Here's a new one for you. The chairmen of the Legislature's
Government Regulations Committee want to tax us to call the cops!
Senator Mike Morrissey (D-Quincy) and Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams)
are preparing a bill that will add at least $2.00 a year to Massachusetts phone bills to
pay the cost of the Enhanced 911 service that we use to call the police, fire department,
and ambulance when we are scared, on fire, or having a heart attack.
It seems that the geniuses who decided to fund E-911 with a charge on
more than ten 411 calls a month didn't realize that once directory assistance wasn't
always free, lots of people would exert themselves to flip through their Rolodex, phone
book, or phone CD for that eleventh number.
So, the anticipated revenues are not flowing in, and the question
becomes: how do we get the money to pay for E-911?
Let's look at the big picture here. As part of the extraordinarily
high Massachusetts per capita tax burden, we are still paying the temporary sales tax and
the temporary tolls from the middle of this century, and the temporary income tax hike
This year, both branches of the Legislature have voted to halt the
promised phase-out of the capital gains tax and are preparing to override Governor
Cellucci's veto of this tax increase.
Something that calls itself the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is
advocating an increase in Registry fees, even though the Registry already raises lots more
than it needs to service its customers.
But this is not enough. There must be some way that the Legislature
can vacuum the last bit of change from the taxpayers' pocket. Are there no other taxes
they can call a fee? No other promises they can break?
How about the basic pledge of protection that is the main reason we
have government in the first place?
Most of us, even libertarians, believe that the primary purpose of
government is public safety. Protection from the bad guys, I have on good authority, was
the reason our ancestors invented government four thousand years ago. More recently, fire
protection became a government program, and many communities have attached ambulances to
either the police or fire department.
Now stay with me on this. We are paying property taxes for local
police and fire service and state taxes for the state police. When the moment comes that
we need a policeman, fireman, or ambulance, it does us little good to yell
"help" at the top of our lungs unless they happen to be passing right by.
This is not a criticism of our men in uniform; we cannot expect them
to be everywhere at once.
Therefore, it is part of the great Public Safety Plan that we can
pick up the phone and call them, or shout "help" in the hope that someone will
hear and phone the police, fire department or ambulance for us.
But Senator Morrissey and Rep. Bosley want us to pay more for the
privilege of using the phone in an emergency to reach the people we are paying to protect
us! We don't buy a cable service without having a television set; what good is it to have
public safety if you can't reach it?
Yes, it's only $2.00 a year. But that's on top of the billions
Massachusetts taxpayers already pay, and it's to fund something that should be covered in
existing budgets for a service that is useless without it.
Help, police! The legislative thieves are vacuuming our pockets
again. But don't call E-911; this is not an emergency, just business as usual on Beacon
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.
Her syndicated columns appear in the Salem Evening News, the Lowell Sun, the Tinytown
Gazette and MediaNews Group newspapers around the state.