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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Slow but steady

I've been tough on House Speaker Sal DiMasi, so it's time for a little respect.

House and Senate conferees have agreed on a bill that would ease the burden of underperforming pensions on cities and towns. Communities -- and the state -- need to keep feeding the pension kitty and when pensions fail to bring in the right investment mix, local taxpayers get hit for the shortfall.

Under the bill, about two dozen communities, including six counties (I thought they were abolished?) will see their funds taken over by the state. Lawmakers estimate those funds fell $700 million short on performance standards over the last decade. (And that's without Myth investing for them!)

Coupled with a bill passed last week that allows city and towns to enroll their employees in the state's Group insurance Commission for health care coverage, two pieces of the Patrick administration's municipal financing package has made it through the Legislature.

Still ahead are the toughies. The meals tax proposal appears stalled -- and the same fate could hold true for the call to extend the state's personal property tax reach onto Verizon. Patrick makes a pretty convincing case that Verizon's arguments, well, are bogus:
Here are the facts: the fact is Verizon pays higher taxes in Texas, Washington, New Jersey, California and others. Guess what? In those places rates are lower than rates are for us here in Massachusetts. They charge less where they pay more taxes it turns out. Let's focus on the facts. No other state has this kind of property tax exemption for the phone companies. And yet employment has grown in all those other states. Not fallen off as they threaten here. And as for that claim about broadband investment, we've had this law for 92 years. We still don't have broadband investment in the western part of the Commonwealth.
As a frequent restaurant-goer I have pretty mixed feelings about the meals tax. As a Verizon customer and Massachusetts property taxpayer, I have real serious issues with a corporation sticking its tax bill on me.

Business backers say that companies will only pass through their tax bills on their customers if the Legislature raises the cost of doing business in Massachusetts. Guess what -- they already do. I pay higher property taxes because there is a lack of equity in the personal, corporate and property tax structure.

The message behind passage of this piece of legislation is that we are all in this together -- including multi-trillion dollar corporations like this one who prides itself on its ability to "hear me now."

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