Limited Taxation & Government
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Saturday, May 23, 1998
- Land of Broken Promises
by Barbara Anderson
summer's here, I'm planning my vacation. I'll have to leave the commonwealth because
the new state tourism motto will attract so many people from other states and countries
that there will be no room for us natives.
The new motto is, "Massachusetts -- Take a Real Vacation." People who had
planned a trip to Disney World, the White Mountains or Hawaii will no doubt reject these
unrealities and come here.
We first learned that the state's Office of Travel and Tourism has changed the state's
slogan again when Chip Ford was asked for a comment on the $2.5 million taxpayer- funded
campaign. Thinking of other assaults on our taxpayers, he had a better idea:
"Massachusetts -- Take it, or Leave it."
Our other staffers had suggestions, too. Loretta's "Massachusetts -- We'll gladly
take your money" was modified by Chip Faulkner's "We'll blow your dough."
Scituate activist Norm Paley chimed in with, "Leave Massachusetts -- Take a
Real Vacation," and I think he meant permanently. Another friend, obviously
tired of being lectured by government on a variety of his once-personal choices, expressed
a reason to leave with his suggested slogan: "Massachusetts -- the state that
knows better than everybody else."
You probably can do better than the Tourism Office yourself. But you might, as a
taxpayer, resent having to pay for this proposed change, especially when you find out that
you just paid for a change three years ago. Yes, I'll bet you, like me, didn't know
that the present motto is, "We'd love to show you around."
Who would love to show you around what? Who needs more distant cousins showing up on
our doorsteps demanding to see the Cheers bar?
Still, it's an improvement over the statement crowded onto our license plates just before
Mike Dukakis ran for president. "The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of
America," he hinted, and this was accurate: Massachusetts almost went bankrupt,
and America is $6 trillion in debt. Bill Weld got rid of that slogan, and Loretta thinks
we can save his with just a minor change: "We'll show you a real good time."
Personally, I think this calls to mind a men's room wall.
Gov. Edward J. King's, "Make it in Massachusetts" was so successful that many
people still think it's our slogan. Others are fond of the unofficial motto on my
extra license plate: "Massachusetts, the Pay State." Certainly, the
way debate is going on the legislative tax cut, the latter wouldn't be obsolete anytime
Instead of keeping their promise to roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent, the
House and Senate have come up with different, lesser tax cuts hoping to show the taxpayers
a good time while continuing to blow their dough, uh, gladly take their money, and spend
it on legislative pay raises, local pork-barrel projects and new tourism office ad
When he released his tax cut proposal this month, Senate President Tom Birmingham gave the
package its own slogan, unaccountably calling it "Five Easy Pieces" after the film about an unfaithful
wastrel who chases easy women. The five pieces include: 1) an increase in the
same personal exemption that the Legislature decreased just last year; 2) a change
in the proposed House cut in the "unearned" income tax rate so that it applies
only to lower-income senior citizens, not to working people saving for their own
retirement; 3) a piggyback on the federal regulations for the Roth IRA, which
promises not to tax earnings and distributions later as long as we pay the taxes up
front; 4) a deduction for student loans; 5) an exclusion from capital gains
for the sale of a principal residence.
While the student loan deduction merely helps keep college costs artificially high for the
benefit of the education establishment, the capital gains exclusion is a good tax cut.
But legislators who are breaking their promise on the income tax rate rollback and
continuing to tax most savings and investment at a 12 percent rate can hardly expect us to
believe their promise on the personal exemption or Roth IRA, unless they think we're
really . . . easy.
Senate Republicans fought hard for an amendment that would keep the tax rollback promise,
but the Democrats voted to break their word. So Loretta has a final suggestion for a
state slogan: "Massachusetts -- we'll promise you anything . . ."
How sad that breaking promises is a Beacon Hill tradition, that the spirit of most
Massachusetts politicians is nothing you'd be especially proud to show around.
Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government.
Her bi-weekly column is syndicated by Patriot Ledger Syndicated Services and
appears in newspapers around the state.
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