Massachusetts: Today is
the first day of the rest of your life. As Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov.
Polito like to say, “Let’s be great!”
I say, for starters,
“Let’s be solvent.” The departing governor leaves an almost
billion-dollar budget deficit for the present fiscal year, which
began last July 1, so is only halfway over as he leaves office.
Charlie Baker has noted that the deficit reflects a state government
overspending problem, since state revenues are strong enough to
trigger the income tax rate rollback in a formula created by the
Legislature when it froze the rollback mandated by voters in 2000.
Yes, our income tax
rate just dropped from 5.2 to 5.15 percent. I’d be grateful if not
for the fact that we were told in 1989 that raising the rate above
its traditional 5 percent was only temporary. A quarter-century
later, we still aren’t back there.
Liberals complain that
part of the Patrick deficit is caused by this year’s tiny income tax
reduction; some reiterate their desire for the rate to increase
again to 6.25 percent. Gov. Patrick once filed an income tax
increase, but the Legislature didn’t go along. They did increase the
sales tax and the gas tax; Massachusetts’ tax burden is still
fifth-highest in the nation.
At least, if we have to
be overtaxed, let’s spend the money wisely — “Let’s be competent,
Massachusetts” – which is what I think voters were saying when they
elected a governor known for that particular virtue. So far Charlie
Baker’s choices for his cabinet indicate a good chance that things
will start to work here. I’m especially delighted with his selection
of Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.
I met Jay Ash when he
was chief aide to House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Voke
(D—Chelsea). Rep. Voke took the lead in Democratic opposition to
Gov. Dukakis, who was raising state overspending and deficits to an
Despite Voke’s best
efforts, Bill Weld faced a huge deficit when he was elected to
replace Dukakis; having taken a “no new taxes” pledge, he used this
fiscal crisis to enact major reforms, especially in welfare and
education. Charlie Baker, who worked in his administration, can be
expected to similarly use the present deficit as a tool for reform.
Weld also appointed
receivers to deal with bankrupt Chelsea, a city that personified
local corruption; they left a much-improved community to a young
city manager, Jay Ash, who led Chelsea’s transformation to an
All-American City Award winner.
If any Republican is
inclined to criticize Gov. Baker’s non-partisan selections, it’s
important to note that when he started working in government, many
Democrats were taxpayer friends and part of the commonwealth’s
recovery from the Dukakis years. Jay Ash has spent the last two
decades building a record of competence; and based on this choice,
I’m guessing the other Baker appointments will also hit the ground
running. They’ll have to: Massachusetts has big problems to solve –
none of which, by the way, will be fixed with a tax increase.
As if in fond farewell
to Gov. Patrick, another of those annoying special commissions just
recommended a brand-new “carbon
tax” to fight “global warming.” From what planet have the
“people of commissions” emigrated? First, as the budget deficit
grows, we get the recommendation for Beacon Hill pension-enhancement
pay hikes, including an unconstitutional pay hike for legislators;
next, we get a recommendation for a multibillion-dollar tax on all
fossil fuels used by consumers here.
We are assured that the
carbon tax will be offset by tax cuts or “some rebate” to consumers
to make the new “carbon charge” revenue neutral. Do they really
think we are that stupid? Wait — did
MIT Prof. Gruber author this report?
You recall that the
architect of ObamaCare has said, “Lack of transparency is a huge
political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the
American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really
critical for the thing to pass.” Now the Daily Caller reports that
Gruber was on record as early as October 2009 admitting there’s no
way The Affordable Care Act would actually be affordable, though it
was sold as an actual reduction in premiums during the debate in
Along with making
Massachusetts great, “transparency” has been Charlie Baker’s mantra.
I expect the media is going to find it easier to get executive
office information than in recent years. I remember the RomneyCare
process here being very open, and the law that passed did lower
premiums for a year, before the Legislature altered it. I’m hoping
that the Baker administration can find a way to get around ObamaCare
and return us to “affordable.”
The Pioneer Institute,
which Charlie directed for a time, just presented a paper named “Baker’s
Dozen: A Common Sense Healthcare Agenda for the Next Governor.”
Another former Pioneer executive director, Jim Peyser, has been
appointed Secretary of Education – the best possible administration
choice for those who want more parental choice.
But returning from the
sublime to the ridiculous: Did that Carbon Tax Commission miss the
recent repeal by voters of the automatic gas tax? The election of a
governor who promised not to raise taxes? The list of Massachusetts
citizens needing fuel assistance and visiting food pantries? The
rise in natural gas and electricity prices?
Well, let’s not spend
Inauguration Day, with its freezing temperatures, worrying about
global warming. As we begin a new year, a new administration, the
rest of our lives, I am confident that Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt.
Gov. Karyn Polito will make us proud to have elected them, as they
work as promised to make Massachusetts great.
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem