and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
April #3

Bay Staters pay plenty more than their fair share of taxes
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, April 14, 2006

I'm often described as an "anti-tax activist," as if, given a chance, I would abolish them all.

The correct description is "taxpayer activist" as in a taxpayer who is happy to pay her fair share, but who resists being taken for granted, used, abused, disrespected, lied to, or having her intelligence insulted.

I maintain that anyone who is not a taxpayer activist, by this definition, is a masochist; though I realize that some politicians and liberals have their own agendas.

I don't want to be lectured about how "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society" as if Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said it just yesterday rather than in 1904 when taxes were low, there was no income tax, and we had a general agreement on what civilization should look like.

I want a tax code that is simple, fair, and comprehensible, not one that is deliberately obscure so that politicians, lobbyists and accountants can exchange money in order to address the complexities.

The federal government not only takes and spends my money, but runs up a national debt so it can also spend my grandchildren's future earnings.

I understand that politicians enjoy spending other people's money. But why do politicians in Massachusetts spend so much more than politicians in other states?

The Washington-based Tax Foundation, using U.S. Census Bureau data, has just computed that our per capita state and local tax burden is sixth highest in the nation. Relative to personal income, we're 28th highest, but that's of little comfort to those of us who don't have high personal incomes.

Tax Freedom Day the day we finally stop working for the federal, state and local governments and start working for ourselves is sixth latest in the country May 2 here. What do we get that taxpayers in 45 other states do not?

Excellent infrastructure? Last year it was the dams that weren't safe. This year we learn that Massachusetts bridges are deficient. Our roads are always ranked low. Yet we continue to pay high gas taxes and an annual auto excise.

Services for children? Our Department of Social Services is an ongoing disgrace.

Better public safety? We're the only state that abuses overtime for police details. And there's a long-standing note in my doctor's elevator that says the state still hasn't inspected it.

Do we get more respect than taxpayers in other states? In 1989 we were promised that an income tax hike would be temporary. In 2000, voters demanded that the rate drop from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. Legislators froze the rate at 5.3 percent, and even though the state budget is increasing by more than a billion dollars, again, they refuse to obey the people who pay their biennially increased salaries.

Meanwhile, taxes and inflation erode working-class paychecks. A bumper sticker on my car reminds people that "a tax cut is a pay raise," but both Big Business and union leaders usually oppose these kinds of raises for their employees and members, while making sure they themselves are well-compensated.

During the 2000 campaign to cut the income tax rate, taxpayer activists heard opponents say they don't mind paying more. So we filed a bill for a line on the state income tax form that would allow them to choose the higher 5.75 percent rate, and it passed. So far this year, according to the Department of Revenue, only 527 taxpayers have chosen the higher rate and paid an extra $51,223.

Taxes aren't just about money. Taxes, and the arrogance of power that they fund, are at the core of the things we don't like about our society.

Are you angry about illegal immigration? Suppose there were one simple rule: No taxpayer dollars to support illegals.

Let Ted Kennedy and Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who encourage unlawful behavior, pay for it. Educate the children in the Catholic schools for free. Cover their health care using church and other private sources. Instead, we learn that illegals have been able to get Medicaid, which is funded not only by general taxes, but by sick and elderly Americans in Massachusetts nursing homes who are charged an extra tax to cover Medicaid patients.

Fortunately the federal government is about to require proof of citizenship to get on the Medicaid rolls. There will be heavy resistance to this from the usual taxpayer abusers.

Our taxes fund the criminal justice system that too often imprisons the innocent and lets the guilty go free, releasing murderers and drunken drivers to kill again. Our taxes pay for lenient judges and for a U.S. Supreme Court that allows the government to take modest homes from working people and give the land to developers. Our taxes support school systems that outlaw Halloween and Christmas and punish children who hug each other, while teaching teenagers how to engage in gay sex and selling them sugary soft drinks in vending machines.

Politicians and other government employees make more money and get better pensions and health insurance than most of the taxpayers who are their employers.

So please don't be grateful for your refund. The government took too much during the year and will not give you interest on what it over-collected.

I'm a taxpayer activist. You should be one too.

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.