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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Here comes that painy day feeling

Get ready for some really horrifying cuts in the state budget.

Public hearings notwithstanding
, Massachusetts legislators are not in the mood to think or talk taxes these days. That means the budget unveiled in the House next week is going to be using the proverbial hatchet on public safety and human services.

In one sense, it's hard to blame lawmakers for not wanting to talk about new revenues. The current budget has been in a freefall, with up to $1 billion needing to be chopped over the $2.5 billion axed so far. Solving the current gap is more important than even thinking about the next one.

Then there is the political dynamic. No one ever wants to raise taxes, especially when unemployment continue to soar. Unemployed people no longer have income tax deductions from the paychecks and sales tax revenues drop. Adding to that misery isn't bright politics.

But we need to throw in a few more twists -- particularly the sour political mood and the plummeting popularity of Deval Patrick. While the governor has made some significant revenue proposals -- the municipal assistance package and the gasoline tax -- the recommendations have gone over like a lead balloon.

And of course there is the whole "reform before revenue" movement, given heightened importance after the foolish comments by Transportation Secretary James Aloisi,

Lawmakers have been far more productive than usual this spring -- despite an agonizingly slow start. Transportation, pension and ethics reforms are in various points of the pipeline. Depending on the backbone, there could be some significant reforms that generate significant savings. Down the road.

The other logical piece that comes before a unified tax package is a realistic picture of what the state can and cannot afford. And that's where the public's reliance on things and their unhappiness over paying for them will intersect.

A budget proposal without new taxes will be awful to behold. The daily demonstrations outside the Statehouse will grow and generate the fig leaf lawmakers need to raise the issue.

The tactic has two strong points: it will reflect an honest assessment of what the state can and should do -- and it will bring taxes into a clearer picture that will require just one vote.

But in the meantime, it won't be pretty to watch.

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