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Cops, communities balk at Quinn Bill funding cuts

by Elisabeth J. Beardsley
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

House leaders are taking a firm hold on one of Beacon Hill's third-rail political issues, proposing to dramatically cut cash for extra salaries paid cops with college degrees and promising to shutter the ``diploma mills'' that provide them.

In a budget being unveiled today, House leadership takes one of the first bold moves against the popular Quinn Bill benefits, seizing on criticism of its skyrocketing costs and allegations of do-nothing degrees.

``We intend to shut down the diploma mills,'' said House Ways and Means Chairman John H. Rogers (D-Norwood). ``A cop's education ought to be something other than receiving a diploma that is worthless.''

Rogers told the Herald the House budget slashes the state's $40 million Quinn contribution by $9 million, or about 20 percent - leaving cities and towns, which share half the costs, to handle the shortfall.

The spending plan also codifies a series of reform regulations recently adopted by the Board of Higher Education, including minimum qualification requirements for Quinn teachers, conflict of interest prohibitions, and a ban on college credits for ``life experience.''

Cops were furious over the House proposal - particularly Rogers' characterization of some of the colleges that teach cops as ``diploma mills.''

``That statement has no relationship to the truth,'' said Boston Police Patrolmen's Association President Thomas Nee. ``That is an insult to me and my family and the time I've dedicated to my degree.''

Nee said it's unfair to single out police for cuts, especially at a time of police layoffs and heightened security demands. About 1,500 cops are expected to march on the State House Monday.

Local leaders also recoiled, saying many communities are already locked into union contracts that require Quinn-related increases in cops' salaries and can't afford to absorb the reduction in state aid.

``That would just leave cities and towns holding the bag,'' said Massachusetts Municipal Association Director Geoffrey Beckwith.

But House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan) said the program has gotten out of control after years of ``lax administration.''

Gov. Mitt Romney didn't propose Quinn Bill reforms, and suggested increasing its funding by $5 million to $45 million per year.

``Over the '90s, it was just hey, nobody's watching, nobody cares, and so the inmates tend to get away with whatever they can get away with,'' Finneran said.

``One of the ways to make sure that everybody is a lot more serious is to codify some of these things.''

With Quinn costs growing at double-digit rates annually, House leaders last year imposed a two-year moratorium on new entries to the program, freezing the number of participating communities at 250.
 
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