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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, March 18, 2008

Showdown at the Beacon Hill Corral

High Noon arrives at 9 a.m. today.

That's when Deval Patrick addresses a pro-casino rally across from the Statehouse. AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes is promising a good turnout.

Then things move inside, where it will be warmer -- literally and figuratively. The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies will at long last hold a hearing on the Patrick casino gambling bill which, by many accounts, is already assumed to be DOA.

And while it would be in everybody's ultimate best interests to declare defeat and move on, that won't be the end of it. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steven Panagiotakis is suggesting voters have a say in a non-binding referendum.

And then there's the matter of the inevitable -- or not so inevitable -- Wampanoag-backed casino proposed for Middleboro.

Based on its merits, the proposal should be shot down. But the close arms combat between Deval Patrick and Sal DiMasi has masked the fact there are a lot of supporters out there who have a constitutional right to be heard. And I get the feeling that so far, much of this debate has been among a small group of partisan warriors on each flank.

What has also been lost sight of is the Commonwealth is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall in fiscal 2009 in an economy aptly described as being stuck in quicksand.

This economic malaise is affecting all 50 states and there are painful times ahead. Taxes are not a great idea in a recession, which means some significant cuts lie ahead.

In many ways, it would be a good thing for this proposal to die today so that Patrick and lawmakers can get on to the tough business ahead and not be distracted by the personal -- and petty -- politics that have driven this saga to date.

But they also need alternatives. And the burden for that clearly rests with the legislators who vote to kill this plan.

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Blogger Ryan Adams said...

Other than the fact that they're difficult to pass, why would you suggest taxes aren't a good idea during a recession? Have you considered that the alternative - making deep and nasty cuts - actually *prolongs* a recession, and makes matters worse?

The ultimate cure in this state is changing the constitution to allow for progressive income taxation, but barring that, the state would absoluely stand stronger in the face of economic tough times if the taxes were at, say, 5.9% again. Because when education, town services, health care and transportation are cut, it not only makes things worse in the short term, but it makes things that much more likely that another recession will come around again that we won't be able to handle, because our roads are too delapitated, our young adults are too stupid and we can't even keep the streets safe.

March 18, 2008 9:11 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Ryan, I don't really have any disagreement with what you are saying, but recessions are nasty because there are no good choices.

1) Higher taxes hurt people who can least afford it -- usually the folks who lose their jobs.

2) And higher taxes also give businesses the excuse to complain about the business climate and pull up stakes.

3) Because they are difficult to pass, it's hard to get legislators to take that tough vote in an election year.

Cuts hurt the same people who are hurt by higher taxes. I've seen it countless times when this state's economy has gone south. There is no dispute they cause real pain too.

The time to have made the corporate tax changes that the Speaker now partially embraces was last year. This slowdown is going to provide business with the opportunity to use Excuse #2.

As for a progressive income tax, you're preaching to the choir. In one of my past lives, I worked for the graduated income tax proposal the last time it was on the ballot. To say we were crushed would be to engage in understatement!

March 18, 2008 6:10 PM  

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