"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'
Well, do ya, punk?"
— Clint Eastwood, in the role of "Dirty Harry" Callahan
Beacon Hill, the answer to the question is, yes, the punks feel
voted 108-51 to hike the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25
think they are ballot-proof, that voters will re-elect them no
matter what they do.
I watched the House debate on his laptop during commercial breaks
while watching "24."
Callahan and Jack Bauer would get along. This is why we need their
dramas — to escape from the reality we create for ourselves by never
standing up to the bullies.
Republicans in the House of Representatives did stand up. They all
voted Nay, and 11 went to the podium to fight the tax increase. Rep.
Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, held up photos he had taken of businesses in
his district that have closed.
Clint Eastwood again, but this time not as Dirty Harry, but as
Pardner in "Paint Your Wagon" singing, "I Talk to the Trees."
should the Democratic trees care about closed businesses? The state
Legislature won't go out of business.
hundred and eight Democrats voted Yea. One border rep, whose
businesses must compete with New Hampshire, did speak against the
tax hike, noting that unemployment in her district is already higher
than in the rest of the commonwealth.
fellow Democrats don't care about the unemployed; they figure they
will never be unemployed. Harriett Stanley, Mike Costello, Brian
Dempsey and Barbara L'Italien, also representing North Shore border
communities, voted for the sales-tax hike.
15 new Democratic House members, 13 voted for it. Ten of the 13 had
opponents in November 2008. The voters who chose them over their
opponents created enough new votes to override the governor's
promised veto of the sales-tax increase.
Gov. Patrick almost saved the taxpayers. Just before the House
budget debate began, he sent a letter telling them he and the voters
want "reform before revenues," and since there haven't been any
reforms, he would veto this broad-based tax hike. Unfortunately for
us, 108 votes can override his veto.
Massachusetts Senate has also said "reform before revenues." We'll
see what senators do with the sales-tax hike when they debate the
budget next month. Seven senators who voted for a sales-tax increase
in 1990 lost to challengers that fall.
Minority Leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, pointed out that along
with no reforms, there was no public hearing on a sales-tax increase
either. No respect for the voters — and with good reason.
did many of them have a chance to elect someone who may have taken
the "no-new-taxes pledge," but all voters had a chance to send a
message to the Legislature that they were fed up with business as
usual on Beacon Hill. If voters had passed Question 1 last November,
the Legislature would have repealed it, but that repeal vote may
have had reforms attached to it, and this new tax hike may have been
Republicans pointed out during House debate, Massachusetts
businesses will be hurt by this tax increase. I feel bad about that,
but where I usually shop, the chambers of commerce deserve it.
North Shore Chamber put out a position statement last fall that
repealing the state income tax would "result in drastic cuts to our
communities and would directly impact small businesses and job
creation, needed for a viable economy on the North Shore."
see how viable the economy is when more shoppers escape to New
Hampshire and the Internet.
Cape Ann Chamber voted to oppose Question 1 before it even
attended the debate it had scheduled between me and Michael Widmer
of the so-called
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. At least Cape Ann had a
debate; the North Shore Chamber doesn't allow me to respond when Mr.
Widmer speaks. Do Chamber members ever object to his advocacy for
the traditional business community's kissing up to the Legislature
really worked this week. While the Chamber didn't put out one of
those position statements against the sales-tax hike, it did join
with Associated Industries of Massachusetts, another Question 1
opponent, in making cogent, intelligent arguments about the adverse
effect on the economy.
Meanwhile Widmer gave the House cover this week by telling everyone
that our state sales tax is really low when you relate it to our
high personal income. Those North Shore taxpayers with high personal
income won't mind the tax hike, then. The rest of us may; but who
public employee unions are happy now. Reforms in their pension and
health care benefits will move off the table once taxes are
this sales-tax hike won't solve the state's fiscal problems.
Sales-tax revenues will decline; government abuses will grow.
of uncontrolled public employee benefits, Vallejo, Calif., just
outside Dirty Harry's San Francisco, has declared bankruptcy.
Massachusetts communities reach that point, contracts will have to
be nullified. We'll see who feels lucky then.