Mariano intends to run for speaker again

Says he's lucky with all the money the Legislature has to spend

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AS CANDIDATES START to shift into campaign mode for 2022, House Speaker Ronald Mariano said Monday that he intends to stick around for another term in one of the most powerful posts in state government.

“I have every intention of doing that, yeah,” Mariano said  regarding his plans to campaign for another term in the House next November, then another term as speaker in January 2023.

“Took me 30 years to get here. So why would I want to sit here and not do it? It’s been fun, it’s been a challenge. And lookit, I know how lucky I am to be here. And my biggest problem is spending money,” the 30-year representative from Quincy said Monday.

That’s a reference to the billions in surplus state tax revenues and federal aid money that lawmakers are overseeing and meting out.

Mariano gestured to his office walls, adorned with dozens of portraits of House speakers from generations past.

“Take a look around,” he said. “None of these guys spent that much money. Maybe if you add up, take these walls over here and add up all the money they ever spent as speakers, they never spent as much as the Senate president and I have spent in this ARPA budget. So it is something to think about, it’s a pretty interesting little dynamic.”

The so-called ARPA bill, which would appropriate much of the fiscal 2021 surplus and the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation, formally entered conference committee talks Monday.

Mariano tempered expectations of a final deal reaching Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk by the end of Wednesday, the last day of formal sessions until January, though said it remains the goal.

“We hope to get some paper on ARPA to the governor’s desk on Wednesday, but it’s going to be a long and involved process of negotiations between the House and the Senate,” he said, adding that more protracted negotiations are “possible.”

“But the hope is to get it done Wednesday,” Mariano said. “That’s the goal… The goal is, you’ve got our chairman of Ways and Means and the Senate chairman of Ways and Means and their staff, who are working since — all weekend, since even during Veterans Day.”

Mariano said that while topics in the bill were pre-agreed, differences exist between the two versions (H 4234 / S 2580) on spending amounts and “it won’t be a lot of negotiating back and forth over what’s going to be covered in the bill, it will be more about the amounts.”

The Senate last Wednesday added 430 amendments earmarking funds, primarily for local COVID response and recovery projects, and 19 new policy sections, according to a Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation analysis.

The foundation described the Senate’s earmarked spending as “comparable to the House in number and cost” but reported that “unlike the House which created several earmark accounts organized by policy area, the Senate put 411 of the earmarks in one major account, while adding four earmarks to other items.”

Both bills limit the use of federal fiscal recovery funds to about $2.5 billion, effectively capping spending at $4 billion when the fiscal 2021 surplus is included, MTF said. Combining spending proposed in both bills would lead to a bottom line of $4.3 to $4.5 billion, MTF said, and limiting spending to the $4 billion indicated by Senate spending caps would require “significant cuts” to proposed House and Senate spending.

Voters first sent Mariano to the House in a 1991 special election. Now 75 years old, the speaker has a Halloween birthday and would be 76 next Election Day. It would be his 16th full term in the House.

Heart trouble in June led to installation of a pacemaker. He said Monday that he’s now feeling “great.”

Last December, he described serving as speaker as a great way to “wrap up” his 30-year Beacon Hill career, though he declined to specify how many years he wanted to hold the post. His predecessor, Robert DeLeo, held the gavel for a record-setting 12 years.

“I guarantee it won’t be 12,” Mariano said at the time.

His speakership thus far has entirely overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mariano said that has come with unique challenges including virtual hearings, and he misses the give-and-take of in-person meetings.

“So it is different, it’s different. But,” he said, gesturing again to the office wall and the shades of speakers past, “I’m sure it was different for all of these guys when they took over. It’s a unique job. There’s no job description. You come in and try and do the best you can.”

Meet the Author

Sam Doran

Reporter/photographer, State House News Service
Two years ago, in October 2019, former House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he planned to run again. The Winthrop Democrat was reelected, but like many legislators over the years, he resigned mid-term, leaving office to take a job at Northeastern University and creating the opportunity for Mariano, his deputy, to become speaker.

Michael P. Norton contributed to this report.