and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
November #5

Holiday best wishes for the Bay State's governor-elect
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dear Gov. Patrick:

You said that you want to reach out to diversity, to work with not only those who voted for you, but those who did not.

Here I am.

We Citizens for Limited Taxation, Massachusetts' only statewide grassroots taxpayers association, know you will need a balance to all the special interest groups that will try to pressure you to raise taxes, change Proposition 2, and spend more than our present tax burden can afford. Many of those groups actively supported your candidacy. But we have been reassured by your insistence that there were no commitments made to them and by your campaign statement that you have "no plans" to raise taxes or attack Prop 2."

Of course we would feel better if you had taken the "no new taxes" pledge, which has protected us Massachusetts taxpayers for the past 16 years. It was not intended to "position" a candidate for governor, but to send a message to the legislative leadership that it should cooperate with executive-branch proposals for reform and efficiencies, because the governor will not be taking the easy way out of fiscal difficulties with a tax hike.

We were startled that, when answering a campaign question on what was your least favorite book, you chose "anything by Grover Norquist."

Of the hundreds of books you must have read in your life, you picked "anything" by the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, creator of the taxpayer protection pledge, and a close CLT ally. We and Grover rarely disagree, so this must mean that ... uh-oh.

But even if your intentions on taxes are pure, assaults on Prop 2 can be very subtle -- an exclusion here, a "minor adjustment" there, perhaps hidden by its enemies in otherwise innocent legislation.

The prior administrations would call me to discuss such attempts; please feel free to do this at any time. I realize that Prop 2 is fairly complicated and very few people really understand the way it works or the motivations of its sponsors, so please take advantage of our sincere offer to discuss it with your staff at any time.

We also await the opportunity to support your promised property tax relief.

When you were elected, it seemed to me there were three possibilities, and though I carefully follow your transition activities, I can't find a favorite among them (and I've heard other people say this too).

One school of thought is you are "the real thing" -- a new kind of politician, someone who can govern above the usual nonproductive, game-playing, partisan Beacon Hill fray and actually make the commonwealth a place we'd rather live in than dream of escaping.

If this is you, you have arrived just in time. Perhaps another Democrat can talk sense into the Legislature about necessary reforms; can discourage pork that displaces essential programs; can end the game of ignoring infrastructure maintenance and direct human services so that there is "justification" for a tax increase. Maybe you can find a way to deal with illegal immigration and the Kelo decision on eminent domain. Maybe you will find the "nursing home tax" as appalling as we do.

We can also hope that you will respect the state Constitution on ballot questions and take steps to honor promises made to taxpayers about "temporary" taxes. Your recent disdain for the voters on the income tax rollback was not reassuring. We hope you meant it when you said, "someday," and that "someday" is soon.

I was happy to learn that you do not expect to "run the state like a business." Other businessman-politicians have arrived with that naive expectation, only to leave office sooner, rather than later, muttering to themselves.

We note with surprised admiration that you did not have a knee-jerk response to the recent gubernatorial veto of the supplemental budget, promising to restore all cuts before you had time to investigate the reason for them.

But then there are those who say you are a master manipulator of the people's longing for "the real thing," and they will learn too late that you are just another liberal Democrat who takes from the taxpayers to give to the dysfunctional system.

If I may quote you, "I think you are better than that." Or, at least smarter than that, knowing that you want your governorship to be successful and widely admired.

And then there's a third possibility: You sincerely intend to be "the real thing," but have no idea what you are getting into with the professionally dysfunctional Democratic leadership and followers down the hall from your new office. I moved to Massachusetts just in time to watch Michael Dukakis try to be a reformer and get his head handed to him. I realize he gave you good advice on running at the grassroots level; let's hope his next advice isn't to do what he did in his next terms, when he became what he had once wanted to change.

Gov. Patrick: We are entering the season of miracles. Like so many others, I want to believe.

Best wishes in your new job, in the New Year, in what we hope will be a new commonwealth.

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