Bad news about Big Dig, pensions spurs tax repeal effort
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Saturday, July 19, 2008
got the money! U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry
today announced the 1990 allocation of $728 million in 90 percent
federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. ... the $4.43
billion highway project."
administration news release, Oct. 30, 1989
"Big Dig Cost Explodes To $22 Billion ... diverting funds away
from needed repairs to roads and bridges... Nearly 75 percent of the
cost of the Big Dig was paid by Massachusetts."
reports, July 2008
cockeyed optimism, but I think the end is near.
We were told that since we would pay just 10 percent of the Big Dig's
teensy cost, money would not be diverted from other state and local
Then, when the money was diverted after all, we were told that a gas-tax
increase would solve the problem.
Now we are told by the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that
another gas-tax hike is needed to cover long-neglected maintenance.
The Mass Turnpike Authority, allegedly overseeing the Big Dig project,
has been borrowing to cover operating expenses — including
patronage-driven high-salary payrolls, pension scams, theft by
toll-takers, and paid police details. So Governor Patrick is moving to
cover the Turnpike debt with the "full faith and credit" of the
This bailout was just passed by the House over Republican objections.
When Democratic State Treasurer Tim Cahill also objected to the fiscal
insanity, he was attacked by Therese Murray, who said it was his fault
because he's been treasurer longer than she has been Senate president
and Sal DiMasi has been House speaker.
Citizens for Limited Taxation issued a
news release giving Cahill the
"Rudyard Kipling award," named after the poem that begins: "If you can
keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on
Cahill, like Governor Romney before him, had supported some assistance
for the Turnpike in return for reforms that could begin to contain
costs. Romney wanted to merge the Turnpike Authority with the state
Highway Department, which he at least controlled. Public authorities
aren't run by anyone we get to elect.
Not that anyone we elect is presently keeping the state budget under
control either. Large increases in state spending are combining with
public authority spending and public employee abuses at the local level
to create what could be a perfect storm of taxpayer revolt in November.
A WBZ poll released last week shows that voters are in no mood for more
government lunacy. When told about the Big Dig/infrastructure-funding
problems, 89 percent of respondents said they would not support a gas
tax increase, and 87 percent won't support an income-tax increase
either. This may reflect their understanding that already existing
gas-tax revenues are diverted from infrastructure and used, along with
income-tax revenues, to fund all kinds of things of which they do not
approve like, for instance, pay for the "disabled" Boston firefighter
caught participating in a bodybuilding contest in Florida. And that
simply reminded us of the recipients of other Boston firefighter phony
disability pensions, and so many other taxpayer-funded pension outrages.
I choose this example because it has led to action by even the federal
government, which, though itself a champion abuser of taxpayer trust,
really hates the loss of revenue due to unwarranted, tax-free pensions.
An interesting thing about the WBZ poll is that for the first time in my
activist memory, women are more strongly opposed to a tax increase than
men. Maybe women are finally realizing that "the children" or "the
needy" are not a government priority either. All ages oppose the
increases by roughly the same percentage. Hispanics who were polled were
100-percent opposed. Suddenly, I find myself thinking optimistically
that perhaps "together we can" revolt and demand reform after all.
I have it from a reliable source that another poll was taken recently,
concerning the income-tax repeal ballot question, and the results
presented to a meeting of public employee union leaders. Voters were
told the five worst things, and the five best things, that would happen
if it passed. If they had to vote today, 69 percent of the respondents
said they would vote in favor of repeal.
I'm told that $4 million has been budgeted by the unions and other
opponents to change the voters' minds. If I was a pessimist, I would say
that Massachusetts voters will probably be suckered again.
But I'm an optimist. I predict that come November, after more news about
government lies, bailouts and scams, with the Legislature having been on
paid vacation since mid-summer after ignoring multiple proposals for
reforms, Massachusetts voters will finally take their justifiable
outrage into the voting booth with them.
If some legislators lose their jobs and the rest get a clue from these
results, the commonwealth can begin the long road back to viability.
This is why, from now on, all bad news is good news because it adds to
the public desire to finally take control of its government at all
Now go enjoy the rest of your summer, because come Labor Day, we will
all have to work overtime to demand some accountability from our
government at last.
Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune
newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in
the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.