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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, June 24, 2010

I feel your pain?

The juxtaposition of a compromise $27.6 billion state budget loaded with service cuts and a likely ballot question that would roll back the sales tax to 3 percent seems like a great time to be crying about the disconnect between voters and government programs.

But I'm just not sure that's really the case.

There's no question the fiscal 2011 will continue the recent round of cuts that translate into the layoff of teachers, police and firefighters. It will also mean cuts in health care and higher education.

Tacking on the potential loss $958 million in sales tax revenues for the fiscal year that starts next week and it's likely some will be fearing "blood in the streets."

Basic political analysis should suggest and angry electorate will pass the sales tax rollback with a sweeping majority. Yet, recent history doesn't convince me that's true: this is the third tax rollback effort in eight years and so far the anti-tax forces are 0-2.

Then (2002 and 2008) as now, the state was going through fiscal tough times and in one of those cases, even had a Republican governor (albeit one who had effectively abandoned Massachusetts for national politics). Two years ago we had just started hurtling down the slide, panicked and unsure where things were headed.

And the latest proposal from Carla Howell and her small government crusade is ambitious in its overreach. Instead of settling for a rollback to 5 percent -- something even Deval Patrick supports at the right moment -- Howell's true believers sought to further crippling government by lopping 3.25 percent off the levy, taking it back to a level unseen in these parts for decades.

It's worth noting that even Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill -- who make tax cuts integral to their message -- simply say they would heed the will of the voters if the question passes.

So I'm not sure conditions are ripe for the rollback. But what opponents need to do is to make very, very clear what has happened to state and local services since the economy's bottom has fallen out.

While I pay rather close attention, I simply can't say how many people have been laid off; how many fire houses closed and how badly classrooms have become overcrowded.

And anti-rollback advocates can't simply stop with numbers. There needs to be faces of the legal immigrants who are struggling to pay for their health care; mothers forced to work harder to pay for day care; students who fail to reach their potential because the teacher can't devote enough time to each of them.

Yes, there is waste, fraud and abuse in government at all levels. Steps have been taken to root it out. But those who use that as their rallying cry should be forced to step up and put a dollar mount on it and show us how eliminating a basic human nature is going to save the mythic billions they suggest is out there.

The fall campaign was already interesting with the gubernatorial race. It just got a lot more interesting.

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Blogger I'm Just Musing said...

I certainly don't agree with rolling back the sales tax to 3.5%, perhaps gradually over time, but not in one fell swoop.
As far as paying for health insurance goes, I never had a problem until our new Massachusetts health care law went into affect and I now pay more and get less.
By the way as I am sure you can tell i am not liberal, but I enjoy your blog because you give a rational liberal perspective on issues. Thank you.

June 24, 2010 7:36 AM  

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