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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's all about the Benjamins

About the only person missing was Wayne Newton (thankfully).

The casino industry showed up in force yesterday, actually forced to jockey for room in a overstuffed and threadbare Gardner Auditorium to speak about the vast riches that await if Massachusetts adopts casino gambling. Of course, no one really answered the question "riches for who?"

The hearing was a chance for Deval Patrick to marshal his arguments and some troops for his proposal to build up to three casinos in Massachusetts. Personally, the fact that John Hancock held a lottery to rebuild Faneuil Hall wasn't a compelling reason to rush to slots.

Even less compelling was Tom Menino's belief that a Suffolk Downs casino would cure a lot of ills. Then again the mayor lives in Hyde Park, not East Boston, and wouldn't have to deal with the traffic nightmare on a regular basis.

But at least Patrick and Menino have a proposal to deal with the state's financial problems. Patrick in fact, has two.

That puts him two up on House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei.

Actually, only Tisei seems to be lacking in ideas besides unspecified "fiscal discipline."

To my surprise (and his credit) the film industry tax breaks engineered by DiMasi will probably generate some new revenue. Or did Tisei miss the fact that Morgan Freeman, Steve Martin, Kate Hudson and Anette Bening, to name just a few, took up temporary sojourn in the commonwealth to work?

I guess he must have:
Big-shot Hollywood producers already received their gift last summer when Patrick signed into law expanded tax breaks for the motion picture industry. Isn't it nice to know your hard-earned tax dollars are being used to support the multi-billion-dollar film industry, at a time when local businesses are struggling under the weight of high taxes and regulatory red tape?
The disingenuous Tisei links Patrick's wish list for such spendthrift ideas as education, public safety with a stagnant Massachusetts economy. But he neglects to mention that the problems in Massachusetts stem from Republican leadership in the Oval Office and the Corner Office, where billions have been squandered in Iraq -- and where Republican governors do little except to scope out future jobs as ambassadors and president.

Tisei laments that Patrick's proposals to fund worthwhile things -- like property tax relief -- calls for shifting and adjusting the tax burden. Yes, they may even call for gambling. But what has Tisei offered in return, aside from boilerplate language that has been part of every Republican campaign since Ronald Reagan popularized the GOP philosophy of "no tax and spend"?

Nothing.

Patrick's proposals, while they cost money, are designed to create a commonwealth where people would like to stay and live after the graduate.

Tisei's call is to turn Massachusetts into another New Hampshire, a "tax-free" paradise where property taxes where are among the worst in the nation.

Or better yet, maybe we shouldn't just roll the income tax back. Maybe we should eliminate it.

While my friend Dan Kennedy may disagree, I think bad ideas (even the hare-brained income tax repeal) are better than no ideas at all. At least they generate discussion. Tisei offers classic bankrupt Republican rhetoric -- all ear candy and no alternatives.

That's one of the safest political bets of all time.

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