and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
April 2003 #1

All those in favor of higher taxes raise your hand
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News 
Friday, April 4, 2003

I wish I had two million dollars.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is spending $2 million on TV and radio ads to convince you that you want to pay higher taxes. However, the education lobby isn't using the "t" word this year, hoping that you don't know what "raising revenues" means.

Raising Cain, raising the Titanic, raising Lazarus from the dead; Libra rising; "The Sun Also Rises," the bread rises; and oh by the way, there's the matter of raising revenues.

The MTA ad attacks Governor Romney's cuts to local aid and warns of teacher layoffs and larger class sizes "if revenues aren't raised."

If I had two million dollars I'd run ads informing the public that Massachusetts per-pupil spending is 5th highest in the country -- 24 percent above the national average. If education has to de-raise itself for a year or two, maybe it will learn some lessons about setting priorities that it can pass along to the pupils.

The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents recommends on its website that "the legislature rely on increasing revenues and borrowing, as well as cost reductions." It does have some good ideas for those cost reductions that I would put in my ad, if I had two million dollars.

One group sometimes uses the "t" word: The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents mayors and selectmen, wants everything on the table for consideration, including increases in local option taxes on meals, parking, and/or entertainment, and property tax hikes through exclusion of some local spending from Proposition 21/2. The MMA also wants to "restore" the state income tax rate from its present 5.3 percent to a maximum of 5.95 percent.

Restoring is not the same as raising, I guess.

My ad would remind listeners that Massachusetts spending, per capita, is 6th highest in the nation, and maybe it's time to control that spending before restoring tax hikes. It would also suggest that teachers use their union dues to actually do something for the children, rather than paying $2 million for ads attacking Governor Romney's attempt to save the commonwealth.

I wish I had $30.9 million. That's how much Speaker Tom Finneran has to run the Massachusetts House, and good luck finding out where it all goes since the House doesn't have to tell you. But it's almost as much money as Governor Romney just cut from the Medicaid budget to pay for health insurance for the chronically unemployed.

You might want to ask why so many people, who aren't eligible for other Medicaid programs for the elderly and disabled, are chronically unemployed; but whatever the answer, it's true that hospitals still must treat them and the emergency room can be a very expensive way to care for the uninsured.

Fortunately, there is a way to insure them without "raising revenues" on those of us who voted just two and a half years ago to roll back that income tax rate to 5 percent.

Right after the election, Citizens for Limited Taxation filed a bill to let taxpayers choose to pay their income tax based on the higher, pre-rollback rate. The bill passed.

Now follow my math: The Medicaid program costs $32 million. If the 1,055,181 people who voted against the income tax rollback take advantage of the "voluntary tax" on the state income tax form by April 15 and choose to pay at the higher, 5.85 percent rate, they would "raise revenues" without forcing the rest of us to have our taxes raised. If each just gave $32 more, the Medicaid program would be funded.

On April 7 the "Working Family Agenda Coalition" (comprised of the MTA and most of the groups who opposed the income tax rollback) are meeting at the Statehouse for a lobbying day "to raise revenues" and stop budget cuts. Their focus, for now, is "closing corporate loopholes." Hope they don't plan to raise taxes on Raytheon as it builds the missiles we need to protect our troops in Iraq, or on Fidelity as it tries to encourage the investment we need to get Massachusetts out of its present economic malaise.

Their invitation asks: "Do you want to save our schools, health care, jobs, child care and housing?" Does this mean that a $2.3 billion budget shortfall, out of a $23 billion budget, will end all of these things for "working families;" and closing corporate tax loopholes will restore them all? I'll bet the coalition will be looking for other tax hikes as well.

Most "working families" are in the private sector. It seems to me that their health care, jobs, child care and housing will be impacted by the above-mentioned revenue increases/tax rate restorations/business taxes more than by state budget cuts. I suspect that the only working families this coalition cares about are in the public sector, and a way to help them is readily available.

Working Family Agenda Coalition members: If you personally chose the higher income tax rate when you did your taxes, raise your hand.

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

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