Memorial Day, I got my favorite seat on the stone wall at the
entrance to the cemetery, where the parade comes right at you. The
bands were great, the speakers inspiring, and there was a special
treat this year — a helicopter flyover!
afternoon, Chip grilled burgers, and I made a mushroom sauce in
preparation for the day I'll be giving up Burger King's
steak-Swiss-and-mushroom burger if Salem adopts the local-option
meals tax increase. If other nearby communities adopt it, too, I
will have to give up eating out altogether. Yes, I may finally have
to learn to cook using raw, untaxed ingredients; though microwave
meals will still be allowed on my "no-new-meals-tax" diet.
course, I will be honoring our nation's war dead again this
Saturday, May 30 — the real date. For the next holiday, some of my
patriotic friends prefer the designation Independence Day, and I get
their point; but I still call it the Fourth of July to make sure it
reminds me of one of the dumber arguments made during last week's
Senate budget debate.
Republicans were attempting to abolish Evacuation Day, the Suffolk
County hack holiday. Sen. Jack Hart, D-South Boston, rose to defend
it, arguing superciliously that, "We need to respect our history! If
we eliminate these, what's next? Presidents' Day? Do we do away with
Fourth of July? Thanksgiving? Why don't we think about getting rid
Considering that these are official federal holidays, they're safe;
but why let the facts get in the way of stopping yet another
Statehouse politician's perk? Which takes me back to a week ago this
past Wednesday when I attended a slide presentation at the Nahant
Library by the Boston Globe's Sean Murphy on his recent
investigative reporting series on the state pension scams that we
taxpayers get to fund.
showed the photos of the former legislators who have been receiving
early enhanced pensions because they were specially connected,
pretended to volunteer on a local library board, or quit to take
another state job or make big bucks lobbying their former
asked, "How are these things possible?" Murphy showed a photo of a
herd of sheep, i.e., the Massachusetts voters.
going to totally blame the voters, though they have indeed been
enabling the abusive one-party system at every election since 1990;
because even if we vote against incumbents, some of them can get an
immediate enhanced pension to relieve the agony of defeat. This
provision in the pension system, for legislators with 20 years of
"service," was placed there by legislative leaders many decades ago,
for themselves, just in case. Sweet.
reminders of why I'm an outraged taxpayer put me in the mood for the
next evening, when Gov. Deval Patrick came to Marblehead for one of
his community meetings. I was there to take notes for this column so
I didn't raise my hand to ask a question. But suddenly I found
myself answering one from the governor when he asked for a show of
hands on who supports, and who doesn't, a graduated income tax.
I was a
definite "doesn't," so to my surprise he walked over to my chair and
funny how disoriented you can be when someone who is there to answer
questions suddenly asks one. I had never met Gov. Patrick, but
I'm sure I made an impression by first looking behind me and saying,
"Who, me?" and when he nodded, asking "Why what?"
Patrick questions CLT's Barbara Anderson at Marblehead
community meeting. (Salem News photo)
Click photo to enlarge
finally got around to it, I explained that the grad tax (which would
require voter approval for a constitutional amendment) always loses
because voters understand how varied rates would allow the
Legislature to pick us off one bracket at a time, ratcheting up
every two years; and Massachusetts taxes are already the fourth
highest in the nation per capita.
they're not," the governor argued.
they are," I said. This first meeting was going well.
I'd misspoken: The new 2008 data shows Massachusetts dropping to
fifth highest, after Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Maryland.
able to correct this when Leslie Kirwan, the governor's Secretary of
Administration and Finance, called me the next day.
return, she told me that the governor was referring to the tax
burden relative to personal income, which is somewhere between 23rd
and 36th, depending I suppose on how much relative personal income
Massachusetts has lost this past year.
neither of us was there to debate the graduated income tax; several
members of the crowd had brought it up when the governor asked which
taxes they could support. He tried to tell them that the
constitutional amendment process takes four years, and he needs new
revenues now. But to his credit, he stuck with his "reform before
revenues" theme and asked advocates to call their legislators
demanding the reforms he wants on pension, transportation and ethics
Patrick wants to know: My hand's not up for new revenues, at all;
but it's waving for pension reform, for sure.