"I Have Been Tasked," She said

Let me stop right there. With "I have been tasked."

Well, I have been tasked. And I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, a message from the Word Police.

Because, I prefer to think, the word "task" is a noun. Mother gave you a task–like, do the dishes, or, take out the garbage. Suddenly, it’s a verb. Okay, in the dictionary, I admit, there’s a chance to use it like a verb. Obsoletely, as in to impose a task, or to oppress with great labor (tasks his mind with petty details, the Webster in my office suggests).

But, l don’t like it. Tasked, though I am, even perhaps with petty details, come to think of it.

Like, and come to think of it, I don’t like the word like either. Like, all the teenagers, like, say. But, like, grow. Flowers grow. Kids grow. But suddenly, we can "grow the economy." Am I being picky? Is this a trend?

And because the Word Police are still working, how about this new politically correct, or PC, term. "Psychiatrically Disabled." What is wrong with "mentally ill," she asked, her dark eyes flashing.

I digress. Back to the task at hand.

Speaker Tom Finneran has asked me to join a so-called working group to take a look at the "fiscal and structural turmoil" at the Turnpike Authority, MassPort and other agencies. Others on the nine person committee represent the Committees on Long Term Debt, Transportation, Ways and Means, and Post Audit and Oversight, the latter having subpoena powers. And if I told you that in the first paragraph you probably wouldn’t still be reading this in the eighth paragraph.

Finneran explains. "The Commonwealth is facing a predicted deficit that my ellipse the $2-billion mark for Fiscal Year 2003. We are also confronted with a likely budget gap of up to $300 million in the current 2002 budget. A drop in the Commonwealth’s bond rating has augmented this difficult fiscal situation, forcing us to pay more to borrow money at a time when we have experienced a sharp drop in revenues."

There is, of course, in addition to the turmoil, a recession, a reduced revenue base, and the danger of a lousy credit rating.

Or, as one of my fellow Republicans said, "We have suffered a colossal collapse of our revenues."

Getting to the chase scene, the Speaker told the House that he has appointed people to task forces to provide a "fresh perspective and insight on a wide variety of budget challenges, including Medicaid, local aid, revenues, credit ratings and zero-based budgeting.

As the State House news service put it, we were charged with "charting a course toward an improved state bond rating" with a look into "the state’s credit rating, the regional economic outlook, the investment banking industry’s role in issuing state bonds, cost of the school building assistance program, pension system costs and options, Massport’s ability to make a payment in December for the $14.5 billion Big Dig, statewide road and bridge repair costs and plans, the Big Dig’s finances, and predictions of operating deficits at the new Boston Convention Center."

Is that all?

Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet. Because you can have some input.

We’ll be holding a public hearing and looking for information. If you have ideas, on cutting costs, increasing revenues, improving the financial situation, or changing bond and credit ratings, please send them to me. Or, appear at the hearing in the State House, tentatively scheduled for March 5 at 10 a.m.

We want to get all this done before the House starts budget debates for Fiscal Year 2003. So get your letters to me before Spring arrives. That’s March 21st this year, my birthday. Consider your suggestions birthday gifts.

After all, I’ve been tasked. And, just maybe, that definition from Webster works. "To oppress with great labor" or to task the mind with petty details.

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