and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
July #4

Bad news about Big Dig, pensions spurs tax repeal effort
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Saturday, July 19, 2008

"They got the money! U.S. Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry today announced the 1990 allocation of $728 million in 90 percent federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. ... the $4.43 billion highway project."

Dukakis administration news release, Oct. 30, 1989

"Big Dig Cost Explodes To $22 Billion ... diverting funds away from needed repairs to roads and bridges... Nearly 75 percent of the cost of the Big Dig was paid by Massachusetts."

News reports, July 2008

Pardon my cockeyed optimism, but I think the end is near.

We were told that since we would pay just 10 percent of the Big Dig's teensy cost, money would not be diverted from other state and local projects.

Then, when the money was diverted after all, we were told that a gas-tax increase would solve the problem.

Now we are told by the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that another gas-tax hike is needed to cover long-neglected maintenance.

The Mass Turnpike Authority, allegedly overseeing the Big Dig project, has been borrowing to cover operating expenses including patronage-driven high-salary payrolls, pension scams, theft by toll-takers, and paid police details. So Governor Patrick is moving to cover the Turnpike debt with the "full faith and credit" of the commonwealth's taxpayers.

This bailout was just passed by the House over Republican objections. When Democratic State Treasurer Tim Cahill also objected to the fiscal insanity, he was attacked by Therese Murray, who said it was his fault because he's been treasurer longer than she has been Senate president and Sal DiMasi has been House speaker.

Citizens for Limited Taxation issued a news release giving Cahill the "Rudyard Kipling award," named after the poem that begins: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..."

Cahill, like Governor Romney before him, had supported some assistance for the Turnpike in return for reforms that could begin to contain costs. Romney wanted to merge the Turnpike Authority with the state Highway Department, which he at least controlled. Public authorities aren't run by anyone we get to elect.

Not that anyone we elect is presently keeping the state budget under control either. Large increases in state spending are combining with public authority spending and public employee abuses at the local level to create what could be a perfect storm of taxpayer revolt in November.

A WBZ poll released last week shows that voters are in no mood for more government lunacy. When told about the Big Dig/infrastructure-funding problems, 89 percent of respondents said they would not support a gas tax increase, and 87 percent won't support an income-tax increase either. This may reflect their understanding that already existing gas-tax revenues are diverted from infrastructure and used, along with income-tax revenues, to fund all kinds of things of which they do not approve like, for instance, pay for the "disabled" Boston firefighter caught participating in a bodybuilding contest in Florida. And that simply reminded us of the recipients of other Boston firefighter phony disability pensions, and so many other taxpayer-funded pension outrages.

I choose this example because it has led to action by even the federal government, which, though itself a champion abuser of taxpayer trust, really hates the loss of revenue due to unwarranted, tax-free pensions.

An interesting thing about the WBZ poll is that for the first time in my activist memory, women are more strongly opposed to a tax increase than men. Maybe women are finally realizing that "the children" or "the needy" are not a government priority either. All ages oppose the increases by roughly the same percentage. Hispanics who were polled were 100-percent opposed. Suddenly, I find myself thinking optimistically that perhaps "together we can" revolt and demand reform after all.

I have it from a reliable source that another poll was taken recently, concerning the income-tax repeal ballot question, and the results presented to a meeting of public employee union leaders. Voters were told the five worst things, and the five best things, that would happen if it passed. If they had to vote today, 69 percent of the respondents said they would vote in favor of repeal.

I'm told that $4 million has been budgeted by the unions and other opponents to change the voters' minds. If I was a pessimist, I would say that Massachusetts voters will probably be suckered again.

But I'm an optimist. I predict that come November, after more news about government lies, bailouts and scams, with the Legislature having been on paid vacation since mid-summer after ignoring multiple proposals for reforms, Massachusetts voters will finally take their justifiable outrage into the voting booth with them.

If some legislators lose their jobs and the rest get a clue from these results, the commonwealth can begin the long road back to viability. This is why, from now on, all bad news is good news because it adds to the public desire to finally take control of its government at all levels.

Now go enjoy the rest of your summer, because come Labor Day, we will all have to work overtime to demand some accountability from our government at last.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears 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.