Let us begin discussion of the of the latest state budget with good news.
After voters decided to gradually roll back the income tax rate to 5 percent, Citizens for Limited Taxation filed a bill that lets opponents of the rollback choose the old, 5.85 percent rate when they file their state taxes.
Championed by House Republicans, "the voluntary tax" was just passed as part of the fiscal year 2003 budget.
The bad news is, because the Legislature overrode acting Gov. Jane Swift's veto of the $1.2 billion tax hike package, the rate will remain at 5.3 percent until the cows come home, or the Legislature hikes it again to deal with the ongoing spending crisis.
But at least next April you can choose the lower rate instead of 5.85 percent, while those big government advocates who are complaining that taxes should have increased even more than $1.2 billion this month, can choose to pay a higher rate than mine.
This provision probably was added to the budget because even the legislative leadership got tired of hearing demands for more taxes when they were already voting for the biggest tax hike in state history.
However, since the Legislature opted to raise taxes instead of getting state spending under control, we will be facing another tax hike next year. If you are criticized for your resistance, you can use that magic word "choice" and ask your critic if he has taken advantage of the chance to personally contribute more instead of harassing you.
Let those who are willing to tolerate any amount of waste, patronage, and abuse pay for it themselves; the rest of us would like to see some fiscal reform and responsibility, please.
By the way, state spending was not cut to the bone as we were told, or even the next layer of fat. The bottom line budget number seems lower because some Medicaid spending was taken "off-budget" using creative bookkeeping like that used by Enron.
This health care spending is considered "different" now because it is funded by that new tax on nursing home beds, paid by residents who had saved up for their own independent golden years. A new Beacon Hill low: tax the dying and disabled self-payers, then pretend the spending doesn't count in order to make the budget look smaller than last year's when of course it is larger.
Yes, after all these months of Beacon Hill hysteria, when we were told that the state budget is being drastically cut, we find that in fact it is increasing over half a billion dollars this year. That's before they spend another half billion or so on the pork in the so-called environmental bill, which includes taxpayer money for renovating government golf courses.
Of course they may not spend the "environmental" money at all; items like these are often only photo-ops for the local legislators before they go on a long list of potential state projects. Yes, the Legislature may have been indulging in a variation of the old swamp-selling scam, and some communities may not be getting their swamps rejuvenated after all.
The snakehead fish may yet walk the suburbs, eating our pets. We'll need another tax increase to save the children!
Newly-endangered taxpayers are members of the big business-backed Mass. Taxpayers Foundation, which lobbied hard for tax hikes on us regular folks because business taxes weren't part of this year's package, it's their turn next year.
MTF will again lobby for people taxes instead, but we will probably get both, endangering the state's ability to rise out of the recession and requiring more taxes the following year.
One liberal legislator described the total budget this way: higher taxes, fewer services. We can divide legislators into three categories: liberals, who vote for higher taxes for bigger government; fiscal conservatives, who want lower taxes with essential services funded; and hacks, whose priorities are higher taxes, higher pay, bigger pensions, favors for friends and supporters, and pork for their communities that will help them get re-elected.
Yes, these categories can overlap; but if you look at legislative ratings done by liberal, conservative and good-government groups, you can see the pattern in those legislators who have low ratings with all sides of the political spectrum.
This may be the year it all begins to turn around, back to where we the people had representation on Beacon Hill and a chance as constituents to lobby them on issues that are important to us. Activists will be targeting those politicians who serve no one but themselves, squeezing them between the left and right, and if they have halfway viable opponents, defeating them for re-election.
By the way, you can find the tax hike override roll call votes at
If only a few incumbents lose, this will encourage more people to run in 2004, and the commonwealth may yet be saved. If not, we are doomed to more of the same, with higher taxes and fewer services every year. Think about it, and remember in September or November.