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The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, May 23, 1998

Massachusetts - Land of Broken Promises
by Barbara Anderson

Now that summer's here, I'm planning my vacation.  I'll have to leave the commonwealth because the new state tourism motto will attract so many people from other states and countries that there will be no room for us natives.

The new motto is, "Massachusetts -- Take a Real Vacation."  People who had planned a trip to Disney World, the White Mountains or Hawaii will no doubt reject these unrealities and come here.

We first learned that the state's Office of Travel and Tourism has changed the state's slogan again when Chip Ford was asked for a comment on the $2.5 million taxpayer- funded campaign.  Thinking of other assaults on our taxpayers, he had a better idea: "Massachusetts -- Take it, or Leave it."

Our other staffers had suggestions, too. Loretta's "Massachusetts -- We'll gladly take your money" was modified by Chip Faulkner's "We'll blow your dough."   Scituate activist Norm Paley chimed in with, "Leave Massachusetts -- Take a Real Vacation," and I think he meant permanently.  Another friend, obviously tired of being lectured by government on a variety of his once-personal choices, expressed a reason to leave with his suggested slogan:  "Massachusetts -- the state that knows better than everybody else."

You probably can do better than the Tourism Office yourself.  But you might, as a taxpayer, resent having to pay for this proposed change, especially when you find out that you just paid for a change three years ago.  Yes, I'll bet you, like me, didn't know that the present motto is, "We'd love to show you around."

Who would love to show you around what?  Who needs more distant cousins showing up on our doorsteps demanding to see the Cheers bar?

Still, it's an improvement over the statement crowded onto our license plates just before Mike Dukakis ran for president.  "The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of America," he hinted, and this was accurate:  Massachusetts almost went bankrupt, and America is $6 trillion in debt. Bill Weld got rid of that slogan, and Loretta thinks we can save his with just a minor change: "We'll show you a real good time."   Personally, I think this calls to mind a men's room wall.

Gov. Edward J. King's, "Make it in Massachusetts" was so successful that many people still think it's our slogan.  Others are fond of the unofficial motto on my extra license plate:  "Massachusetts, the Pay State."  Certainly, the way debate is going on the legislative tax cut, the latter wouldn't be obsolete anytime soon.

Instead of keeping their promise to roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent, the House and Senate have come up with different, lesser tax cuts hoping to show the taxpayers a good time while continuing to blow their dough, uh, gladly take their money, and spend it on legislative pay raises, local pork-barrel projects and new tourism office ad campaigns.

When he released his tax cut proposal this month, Senate President Tom Birmingham gave the package its own slogan, unaccountably calling it
"Five Easy Pieces" after the film about an unfaithful wastrel who chases easy women.  The five pieces include:  1) an increase in the same personal exemption that the Legislature decreased just last year;   2) a change in the proposed House cut in the "unearned" income tax rate so that it applies only to lower-income senior citizens, not to working people saving for their own retirement;  3) a piggyback on the federal regulations for the Roth IRA, which promises not to tax earnings and distributions later as long as we pay the taxes up front;  4) a deduction for student loans;  5) an exclusion from capital gains for the sale of a principal residence.

While the student loan deduction merely helps keep college costs artificially high for the benefit of the education establishment, the capital gains exclusion is a good tax cut.   But legislators who are breaking their promise on the income tax rate rollback and continuing to tax most savings and investment at a 12 percent rate can hardly expect us to believe their promise on the personal exemption or Roth IRA, unless they think we're really . . . easy.

Senate Republicans fought hard for an amendment that would keep the tax rollback promise, but the Democrats voted to break their word.  So Loretta has a final suggestion for a state slogan:  "Massachusetts -- we'll promise you anything . . ."

How sad that breaking promises is a Beacon Hill tradition, that the spirit of most Massachusetts politicians is nothing you'd be especially proud to show around.

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government.   Her bi-weekly column is syndicated by Patriot Ledger Syndicated Services and appears in newspapers around the state.

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