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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Trying to ignore the sheer chutzpah of Barbara Anderson calling this the "imperial governship" (hard on the heels of the disappearing governorship), it's worth taking another look at the tax trial balloons being floated in advance of Deval Patrick's first budget proposal.

Lost in the hot air emanating from all sides is the fact these proposals have struck a chord among the folks that Anderson shills for (Citizens for Limited Business Taxation would be a more appropriate term for the group founded almost three decades ago). Because those very property taxes CLT swore to reign in have been feeling the strain as corporations and utilities continue shifting the burden onto our backs.

What got lost in the noise? An example:
Massachusetts business leaders reacted with alarm yesterday to reports Governor Deval L. Patrick is looking to raise up to $400 million by closing so-called corporate tax loopholes, with several saying Patrick's proposal is just a tax hike by a different name.
Or, for another example:
To help homeowners with high property taxes, Governor Deval Patrick is proposing to extend a disputed measure that temporarily allows municipalities to collect a greater share of taxes from business properties.
These proposals -- which talk about moving some of the burden of residential property taxes onto business and commercial property -- were designed to foster a debate. Unfortunately that debate has been stifled by Patrick's mishandling of his transportation needs.

It's significant that one of the leaders of the counter-surge is the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which earned its spurs in the '80s working hand-in-glove with Barbara Anderson to label the state as a wildly spendthrift "Taxachusetts."

The High Tech Council is a business lobby exists to keep taxes low on its member corporations. Unlike his CLT namesake, Christopher Anderson pulled down over $700,000 in reportable lobbyist income over 10 years to advocate for the council's tax preferences. And the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce spent about $300,000 on lobbyist salaries.

Barbara Anderson and Michael Widmer have also received payments for lobbying -- although not as substantial as Christopher Anderson and the various Chamber lobbyists. As did folks representing the former Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts and its successor, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

The point is not to begrudge these folks their livelihood. It is to point out they are being paid to take certain positions on policy -- positions that may not match what is best for you and me as an individual taxpayer.

When the tax trial balloons are combined with the pain budget being outlined, we are looking at a significant discussion on what we as Massachusetts taxpayers are receiving for our hard-earned dollars -- and what it will cost to continue those services.

That's what it is advantageous for Barbara Anderson to howl over Deval's DeVille and why it is doubly unfortunate he booted his response.

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Blogger Paul Levy said...

Without addressing the merits of the issues you raise, I don't think you should put Mike Widmer in the same category as lobbyists for industry trade groups or other long-standing commentators on tax policy. MTF has been a source of good analysis and a voice of objective reporting and reason on state budgetary issues for many years. (I am guessing Mike is registered as a lobbyist because of his many appearances on Beacon Hill, and nothing more.) In my experience, MTF is in the same category as the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, i.e., looking at the facts behind budgets and tax policy and helping people in the both executive and legislative branches do a better job.

February 18, 2007 4:59 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Excellent point. There are few people I respect more on fiscal topics than Mike Widmer. My inclusion of him in the list -- along with TEAM and the Mass. Budget and Policy Center -- was merely an effort at avoiding allegations of liberal bias in telling only half the story. :-)

February 19, 2007 6:26 AM  
Blogger Paul Levy said...

Good plan. Wouldn't want anyone to think you are a liberal. :)

February 19, 2007 5:29 PM  

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