As you consider your vote on Question 3, a brief
history of tax ballot questions:
Cut and/or limited property taxes, cut the auto
Opposed by the public employee unions, the
Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), the Massachusetts
Taxpayers Foundation (MTF), the League of Women Voters, and most
politicians. Opponents implied that civilization as we know it would
Voters, angered by decades of broken promises of
property tax relief, passed it anyhow. Civilization did not end.
Thirty years later, Prop. 2½ still limits
property taxes, allowing a 2½-percent increase per year, plus "new
growth." Can be more only if local voters approve overrides.
● 1990, Repeal
of the Dukakis tax increases.
In 1989 the Legislature passed a "temporary"
income tax rate increase, which was increased again in 1990. It also
expanded the sales tax and increased the gas tax to fix and maintain
roads and bridges.
Same opponents as above. Then Republican
gubernatorial candidate Bill Weld supported it.
Opponents argued that "it goes too far," though
it cut only as much as two years of new taxes had raised. They said
civilization as we know it would end.
Voters were angry, but chickened out and voted
no. However, they elected Weld, who at least eventually got the
income tax rate down from 6.25 percent to 5.95 percent and repealed
the sales-tax expansion.
Extra revenues from the remaining higher taxes
increased state spending and local aid; much of the latter was given
to local public employee unions in annual pay increases and
extraordinary health insurance and pension benefits by elected
officials (most of them members of the MMA) in labor negotiations.
Rollback of the rest of the Dukakis income tax rate hike
("temporary" tax now 11 years old).
Petition drive led by Gov. Paul Cellucci and
supported by many Republican state legislators.
Opponents the same as above, same "end of
civilization as we know it" campaign. But because the rollback was
"reasonably" phased in over three years, voters weren't concerned
and voted yes.
Democratic legislators, apparently not appreciating the
reasonableness of the phase-in, voted to "temporarily freeze" the
rollback at 5.3 percent.
Legislators continued to spend extra money,
unions continued to get extraordinary benefits. MTF issued
recommendations for savings and reforms, but consistently supported
tax increases instead. Recommendations for savings and reforms
ignored. Voters re-elected the same Democrats who voted to kick them
in the teeth for their reasonableness.
Rollback still frozen. Total repeal of the income tax on the ballot.
Same opponents, same "it goes too far" argument.
Gov. Deval Patrick doesn't keep campaign promise
of "property tax relief." Some of us argue that voters might as well
vote for the repeal of the income tax in order to send a message
that they are tired of "temporary" taxes and broken promises, since
the Legislature will just "repeal the repeal" if it passes.
Voters foolishly pass up this opportunity to send
a message, and vote no, while again re-electing the same legislators
who refuse to "defrost" the income tax rollback.
Voters have now lost all respect from Beacon
● 2009, Still
no property tax relief.
Instead, Gov. Patrick and the Legislature pass a
25 percent increase in the sales tax, permanently raising the rate
from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. They also add a sales tax to the
already-existing excise tax on alcoholic beverages, give communities
the ability to raise the meals tax and create a new
Why not? Voters will let them get away with
anything: incumbents always get re-elected no matter how many
"temporary" or permanent taxes they hike, promises they break, or
ballot questions they "freeze."
Question 3 cuts the sales tax rate to 3 percent.
Public employee unions already raising $1.3
million to defeat it with ads about the end of civilization as we
know it. Again, they say "it goes too far."
I was one of the leaders of the Proposition 2½,
1990 and 2000 ballot campaigns. I also supported a yes vote on the
2008 income tax repeal because when there's a tax cut on the ballot,
we citizens must grab it or the Democrats will think we are fools.
They'll laugh at us while planning the next tax hike.
We need to earn their respect this year by voting
yes on Question 3, by firing the legislators who voted last year for
the 25 percent sales tax increase, and by firing the governor who
kicked us in the teeth with his broken promise.
If we think a 3 percent rate "goes too far," we
can ask our new governor and our new legislators next year to
instead restore the 5 percent sales tax rate and "defrost" the
income tax rollback to 5 percent as we told them to 10 years ago.
They can use the reasonable revenue loss as a tool to address the
outrageous public employee benefits, the ongoing scandals and
corruption, and the unremitting insult to our intelligence that our
state government has become.
Our Massachusetts per-capita tax burden is sixth
highest in the nation. This wasn't what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
meant when he said "taxes are what we pay for civilized society" in
1904 — before Massachusetts had an income or sales tax, and when the
word "civilization" implied respect.