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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, March 19, 2008

Now what?

As we await the formal burial of Deval Patrick's ill-conceived casino gambling plan, the obvious question arises -- what are we going to do about meeting the long-term needs of this state?

The answer is so obvious that even Howie Carr has figured it out -- taxes. But it will also require a touch more deft than a man who manages to defend cigarettes and belittle Patrick, David Patterson and Barack Obama in a few hundred words.

And those answers are going to have to come from my liberal friends who have been most vociferous in their opposition to casinos. Because we have a huge stake in the programs that are destined to face sharp cuts as Massachusetts grapples with both the national recession and some deeply ingrained economic problems.

For all the swipes I have taken at House Speaker Sal DiMasi about his revenue alternatives, he has at least come to the table with some ideas that may offer some long-term hope. The life sciences bill he touts has multiple parents -- especially Patrick -- and he has come up with a compromise corporate tax loophole closing measure and a hike in the cigarette tax.

Many of my liberal friends, on the other hand, either shrug their shoulders and say it's not their problem -- or propose income tax hikes in a state that will once again be voting this fall on a ballot question to REPEAL the income tax.

The soon-to-depart Steve Bailey rightly points to the proposal offered in nearly media blackout conditions by the third member of the Beacon Hill triumvirate, Senate President Terry Murray. Health care costs are eating us alive, both at the municipal level where communities pay for their employees to the state level, where questions have been raised about whether business is paying its fair share of the costs of the reform law.

We've already seen a backlash against new ways to equitably finance the exorbitant cost of repairing our transportation infrastructure. Gasoline taxes are also a touchy subject because of the skyrocketing cost of oil and the hardships that gasoline already places on household budgets.

Property tax overrides to close municipal shortfalls and pay for education are also becoming increasingly tough (not that they were ever easy to begin with).

So, my liberal friends, let's recall the words of Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, a casino supporter:
“We have to figure out ways to come up with revenue. Somebody better have some pretty brilliant ideas.”

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