and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
April 2003 #2

More taxes won't cure what ails our commonwealth
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News 
Friday, April 14, 2003

There is almost nothing I wouldn't do for the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

Why, just last week I bowed low before a legislative committee considering new state revenues and begged it not to tax us more.

Well, actually, I attended the "Local, State and Federal Revenues Task Force" hearing at the Statehouse and went up to the committee table during a break to ask a question. I didn't see a step and fell flat on my face.

As the committee chairman stared down at me, astonished, I assured him that I was not throwing myself at his feet. He asked if I was OK, which was nice.

I was overdressed in preparation for an expected snowstorm, so I kind of bounced. Anyhow, my question was about one of the groups that testified in favor of higher taxes.

Rep. Mark Falzone, D-Saugus, asked the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (a liberal think-tank) where they get their funding.

MTF said it is "funded by employers across the commonwealth" -- most of whom probably didn't know that their president, Michael Widmer, was going to recommend a 20 percent increase in the sales tax.

AIM said that it is funded by manufacturers, many of whom probably didn't know their vice president, Andre Mayer, was going to hint that raising the income tax might be the best thing to do.

The people from the liberal think-tank didn't answer, and I wanted to know why Rep. Falzone didn't follow through and make it tell us.

The reason for its presence was unclear, since it was identified as a national group, but has a Massachusetts affiliate that used to be the Tax Equity Alliance (TEAM).

Its local supporters would probably not be surprised to learn that it wants to "close corporate loopholes." Some of its members were present at the hearing wearing t-shirts bearing that slogan.

For a change, though, the liberals were not lobbying for a hike in the income tax -- yet.

So, the general theme of that section of the hearing was the classic, "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree."

The liberals want to tax business, and business wants to tax its workers and clients. Ordinary, middle-class taxpayers weren't invited to be part of a panel at the hearing, though after five hours of "experts," the public was allowed to testify.

The people in the t-shirts were lined up. You notice I said earlier that I'd do "almost" anything for the taxpayers. This does not include sitting through seven hours of legislative hearings just to say the obvious: "Raising taxes is not going to solve your fiscal crisis."

Back when I used to bring lunch and hang out in hearing rooms for hours, I noticed that by the time the public gets to speak, most of the committee is gone, or staring vacantly into space. The media usually leaves after the second expert.

Citizens for Limited Taxation lobbyist Chip Faulkner sat through the first three hours, the part where the Romney administration did its best to speak for the taxpayers; but then was followed by Boston Mayor Tom Menino and other municipal officials who want local option taxes on meals, parking, movies, arts and sports tickets, billboards and telecommunications property.

Fine. We can eat at home or do take-out, rent videos, watch baseball and the arts on TV and avoid advertising on billboards. Wonder what all that avoiding will do to city tax revenues? Not sure how the tax on telecommunications property will be passed on to us consumers though; it's hard to avoid communicating.

Before he left, Chip gave the task force a memo pointing out that Massachusetts taxpayers have already done their share, having provided all the existing available revenues including the new ones from last year's "biggest tax hike in state history."

By the way, as I write this, only 677 taxpayers have chosen to pay the higher 5.85 percent income tax rate when they filed their 2002 taxes, adding $77,342 to the state take.

In case you're wondering, I chose the lower, 5.3-percent rate, and gave my savings to animal rescue organizations. At least I know where it is, which is more than I can say about my tax payment. Apparently it isn't providing the vital services that we keep hearing must be cut unless we all give Beacon Hill more.

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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