Baker the only candidate promising not to raise your taxes
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, September 16, 2010

This wasn't how I imagined the campaign, back in 1984 when I first wished Charlie Baker would run for governor.

I was able to picture him older, still honest, competent, still a natural leader, good sense of humor, and lots of fun actually; but, of course, more experienced.

However, I pictured his opponent as a later version of Mike Dukakis, the governor at the time: Arrogantly spending the revenues from the "temporary" income-tax hike and sales-tax increase of his previous term, while spending the state into a fiscal crisis that would engender another "temporary" income-tax hike, gas-tax increase, and expansion of the sales tax.

I imagined Charlie smiling but firm, and the Dukakis-like opponent sneering, as Dukakis did when he talked about taxpayer activists like me.

I could hardly wait then for my "Baker for Governor" bumper sticker. Now it's "Baker/Tisei" on my car and my front lawn.

So far so good. Charlie's career has been as noteworthy as I'd imagined in the early '80s when he was working for the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which was defending Prop. 2 from Dukakis, working to repeal the Democratic governor's "temporary" surtax on our income, and trying to build a stronger Massachusetts economy.

But the opposition looks nothing like what I envisioned back then.

Watching the first televised debate on WBZ last week, I didn't have to resist the urge to yell at the television set. I must admit that I like not only Charlie, but Tim, Deval and Jill as well, and would enjoy living next door to any of them. (My own version of a response to the classic campaign question: "Which candidate would you most want to have a beer with?")

Jill Stein of the Green-Rainbow Party and I could probably find something to talk about over coffee, but there would be no point in discussing her "soak the rich" liberalism, which has little traction when voters just want someone to create jobs. However, she did bring up the cronyism issue on which Independent candidate Tim Cahill is most vulnerable because of the recently-exposed parole department scandal that he once implied was acceptable business as usual.

A problem with having been a Democratic politician in Massachusetts is that they tend to get used to the bad policies inherent in a one-party system. I don't doubt the sincerity of Cahill's conversion to Independent, though; I know other Democrats who are also fed up with the way things are going.

As a Quincy city councilor, Cahill refused to publicly oppose the 1990 ballot question to repeal the record Dukakis tax hikes; because of his neutrality, the teachers' union boycotted his diner. I recall Jerry Williams, Howie Carr and I urging people to eat there.

However, I later recall Cahill praising Deval Patrick for opposing a later attempt to cut the income-tax rate. He has since said he regrets that opposition, as he saw so many taxpayer dollars being wasted, and then the sales tax rate hiked last year.

Yeah, well, I regret it more, having personally worked hard to repeal the Dukakis "temporary" income-tax hike for 20 years.

It was Patrick's opposition to the income-tax rollback that led to his promise to reduce property taxes during the 2006 campaign. He was asked what he thought about the voter-passed rate reduction of the income tax to 5 percent, which had been halted by the Legislature at 5.3 percent. Not wanting to just dismiss the will of the voters, Patrick said that he thought they'd rather have a property-tax cut, which was probably true.

The media, in thrall to Patrick's "Together We Can" 2006 campaign, never pressed him on how that property tax reduction would work. So Patrick was elected, and two years later we got a sales-tax hike, a new alcohol tax, and meals and telecommunication taxes instead. Gov. Patrick seems to be a nice person, but I hope voters won't forget that broken and violated promise.

In fairness, I'd note that the police unions were picketing him at the recent gubernatorial debate because of Patrick's politically courageous opposition to police details a position that most of the public supports. He also took first steps toward public-employee pension reform.

So he hasn't been the worst governor in recent Massachusetts history (that would be Dukakis). And Tim Cahill could, in a different year, be a potentially OK governor himself.

But Massachusetts, partly because of the one-party rule that has created fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis, once again needs a Weld-style Republican to create some balance and stand for major reforms. Bill Weld actually did cut the state budget, not just the rate of growth which is what Deval Patrick calls "cutting spending."

Charlie Baker has the unique background to address this year's unique economic problems, made worse because of the national situation that requires extraordinary skill to work around. And because of his experience as a selectman, I'd anticipate a much more vigorous effort to give communities more control over their pension and health insurance costs.

Baker is the only one of the four candidates to take the "no new taxes" pledge that is essential to keeping the Legislature focused on necessary reforms, instead of planning yet another tax hike.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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.

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