Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Legislative Reality Check


Nice is free, but sometimes you gotta come down. Thus it is with the Massachusetts House.

They can't get to progressive reform. They can't even get to long-delayed infrastructure. Our kids face mediocre schools and our bridges shudder when we drive on them.

This is the time to tell your own lawmakers in both houses to cut the crap and do what must be done. (Perhaps they need some Powdermilk Biscuits.) They, particularly in the House, where funding bills, originate have:
  • Admitted we have been sitting on problems, ignoring them, for almost two decades.
  • Quashed every funding proposal Gov. Deval Patrick has advanced.
  • Restored nearly all private earmarks (pork) that he vetoed from the budget.
  • Refuse to advance their own ideas.
It doesn't work, isn't logical, and must stop.

Now, Patrick has finally proposed casino gambling as a revenue source. Here and on LeftAhead!, I have given my objections to that. Yet, the legislature has cornered the state and is holding us ransom. Patrick at least has the savvy to portray gambling as just one industry he would foster for jobs as well as tax revenue. However, not only is that an unsure source, there's no turning back if we permit casinos, the revenue may be taking money from one pocket to put into another, we would surely have to commit a lot of money and time to roads and other concessions first, and it would be a long time before we'd see real cash flow from this.

Far, far better would we for us to tell House Speaker Sal DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and Gov. Patrick that we demand feasible revenue sources that will start quickly. I'll be posting on some of the alternatives.

Consider for example, the benign Municipal Partnership Act, which would have given cities and towns a lot of flexibility to raise revenue and provide tax relief to seniors. It was killed unborn by the House.

Likewise, meals taxes determined by local towns were rejected out of hand by the legislative leaders. It works in cities and towns across the country and would be very fruitful in tourist areas like the Berkshires, Cape Cod, Cape Ann, and Boston.

The fanged, flying elephant though is business taxes. DiMasi seems paralyzed over even the concept of making businesses pay similar taxes to those they get in other states. They won't leave here for a small burden that is the cost of doing business everywhere else. They might not give Sal the biggest paying job after he leaves office, but there are a few million people here to consider.

Then there's the myth of Taxachusetts. That has a nice literary ring to it, but is very inaccurate. In effective tax rates (including things like property taxes), we are in the lower half of the nation. We really can't whine about needing to fix the highways and pay for good schools if we don't pay fair taxes. Didn't everyone's parents teach you get what you pay for? A blind, irrational fear of taxes can crush the commonwealth.

I welcome comments on the sensible and possible revenue sources. DiMasi, Murray and Patrick may not welcome them, but they need to hear them. Leave comments or go directly to them:

Governor Deval Patrick
Massachusetts State House
Room 360
Boston, MA 02133

Phone: 617.725.4005
online comments: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3utilities&sid=Agov3&U=Agov3_contact_us

Speaker of the House Salvatore F. DiMasi
State House
Room 356
State House
Boston, MA 02133

Phone: 617-722-2500
email: Rep.SalvatoreDiMasi@hou.state.ma.us

Senate President Therese Murray
State House
Room 330 Building Three, Room 319
Boston, MA 02133

Phone: (617) 722-1500
email: Therese.Murray@state.ma.us

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