version of the bill, which essentially only differed from the Senate version on the land buyback provision. Over 20 years, the Senate proposal would have cost the state taxpayers $2.3 million per year. Finneran’s proposal would have saved the taxpayers $100,000 per year over the 20 years. Over $100,000, Tom Finneran has let a multi-million dollar enterprise, generating over $50 million in both direct and indirect monies to the state, slip through his fingers. I don’t care of you are a Jets fan, a Vikings fan, or if you have never heard of the Patriots or the NFL. As a Massachusetts taxpayer, you should demand an explanation from the Speaker of the House, particularly when he approved a similar infrastructure package for a shopping mall on the South Shore, which is to be built by an out of state contractor. How many Massachusetts taxpayers will benefit from that? Could that money have been better spent on education?

Finneran has said repeatedly that the $2.3 million would be better spent on our children and education. If it were that simple, I’d agree with him, but it’s not. Of course money is better spent on education then on watching football, but Finneran is somehow missing the big picture which is frighteningly obvious. What’s really scary is that Finneran not only believes he is right, but has actually managed to get some voters to believe him. Following the Thursday press conference, Finneran was quoted as saying the following:

"…When you ask people what they admire in public leaders, they say they admire those who articulate principles in the face of pressure."

"…I think many will say, 'Thank God for people of conscience and people of principle who won't flinch under pressure.' This is nothing but economic bullying."

What a joke this guy is. Doesn’t he realize that with all things being equal, the state will have LESS money to spend on education and other goodwill once the Patriots are gone? I would rather have $20 spent on my daughter than on Bob Kraft, but if Bob Kraft gave my daughter $100 for every $20 the state gave to him, I’d be a pretty happy taxpayer, wouldn’t you?

Bob Kraft is a very wealthy man, and yes he has made money owning the Patriots, but why does that make him a target of Tom Finneran? When Kraft paid $185 million for the Patriots in 1994, people called him foolish for paying such a high price. He took out an astronomical loan from BankBoston, and used his assets as collateral. There are other people living in Massachusetts with as much money as Bob Kraft, but they were certainly not in line to invest their money into an NFL franchise. Bob Kraft and his family deserve a world of credit for turning the organization into a top notch program, and today he could easily sell the team to LA or Houston for close to $500 million. That’s not a bad profit. Yes Kraft is wealthy, but if he were truly all about money, he would not even bother talking to Boston or Hartford, this team would be long gone, and Kraft would have more money in the bank than he’d make owning the Patriots in a long, long time.

I wrote to Tom Finneran and my state representative back on March in support of the Senate Plan. Little did I know that my representative would never be given a chance to vote on it. Even if you agree that Tom Finneran has done right by the taxpayers (which means you disagree with 36 of 37 Senators and the Governor), you certainly can’t favor his abuse of power in the House. One man and his opinion, be he right or wrong, can not be allowed to circumvent the legislative process. You may agree with the Speaker this time, but what about next time? As a diehard Patriots fan, I am very saddened to see them leave Massachusetts. As a taxpayer, I am outraged that Tom Finneran can single handedly decide what is best for my family and me. I conclude my column with sentiments from Senator Tom Birmingham, for I could not have said it better myself.

"It never should have come to this."

You can contact the Speaker of the House, with your own thoughts, at the below address:

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
THOMAS M. FINNERAN
Room 356
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2500