Message to Beacon Hill:
What part of 5 percent don’t you understand?
Income tax rate history
lesson. In 1989, Michael Dukakis increased the rate from its
traditional 5 percent to 5.75 percent. The only way he and
Democratic legislative leaders could get even many Democrats to vote
for it was to promise that the new rate was “temporary.” And sure
enough, it was: The next year, they increased it to 6.25 percent.
They said this was
temporary, too, and tried to assuage voter outrage over the earlier
lie with a requirement that the rate drop automatically in 1992 to
5.95 percent. Not believing them, taxpayer activists, including me,
put a question on the 1990 ballot to repeal the entire Dukakis
package, which included, along with the income tax increase, an
expansion of the sales tax to services and an increase in the state
gas tax for “transportation needs.” Opponents said the repeal “goes
too far,” and voters rejected it; maybe they thought the gas tax
increase was actually going to be spent on roads and bridges.
But using the same
ballot, still-angry voters threw out a bunch of the perps, electing
a Republican governor who ran on repealing the Dukakis taxes, and 14
new Republican legislators.
Almost tempts one to
choose this message to legislators as they consider the Patrick tax
hikes: Go ahead, make my day. No Democrat was elected governor for
the next 16 years.
In 1992, when liberals
tried to keep the income tax rate at 6.25 percent, Gov. William Weld
threatened a veto and had enough taxpayer-friendly legislators to
sustain it, so the rate dropped to 5.95 percent. In 2000, Gov. Paul
Cellucci helped lead another ballot campaign to roll back the rate
to 5 percent; this one passed easily. In 2002, the Legislature froze
the rate at 5.3 percent over Gov. Jane Swift’s veto. Gov. Mitt
Romney filed a bill every year to “defrost” it. Democrats continued
to thumb their noses at voters, who still elected Deval Patrick
governor in 2006. He argued that instead of the income tax rate cut,
taxpayers would rather have property tax relief.
Background music: We Don't Get
The Who - 1971
Of course, they didn’t
get it; they got a sales tax increase instead. But still they
elected him again in 2010, when he said he had no plans to further
increase broad-based taxes. Last week, he announced his plan to
increase the income tax rate to 6.25 percent again.
He says he will partly
offset this by reducing the sales tax rate to 4.5 percent — the
sales tax rate, as noted above, that he just hiked in 2009.
Memo to gullible
voters: They take turns raising broad-based taxes. This year, it’s
the income tax’s turn; they’ll be back to increase the sales tax
rate again after the next election, “for transportation needs,” “for
Patrick also says he
wants a graduated income tax. Unfortunately for him and other
liberals who crave this easy way to raise taxes, one bracket at a
time, our state constitution doesn’t allow a graduated income tax,
and can only be amended by a vote of the people on a statewide
ballot. This has been tried; the most recent attempts failed in
1962, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1994.
Patrick said last week
that instead of trying to amend the state constitution, he’ll
increase the personal exemptions “to push more burden onto
higher-income earners,” according to his budget director.
I was at a news
conference in 1986 when the Massachusetts Senate wanted to do a
backdoor version using vanishing personal exemptions; my comment at
the time was that it’s unconstitutional. The state Supreme Judicial
Court agreed. I’d expect the same decision on Patrick’s 2013 plan.
Legislators might think twice about taking a roll-call vote that
might be nullified if one of the “higher-income earners” goes to
tolls were also sold as “temporary” to pay for the actual
construction, after which they would end. In 2000, a group tried to
make the state keep that promise with a ballot question to finally
abolish the tolls; opponents said that if it passed there’d have to
be a gas tax increase, so voters chose to keep the tolls. Patrick is
now proposing to raise the tolls and increase the gas tax by
adjusting the price to inflation every year.
The almost $2 billion
Patrick tax plan also eliminates 45 deductions from the state income
tax: too many to list here, but be sure to check them out before you
support him “because he’s only taxing the rich.” You won’t get a
state deduction for your contribution to Social Security or a public
pension; the capital gains tax when you sell your home; your child
under 12, his child care costs or later, her college tuition and
scholarships; health savings accounts; and, did you hope to deduct
your septic system repair or lead paint removal?
I’d suspect that the
governor has lost his mind except I know this is all a game: Who
knows which parts of his package will remain when the Legislature
gets through with the package? All these various subjects will bring
in plenty of money for leading Democrats as they hold fundraisers
through the spring: It will “behoove” special-interest groups to
show up with a check.
Question to the present
majority of Massachusetts voters: What part of “taken for fools”
don’t you understand?
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.