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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, June 02, 2009

What would you give up?

The Massachusetts Legislature has gone underground, the work of important conference committees on the budget, transportation, pension and ethics reforms all working behind closed doors.

But that hasn't stopped the lobbying -- whether it is the cops working to restore yet another perk, advocates highlighting a good program targeted for elimination -- or just plain budget season silliness like a civil war over Suffolk County holidays.

These programs represent a tiny fraction of the money spent using Massachusetts taxpayer dollars. They get a high volume of the attention because the advocates know how to play the media. And they get attention because legislators for all their electability skills, are often sadly lacking in common sense.

There's also no question that police details, Quinn Bill and legislative pensions are, to be blunt, special interest items going to players who know how to use the system to their own advantage.

But it has started me to wondering. Everyone has some stake, something they really need or don't want to give up. For cops, it's extra pay. For lawmakers it's extra holidays and fat pensions.

What is it that you and I don't want to give up?

For many, it's high quality public education (although in many poorer communities they'd love the high quality part). For others, it is the knowledge they can be safe on the streets and in their cars. Still more people would find comfort in the social safety net of health care, social services, job training and yes, unemployment benefits.

All of these things -- public safety, education, the safety net -- are competing for scarce and getting scarcer public dollars. What gives?

Based on the way our political system works, those who have the bucks, in the form of lobbying dollars, usually get what they want at the expense of those who do not. It's no secret that the major fund-raising season on Beacon Hill coincides with budget season.

But what about those without the cash to be heard?

And the obvious question is what would I personally give up? Well, I don't have kids in schools so that is tempting. But schools are an important part of the reason people live in my community and if they suffered my property value would probably drop.

I'm healthy and employed so I have my own insurance, so I don't need the safety net. This week. Perish the thought about what the future will bring, so I want to keep them in some semblance of quality.

So I guess I'm willing to give up 1.25 cents more on every dollar I pay for things (or at least those subject to the sales tax). Some may say that's a cop-out. Others would call it a trade-off.

But I also want to see the pain spread fairly. And that means no more perks like extra pay for sitting in a car with coffee and donuts while roadwork goes on next to you. And it means that legislators or MBTA workers can't retire in their 40s at full pension, ready to start another life. And it means the end to "holidays" celebrated in one county that shut state government down needlessly.

What would you give up?

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7 Comments:

Blogger Readwriteblue said...

What would I give up, more accurately what have I given up. We are the fourth highest taxed state in the union. What has this bought us; failing schools, record numbers of offenders on parole, bankrupt mass transit, crumbling roads and bridges, and a tunnel that killed a woman? What area of our States government do you feel proud of? What department does such an outstanding job that it is considered best in the nation? All these taxes on producers are hollowing out our state driving our children's future into New Hampshire.

June 02, 2009 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no problem with giving up holidays that are useless in middle of week things. But I would ask for the day after thanksgiving and christmas in return. Also can we get the private sector week off for the 4th? And can my pay be adjusted to private sector levels? Just saying-everything is a trade off.

June 02, 2009 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Education. It's not whether we have to have education or not. It's how much. The "foundation budgets" (ie. the "required" minimum expenditures) have been growing at a rate exceeding personal income growth. There's barely correlation between big cash and good education. It's time to arrest the $ out of control growth.

Police. Seriously, cops making over $200K?! Kill the Quinn bill; it's led to nothing but overpaid cops and overpriced diploma mills.

Give up 1/4 of the Legislature. Eliminate all those Representatives. More Reps means more people to spend more money.

Pension and retiree health. Pensioners simply must bear more of the costs.

State owned stuff. Seriously, we're in the ice rink and golf course business?! Why on earth?

Why aren't Massachusetts pensions subject to tax?

Any idea what a Massachusetts constable actually does, and how your life is better because of it?

Same for the Sheriff.

How much money is given to 501(c)(3) corporations, and how much of that money goes to the execs of those companies? Me neither. It's hard to know what to do without when you don't know what you're doing with.

June 02, 2009 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pensions are basically taxed. Any pension a state worker gets negates a steep percentage of any social security benefits they may have earned. So even if you work 20 years in the private sector-you lose most of your benefits once you vest in the state system which takes 10 years.

I am really tired of the arguement that because the private sector decided to trade penisons for higher wages that public sector workers should be as stupid.

All these multinational companies pay pensions oversees to their workers. You all bought the Regan kool-aid that 401ks are the same. How did that work out.

June 02, 2009 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Taxed pensions. First, Mass workers contribute between 5% and 10%, depending on date of hire, then upon retirement receive a benefit FAR exceeding a social security benefit.

Furthermore, many State workers haven't contributed anything to SS and aren't even entitled to SS. So a reduction in nothing is nothing.

And last, SS recipient pays tax on their social security if they earn total income over $35K.

Your notion that some workers may have a reduction in SS and that the reduction is "basically a tax" is pure fiction. That is, the state worker pays less and gets more, and doesn't pay tax on it, and the smoke screen that he suffers because he doesn't get SS is a diversion.

My 401(k) is up on average 10% over the past 25 years, even with the recent 2008-09 poor performance. It has so far, worked out, not bad.

June 02, 2009 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again since the average state pension is 23000, factoring in the large pensions from academia and police/fire, it is fiction to say that state workers get more than social security.

And people earned their social security should get it. That people lose it for their pensions is an issue. There are many people who work for both private and public.

You still haven't addressed the basic issue, government workers make way less for comparable private sector jobs, one reason is that the benefits are more secure. If you think doing government work is such an easy gig-why don't you do it.

I love how the greedy private sector screwed that economy but these evil state workers are the issue.

I work in the private sector now but know alot of good people in government and the constant scapegoating by people is annoying.

June 02, 2009 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Myth: State employees make way less than the private sector. In fact over the past decade, the State pay has grown at at rate faster than the private sector. Why do you think turnover is so low?

Re: "it's fiction to say state workers get more than social security". It's a fact. You say the average pension is $23K. Note that the average SS is $13.9K. http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/#table2

And, whereever did I claim that "greedy state employees" were the issue. I merely posted up a laundry list of items that would either save costs or increase revenue. One of them is to tax pensions on par with SS.

June 03, 2009 9:37 AM  

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