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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Before you accuse me...

Now we know what Deval Patrick was doing when he wasn't fitting his office for new drapes.

The overly paranoid among us might think there was an ulterior motive to the spitting and moaning about Patrick's Cadillac lease and new office decor (which Emily Rooney, after just a couple of phone calls, determined was needed because the Corner Office was a dump -- even if it never was used).

If you discredit Patrick, you weaken him politically, they thinking goes. It worked for his former boss Bill Clinton after all.

I'm not that paranoid, but there's little doubt these various episodes (and Patrick's poor responses) was a table-setting exercise before the main event -- the budget. Usually the leaks involve policy, this time they involved furnishings.

And with one of Patrick's major proposals now out in the open for all to see, it's easier to understand why we saw efforts to knock him down a peg. He's calling for a shift of the state's tax burden -- from residential to business -- and has come up with an interesting and thoughtful proposal.
As many as 100,000 Massachusetts homeowners would receive up to $870 a year in tax relief under a plan unveiled by Governor Deval Patrick yesterday that relies on the state's corporate community to foot the bill.

The new governor, who made property tax relief one of his signature campaign themes, proposed paying for the $75 million initiative by eliminating what he said were outmoded tax exemptions businesses have been exploiting. If the Legislature agrees to all the tax changes, they would eventually produce about $500 million a year.

And business lobbyists and their friends in the Legislature are not happy.
"I applaud the fact that he wants to standardize our corporate tax policy and have everyone pay their fair share, but you can't entice businesses here if they don't know what our tax policy is going to be next year," [Rep. Daniel] Bosley said. "Every year we're closing loopholes, and good, bad, or indifferent, those loopholes are part of the business balance sheet."
Now we have a better picture of why Dan Bosley didn't take a job with Patrick.

But funny thing. Those complaints may be ringing a bit hollow.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (you know, the "liberal" one) has a report out that places Massachusetts business taxes in context. And that report concludes that Massachusetts has a significantly lower level of business taxation that most states. But the "liberal" citations include Ernst and Young, which places Massachusetts 46th in state taxes paid by businesses and 41st in percentage of private sector Gross State Product paid in business taxes.

And in other areas, the state ranks 46th or 48th in the nation in corporate tax burden.

Maybe the Drape Gate was designed to cover more than crummy walls? After all it's easier for the media to wrap itself around something with a "gate" attached" than it is to do serious reporting on policy.

Can we now have a full and open debate about burden-sharing in this commonwealth without using attacks? Some thoughtful counterproposals from legislators and lobbyists? And can we have reporters looking at what other states do -- what works and doesn't work -- without leaving it at just dueling sound bites?

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