and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
January #1

It's a new year, hope for the best
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Moving right along into 2006. Happy New Year.

Happy Gregorian calendar New Year. Happy Chinese New Year Jan. 29. Happy Rosh Hashana Sept. 23. Greetings to my Celtic friends Nov. 1. And those who reasonably think the new year should begin in the spring instead of the dead of winter: Happy New Year when the swallows come back to Capistrano.

Things change so fast in our era; I have no idea what 2006 will bring. And why worry? Bird flu could wipe us all out by May Day. Since it is my nature to be optimistic, here are my happy, in some cases fantasy, predictions.

I'm going to assume that holiday sensitivity hit critical mass when the Medway parent was told to change the red and green elves' hats to a color combination that did not violate the separation of church and state, while, at the same time, non-Christian Chinese merchants were told by the Boston police to shut their stores on Christmas day because it's a government-required holiday.

So I predict that in 2006, we'll be offended less by, and laugh more at, absurd contradictions. And as we realize that much of this nonsense comes from the public school system, we'll stop voting for higher property taxes to support it, instead demanding vouchers to allow more parental choice.

Parents who want their kids to celebrate religious holidays in the classroom will choose religious schools, while others will choose schools whose administrators think elves wear green and white hats. Some parents will prefer schools whose administrators do not believe in elves at all, not to mention creative design. Others will want evolution folded into the sex education curriculum, so everyone learns to mate with progress in mind.

We will continue to celebrate the anniversary of Proposition 2, which passed 25 years ago last November but actually went into effect July 1, 1981. The auto excise cut went into effect on Jan. 1, so raise a glass on any New Year's Eve to tax limitation. I predict that the legislators who so often express their concern about rapidly increasing property taxes will support pending legislation to allow only one override election a year, and let voters in every community have a local referendum process with which to lower the tax on their homes.

Gov. Mitt Romney will try once again to roll back the income tax to 5 percent. I predict that the Legislature, looking at a giant state surplus, will at last do what the voters mandated five years ago. Or, alternatively, the politicians and advocacy groups that have always opposed Prop. 2 will insist that we need that income tax money for property tax relief.

The result will be that taxpayers will continue to pay both the 5.3 percent rate and higher property taxes, until the state spends itself into another fiscal crisis, when both taxes will be hiked some more.

I hopefully predict that, as baby boomers begin to reach retirement age, they will begin to empathize with the senior citizens who can't afford higher property taxes and stop supporting overrides for annual teacher pay raises at the expense of people on fixed incomes.

Mitt Romney will not be running for re-election in 2006. I would have predicted this last December if I thought anyone needed to be told the obvious. Massachusetts voters rejected his request for assistance with his Beacon Hill agenda when they re-elected all the Democrat incumbents, then insisted that he accomplish the agenda anyhow, somehow. If I were he I'd have started packing a year ago.

Of course he will keep his promise to finish his term. This gives us a chance to get to know Kerry Healey, and to learn a few more lessons about why Massachusetts, as a political entity, doesn't work. Then, in November, voters will again elect a Republican governor and will also elect her some support. Or alternative prediction even more productive citizens will also be leaving, albeit not to run for president.

Not to worry, as our spaces will be occupied by even more illegal immigrants. But citizens who recently rediscovered, from the battle for Melanie's bill and repeal of the retroactive capital gains tax, that they can make a difference, may continue to make their opinions heard on immigration and other issues. Legislators may once again imagine themselves replaced by challengers who consistently respect their constituents.

There will be health-care reform early in the year, and it might actually have some good ideas in it thanks to the activism of the health-care community. I predict that it will not contain a tax on employers because we still have a governor who is pledged to veto new taxes. The reform package will not, however, be dramatic enough to actually solve the coming health care crisis, which is eclipsed by the coming pension crisis, neither of which will be solved with higher taxes. Therefore I indulge today in fantasy predictions of change.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.