Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
December 2001 #1

For those who want to pay more: Be my guest

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem Evening News
Monday, December 10, 2001

Memo to concerned human services providers who have been organizing demonstrations at the State House:

Taxpayers are not your enemy. Taxpayers provide all the money for all the services you help provide. Demanding that they give more, or give up their promised tax rate reduction, is not a productive strategy on your part.

Instead, we should be allies. In more than 25 years of taxpayer activism, I've heard few complaints about money being spent directly on the mentally retarded, mentally ill, abused spouses and children, or short-term welfare assistance for emergencies. Some "small government" libertarians prefer that these things be funded by private charity, and they have a point about enforced contributions; but these expenditures don't bother most of us.

As I see it, the state fiscal pie, all of which is baked by the taxpayers, is divided into two parts. 1.) The part for legitimate government spending: e.g., public safety, infrastructure, education and the human services mentioned above; and 2.) The part that is squandered on "WIMPAC" -- waste, inefficiency, mismanagement, patronage, abuse of power, and corruption.

The difference between fiscal conservatives and liberals may be the amount of tolerance for Part 2.

Liberals seem to be saying, "Get Part 1 done, even if means having tons of Part 2." Fiscal conservatives eventually resist being taken advantage of and say, "Enough!"

It's been clear from the response to the terrorist attacks that Americans love to help other people who are the victims of cruel fate. With some government programs, taxpayers are repaid for their generosity by feeling good about doing good.

However, money given to agencies and programs is not necessarily money given to disadvantaged people. There is waste and inefficiency within the human services system as well as in other government sectors.

Considering that the state budget has almost doubled over the past decade, there is probably fat marbled throughout the entire government roast. It's the job of managers and the Legislature to find and eliminate it, and you should help them.

It's not the taxpayers' job to find or fund fat. What taxpayer activists do is put that roast in a heavy pan, turn on the heat with tax limitation measures, and try to melt the fat out. Some politicians, who prefer a high-fat diet, cut real services to real people as a strategy to get higher taxes.

Governor Swift should be commended for not playing that game and moving to restore funds for the mentally retarded after they were cut by the Legislature.

Join those of us who fought for the income tax rollback, and we will join you in demanding Part 1 -- the legitimate services we pay for -- as we all attack waste, inefficiency, mismanagement, patronage, abuse of power and corruption together.

But, for those liberals who don't care about the taxpayers whose per capita tax burden is the fourth highest in the nation, and those providers who refuse to be grateful that we share our hard-earned money with the state allowing it to provide services, we have two words: Mike Huckabee.

The governor of Arkansas, like ours, heard his legislature talking about new taxes last month. He responded by creating the "Tax Me More Fund," with its own P.O. box for contributions that will be added to the state's general revenues.

This is similar to the bill filed last year by Citizens for Limited Taxation to create a line on the state income tax forms that would allow liberals to choose a higher income tax rate. The bill hasn't passed, but Governor Swift could, like Governor Huckabee, create her own "Tax Me More Fund" without legislative approval.

The inspiration behind CLT's bill was the statement petitioners occasionally heard while working on the income tax rollback petition: Some non-signers said that they don't mind paying higher taxes.

According to a Nov. 30 wire story, Huckabee said, "There's nothing in the law that prohibits those who believe they aren't paying enough in taxes from writing a check to the state of Arkansas. Maybe this will make them feel better."

There's nothing in Massachusetts law prohibiting it either. But the CLT bill and the "Tax Me More Fund" make it easier to do. As Huckabee advised with his alternative to raising taxes in a recession: "Pray a little more, work a little harder, wait, be patient and, most of all, live within our means. That's the American way."

So here is the ideal situation: the commonwealth sets priorities and tightens its belt; the taxpayers and human services providers team up to fight waste, mismanagement etc.; and what we can't get rid of, liberals choose to pay for themselves.

It works for me. What about you?

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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