When the moon is in the Seventh
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars.
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions ...
— "Age of
Aquarius," from the musical "Hair," made popular in 1969 by The
Thought you might like to know that,
according to LLewellyn's 2011 Daily Planetary Guide, this
weekend is the long-awaited dawning of the Age of Aquarius;
well, long-awaited since the last time Jupiter aligned with Mars
on my birthday in 2009. And the moon won't actually be in the
7th House until next week, on Friday the 13th.
My being an Aquarian myself, and 13 being my
lucky number ever since California's Proposition 13 started the
property tax revolt in 1978, I'm overlooking the fact that the
lyricist chose this particular alignment because Mars rhymes
with stars and has one syllable, unlike say Neptune which rhymes
with nothing. So I'm going to take a chance on "trust abiding"
and support the Massachusetts House leadership on its Fiscal
Year 2012 budget.
By the time the state budget is finalized
this summer, I will either be celebrating "trust" or apologizing
for naïve "visions of harmony," again.
Over 20 years ago, key Democrats teamed up
with Republican fiscal conservatives to save the commonwealth
from fiscal meltdown.
The time was 1989, when the Dukakis '88
presidential campaign's invented "Massachusetts Miracle" had
become the Massachusetts Mess.
The House Ways and Means Committee, led by
liberal Chairman Richard Voke, D-Chelsea, and backed by
then-Speaker George Keverian, other committee chairmen and House
Republicans, released a "no new taxes" budget with savings and
reforms, to make up for years of overspending.
House Ways and Means cut Dukakis' proposed
billion-dollar increase in half, and House members supported
this. The battle against Dukakis/tax-hiking liberals/public
employee unions began.
Citizens for Limited Taxation went way out on
a "harmony and understanding" limb to support House Ways and
Means against the "derision" of the public employee unions,
which instead supported Dukakis' proposed $735 million tax
The House put up a valiant fight, but the
governor and Senate won. While some Dukakis-proposed new
spending was halted, the Legislature passed a "temporary" income
tax increase, which became permanent. With fiscally responsible
momentum lost, another record tax increase passed in 1990.
Some of this new money, used for local aid,
was the cause of the unsustainable benefit packages gained by
the local public employee unions and eventually led to the
present state of fiscal affairs in Massachusetts.
So once again, I "harmonize" with a House
Ways and Means Committee effort to get spending under control,
which this time has been led by Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill,
for his first budget as committee chairman. Speaker Robert DeLeo
declared there will be no new taxes. Most of the House
leadership backed their plan to scale back the cost of health
insurance plans for city and town employees, a reform that
mayors and selectmen have been urging.
The April 26 House vote for the reform was
Public employee unions were outraged by the
plan and filed their own, which among other differences, would
give the unions at least 25 percent of the savings.
The House is giving them 20 percent the first
year, which seems ridiculous since the point of the change is to
help with local budgets that, because of state fiscal problems,
will be losing some local aid. But "understanding" that it's
hard for Democrats to stand up to unions, maybe the temporary 20
percent kickback was necessary to get the votes.
Even so, the unions are still furious and
threatening not to support the re-elections of Democrats who
"turned their backs" on them, so the kickback remains silly.
All but two House Republicans supported the
health insurance savings. Republicans also attempted other
savings with budget amendments for further reform, especially in
the area of public employee pensions. There is also a Republican
amendment to stop welfare benefits for illegal immigrants. Both
the Republicans and the House leadership have plans to prevent
nonresidents from getting MassHealth benefits.
With local aid cut, taxpayers must count on
Proposition 2½ to control local taxes. This works unless they
vote for an override. However, as with other new taxes at the
state and federal levels, overrides often get substituted for
necessary reforms, making the overall situation worse.
A group of liberals and some union leaders
are advocating a state income tax rate increase to 5.95 percent.
House Republican legislators countered with amendments cutting
it to 5 percent, reducing the recent sales tax rate increase and
a sales tax deduction.
They got just three Democrat votes for the
income tax rate that voters approved in 2000 - the final repeal
of the "temporary" hike that happened the last time I trusted
the Massachusetts House to hold firm on a "no new taxes" pledge.
Not giving up though, yet, on my "visions" of
government that can occasionally be trusted to get spending
under control for the long-term benefit of not only taxpayers,
but everyone who depends on it to function responsibly. We'll
see what happens next, as the budget debate moves to the Senate.