It's the time of year when we check in with the
Washington-based Tax Foundation, which uses U.S. Census Bureau data to
compare tax burdens year to year and state to state.
If you haven't yet done your taxes, you may be inspired by knowing that
Massachusetts' per-capita state and local tax burden is fourth highest
in the country, and 22.5 percent above the national average. This is
determined by dividing our state and local taxes among every man, woman
and child in the commonwealth, showing for comparison purposes, that
each of us pays $5,419. The national average is $4,422.
Only Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have higher per-capita tax
You won't see this data widely reported; pro-taxation groups focus on
another Tax Foundation comparison -- the state tax burden relative to
personal income. Using this data, Massachusetts ranks 28th highest,
because many wealthy people live here; although that's of little comfort
to those of us who don't have high personal incomes.
We already know that "the rich" can afford higher taxes because we see
some of them supporting Proposition 2½ override campaigns to show their
civic concern. Some of them prefer to send their children to public
schools, if they can get taxpayers to more generously fund them - which
partly explains why per-pupil spending here, K through 12, is fourth
highest in the country.
What is it with all these overrides this spring? I thought Governor
Deval Patrick was going to cut our property taxes if he was elected;
that seemed to be the reason that many people voted for him. Instead,
taxpayers are being asked to approve overrides -- again -- while the
governor argues for increasing the meals tax. How does paying a higher
tax on my croissant at the coffee shop cut my property-tax bill?
The Tax Foundation is most famous for another comparison, its annual Tax
Freedom Day report. Just released, it tells us how long we work each
year to pay the government before starting to work for ourselves and our
families. This year in the United States as a whole, Tax Freedom Day
comes two days later than last year. Americans work until April 30 --
the first 120 days of the year -- for the government.
Says the Tax Foundation, "This makes taxation a bigger financial burden
than housing and household operation (62 days), health and medical care
(52 days), food (30 days), transportation (30 days), recreation (22
days), or clothing and accessories (13 days)."
In Massachusetts, where many of those costs of living are higher yet, we
work even longer for the government -- until May 6 -- also two days
later than in 2006. Rated ninth in this category, we work longer for the
government than people in 41 other states.
And what do we get here that taxpayers in 41 other states do not?
Not excellent infrastructure. Last year I wrote in this space that we
had just been told, again, that Massachusetts bridges were deficient.
The year before it was the dams that weren't safe. Now there is what an
official calls a "shocking" deficit of up to $19 billion in the rail and
So far the governor's solution is to spend another $1.4 billion (starter
estimate) for yet another rail line that we can't afford.
According to the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission, 82
percent of MassHighway workers' salaries last year were paid by
borrowing. Now there's a sign of brilliant management -- borrowing to
pay operating expenses.
Commission members are floating a proposal for a 9-cent increase in the
gas tax, which was last raised in 1990 to maintain roads and bridges.
Guess that work didn't get done after the last tax increase. Shocking!
And of course we are still paying for the Big Dig, whose off-ramps in
Boston are dumping drivers over the edge. Our overall state debt --
despite our high tax burden -- is one of the highest in the nation. Tax,
spend; borrow, spend.
This year we had a new scandal with the discovery of stacks of
decomposing bodies at the medical examiner's office. And State Auditor
Joe DeNucci in a recent report warns us that "inadequate statewide food
inspections increase health risks."
There is one sign of hope. Almost everyone has finally arrived at the
understanding that there is a huge problem with "fixed costs" and
unfunded liabilities relative to public pension and health-care
benefits. (Except for Bob McCarthy, head of the firefighters' union, who
insisted in a recent interview with Jon Keller that there is no unfunded
pension liability, so no reason for reforms that would prevent union
leaders from attending conferences in Hawaii.)
Bills have been filed by the governor and others to begin to address
these presently uncontrolled costs. This is the year for them to pass --
if legislators and local officials don't get the higher taxes that give
them an easy, albeit temporary, way out of the current budget deficits.
Citizens can do their part by resisting all new tax packages and
overrides until these and other vital reforms are passed.
We suffer the fourth highest tax burden in the nation, working for
government until May 6. Now we need to hear a "thank you," and see some
-- SPECIAL NOTE --
The Salem News has been named the best large
daily newspaper in Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., an
Alabama-based media company that owns 93 daily papers....
William Ketter, CNHI's vice president for news and the chairman of
the judging panel . . . said the "tiebreaker" . . . was the quality
of The Salem News editorial pages, under the direction of Editorial
Page Editor Nelson Benton.
"The judges were so impressed by the involvement of local people
as columnists," Ketter said.
The Salem News
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Salem News named top daily by parent company
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens
for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and
Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and
Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the
Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.