A new day for Massachusetts... Let's be solvent
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, January 8, 2015


Massachusetts: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. As Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito like to say, “Let’s be great!”

I say, for starters, “Let’s be solvent.” The departing governor leaves an almost billion-dollar budget deficit for the present fiscal year, which began last July 1, so is only halfway over as he leaves office. Charlie Baker has noted that the deficit reflects a state government overspending problem, since state revenues are strong enough to trigger the income tax rate rollback in a formula created by the Legislature when it froze the rollback mandated by voters in 2000.

Yes, our income tax rate just dropped from 5.2 to 5.15 percent. I’d be grateful if not for the fact that we were told in 1989 that raising the rate above its traditional 5 percent was only temporary. A quarter-century later, we still aren’t back there.

Liberals complain that part of the Patrick deficit is caused by this year’s tiny income tax reduction; some reiterate their desire for the rate to increase again to 6.25 percent. Gov. Patrick once filed an income tax increase, but the Legislature didn’t go along. They did increase the sales tax and the gas tax; Massachusetts’ tax burden is still fifth-highest in the nation.

At least, if we have to be overtaxed, let’s spend the money wisely — “Let’s be competent, Massachusetts” – which is what I think voters were saying when they elected a governor known for that particular virtue. So far Charlie Baker’s choices for his cabinet indicate a good chance that things will start to work here. I’m especially delighted with his selection of Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.

I met Jay Ash when he was chief aide to House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Voke (D—Chelsea). Rep. Voke took the lead in Democratic opposition to Gov. Dukakis, who was raising state overspending and deficits to an art form.

Despite Voke’s best efforts, Bill Weld faced a huge deficit when he was elected to replace Dukakis; having taken a “no new taxes” pledge, he used this fiscal crisis to enact major reforms, especially in welfare and education. Charlie Baker, who worked in his administration, can be expected to similarly use the present deficit as a tool for reform.

Weld also appointed receivers to deal with bankrupt Chelsea, a city that personified local corruption; they left a much-improved community to a young city manager, Jay Ash, who led Chelsea’s transformation to an All-American City Award winner.

If any Republican is inclined to criticize Gov. Baker’s non-partisan selections, it’s important to note that when he started working in government, many Democrats were taxpayer friends and part of the commonwealth’s recovery from the Dukakis years. Jay Ash has spent the last two decades building a record of competence; and based on this choice, I’m guessing the other Baker appointments will also hit the ground running. They’ll have to: Massachusetts has big problems to solve – none of which, by the way, will be fixed with a tax increase.

As if in fond farewell to Gov. Patrick, another of those annoying special commissions just recommended a brand-new “carbon tax” to fight “global warming.” From what planet have the “people of commissions” emigrated? First, as the budget deficit grows, we get the recommendation for Beacon Hill pension-enhancement pay hikes, including an unconstitutional pay hike for legislators; next, we get a recommendation for a multibillion-dollar tax on all fossil fuels used by consumers here.

We are assured that the carbon tax will be offset by tax cuts or “some rebate” to consumers to make the new “carbon charge” revenue neutral. Do they really think we are that stupid? Wait — did MIT Prof. Gruber author this report?

You recall that the architect of ObamaCare has said, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.” Now the Daily Caller reports that Gruber was on record as early as October 2009 admitting there’s no way The Affordable Care Act would actually be affordable, though it was sold as an actual reduction in premiums during the debate in 2010.

Along with making Massachusetts great, “transparency” has been Charlie Baker’s mantra. I expect the media is going to find it easier to get executive office information than in recent years. I remember the RomneyCare process here being very open, and the law that passed did lower premiums for a year, before the Legislature altered it. I’m hoping that the Baker administration can find a way to get around ObamaCare and return us to “affordable.”

The Pioneer Institute, which Charlie directed for a time, just presented a paper named “Baker’s Dozen: A Common Sense Healthcare Agenda for the Next Governor.” Another former Pioneer executive director, Jim Peyser, has been appointed Secretary of Education – the best possible administration choice for those who want more parental choice.

But returning from the sublime to the ridiculous: Did that Carbon Tax Commission miss the recent repeal by voters of the automatic gas tax? The election of a governor who promised not to raise taxes? The list of Massachusetts citizens needing fuel assistance and visiting food pantries? The rise in natural gas and electricity prices?

Well, let’s not spend Inauguration Day, with its freezing temperatures, worrying about global warming. As we begin a new year, a new administration, the rest of our lives, I am confident that Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will make us proud to have elected them, as they work as promised to make Massachusetts great.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.

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.

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