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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, June 20, 2008

They're not that stupid

Say what you will about our state's political leadership (OK, let's skip the unprintable stuff): they may have tin ears but they are not the biggest bunch of buffoons ever to walk the planet.

It looks as if common sense will give way to the chance for a bigger paycheck -- with legislative leaders saying they plan to reject a proposal to give them and judges raises of up to 70 percent. The reason: a ballot question that would repeal the state's income tax.

Lost amid our Green Dreams was the news that supporters garnered enough signatures to secure a place on the ballot for the repeal that attracted 45 percent the last time it went before voters. Also lost (for the time being) was a declaration by House Speaker Sal DiMasi that he probably would not implement the law even if it passed.

But with the gasoline and food prices soaring while the economy is tanking, it's impossible to believe voters won't be tempted to keep an extra 5.3 percent of their paycheck every week.

I agree with DiMasi, Senate President Terry Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick that the repeal is a bad idea. But statements like DiMasi's don't offer voters encouragement that lawmakers see the problems and are working to fix them.

Giving themselves huge pay raises would be like stoking that smoldering fire with $4 a gallon gasoline.

Ironically, the way this pay raise proposal came to life represents an important change in the way business is gone on Beacon Hill. They used to emerge in the dead of night. This time, a commission sat down and studied the idea and will offer a formal proposal.

(OK, on a Friday afternoon in June while we nurse a Celtics hangover, but a formal proposal nonetheless.)

So it's wise that DiMasi and Murray are offering this instead of an alternative:

..."given the state of the economy and the Commonwealth's ongoing budget deficit, any salary increases of this kind will be put on hold. Base salary increases of this kind simply cannot be considered at a time when so many worthy state programs and initiatives must be level-funded or cut."

I cringe every time I open my property tax bill and grumble having to pay extra for trash pickup. But I also know that any hope for property tax relief would fly out the window with an income tax repeal. (Actually they would eventually go down because the value of my home would go down because of the absence of adequate police and fire protection and lousy schools).

If the repeal passes, Massachusetts would begin to resemble Mississippi in short order. New Hampshire too. All we would have left is the Celtics.

It's a somewhat pathetic thought but let's hear it for our legislative leaders and Patrick (who never really liked the idea in the first place) for having some basic common sense.

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