"To turn our backs on the needy and to ignore crumbling bridges and roads
is a reckless mortgaging of our future."
WBZ-TV News Talking Head
Helloooooo Jack, where have you been?
Didn't the TelePrompTer show you that our state budget has doubled to $21 billion
over just the past dozen years?
Didn't a TV news producer or writer prep you that "the needy" have never
dug deeper into our pockets -- that we've already paid for bridge and road maintenance
over and over again but the bridges and roads just keep deteriorating nonetheless?
Where's all that gas tax money going, Jack? Why don't you investigate, if that's
not too much to ask for.
A liberal bias in the media -- now why would any of us suspect such a silly thing?
I wonder how Jack deduced "the number of smaller government advocates in
Massachusetts is substantial." Somebody must have told him. That's Jack's good news
for us today.
Friday, January 14, 2000
There's lesson in Washington ballot woes
By Jack Williams
Tax cut advocates in Massachusetts should take note of what's
happened in Washington state, where a tax revolt led by a right-winger from Mukilteo is
causing havoc. Most elected officials there say this revolt will do more long-term harm
than the riots during the Seattle World Trade Summit or the cancellation of that city's
New Year's Eve celebrations because of a possible terrorist threat.
As entrepreneur by the name of Tim Eyman sponsored a ballot question
called Initiative 695 that passed in November. The measure eliminated excise taxes on
cars, leaving a $750 million hjole in the state budget. It also reduced license-plate fees
and will require a referendum for any future increase in fees of taxes.
Emboldened by his success, Eyman's grassroots organization called
Permanent Offense has been coming up with a new initiative at a rate of one every three
weeks since November's election. Their slogan is "Solving problems politicians
won't." One of the latest proposals would require that 90 percent of state
transportation money go to road maintenance and construction. This, according to David
Postman of the Seattle Times, would essentially undo the 1996 vote that created a regional
transit authority to build a light rail system.
Reality is setting in and voters are starting to have second thoughts
about being led by a non-elected busybody whose goal seems to be the elimination of
government and taxes. Already ferry service on Puget Sound is being slashed by 13 percent,
which will cause rough seas for the 26 million passengers expected to use the state ferry
service this year.
All of this is just the beginning of cut-backs that are the result of
a people-power campaign that has spun out of control.
What has happened in Washington state should raise concern in
Massachusetts, where a ballot question authored by anti-toll activists would give a full
rebate for all toll and auto-excise tax payments.
Proponents say cities and towns would not be harmed because the
rebates would come out of the state's general fund and the collected excise taxes would
stay in the communities. This is the same thinking that has lead to the dilemma out West.
Only believers in the tooth think that if $550 million was removed
from the state treasury that Beacon Hill would benignly accept the loss. You can bet your
last dollars that whatever rebates are given would be deducted from the current level of
state aid to those same cities and towns. The result would be massive increases in
One also has to question the timing of the ballot proposal by Gov.
Cellucci that would roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent. This comes only
months after Republican congressional leaders failed to ignite interest in a national tax
cut. As many of the presidential candidates are finding, there is not a groundswell of
support for tax cuts. (Even George W. Bush's greed-inducing promise of $483 billion in
cuts over the next five years has failed to stir the masses.)
They may not be in the majority but the number of smaller government
advocates in Massachusetts is substantial.
Most of us are enjoying one of the most prosperous times in our
country's history (in spite of the taxes). But not everyone has shared in the good times.
To turn our backs on the needy and to ignore crumbling bridges and roads is a reckless
mortgaging of our future. Remember that simplistic answers to complicated problems could
put Massachusetts in the same situation as Washington state.
Jack Williams is an anchor for WBZ-TV
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