Limited Taxation
Post Office Box 408     Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (508) 384-0100

Barbara's Column
July 1999 #4

Summertime and the living is easy --
unless you're a Massachusetts taxpayer

Up to a point, money can buy happiness. It paid for my rope hammock, my glass of lemonade, and my Dean Koontz paperback.  Summer, of course, is free.

I think I'm very lucky to own a five room house, a bit of land with a maple tree for my hammock, and a 1993 Honda Civic with a sun-roof. I have a compact disc player and cable TV, and an occasional vacation trip.

What else does anyone need?

There was a time when taxes really hurt, when there was nothing extra for vacations or any non-essentials. In those days, stories of government waste were infuriating because every dollar that politicians took from me and wasted was a dollar I needed more than they did.

But now it's not the money, it's the principle; I don't need the tax cut, I just want the politicians to keep their promise to rollback the income tax rate to 5 percent.

The new state fiscal year began on July 1st without a new state budget, partly because the Massachusetts House and Senate cannot agree on how to spend my tax cut: there are competing proposals in the two branches. If they had kept their word about the 1989 "temporary" tax, they wouldn't have this extra amount of my money in the first place; now they need extra time to determine who should get it instead of me.

There are lots of people with their hands out. Somehow, they all fail to grasp the simple concept that it's my money, not theirs.

The state has a surplus. Why? Where did the government get the idea that it could have extra amounts of my money walking around looking for a place to spend itself?

The surplus isn't enough. Legislators have also voted to increase the capital gains tax. Two legislative leaders are talking about a new charge on our phone bills to pay for Enhanced 911. The so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation wants to increase registry fees.

In the midst of a feeding frenzy, new taxes and fees on top of surplus revenues can seem necessary: once politicians and special interest groups convince themselves that my money is theirs to spend, what could be more inevitable than taking even more?

A common thief demands, "your money or your life." But since part of my life is spent earning my money, he who takes the former takes part of the latter as well. Where did the state get the idea that a large part of my life belongs to the government?

Senate President Thomas Birmingham has been making the rounds of city halls to sell his own tax cuts as an alternative to the once-promised income tax rate reduction. He insists that his are more "fair" because his recipients need my money more than I do. This is probably true, just as it is when the common thief says it. So what? Who made Tom Birmingham comptroller of my bank account?

Members of the other legislative branch, the Massachusetts House, find the Senate President from Chelsea in their communities selling the Senate tax cut proposal instead of the package they voted for during the House budget debate. The House package does return some of the excess money to me, but then distributes the rest of it to more "worthy" people. Both branches oppose Governor Cellucci's proposal, which simply keeps the promise to rollback the income tax rate to 5 percent over three years. The majority of legislators insist this "costs too much."

How can a tax cut "cost"? Taxing is taking, costing is spending; not taking my money is not an expenditure to the state.

The local public officials who are being lobbied to support lesser tax cuts are understandably interested in getting the money they were promised by state government for mandated education costs and public works. They should beware of sending any message that promises from Beacon Hill need not be kept.

Mayors and selectmen should not oppose the income tax rate rollback that their constituents were promised ten years ago this month.

Their constituents may not need the money right now, but if they want to share it, they can choose their own favorite charity, not Tom Birmingham's. Since I already have my hammock and a summer's supply of lemonade, I think I'll give my first rate reduction to an animal shelter. My surplus, my choice: my money.

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.

Return to Barbara's Columns