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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taxing my patience

How can there be fat marbled through the state budget if Charlie Baker took it all out during his years as budget chief for Bill Weld?

That's the question we need to start with to examine the claims by proponents of Questions 1 and 3 that Massachusetts can eliminate the sales tax on alcohol and slash the overall sales tax to 3 percent, creating what Question 3 author Carla Howell calls a "job-creating machine."

Let's start with Question 1, a special-interest proposal by and for package store owners along the New Hampshire border. Note we never hear about the packies along the Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and New York borders.

Foes of Question 1 says liquor sales remained level through July, since when they have gone up by 3 percent. Eliminating the tax would take $110 million from the care of 100,000 Massachusetts residents with substance abuse problems.

So where's the problem, other than the possibility of putting additional drunken drivers on the road?

No on 1 is easy.

The allure of Questions 3 is obviously far more significant, as the polls suggest. But lost in Bakers's harping on the state's impending $2 billion shortfall is the cumulative $13 billion Deval Patrick cites as having been cut since the Great Recession dried up tax receipts that fund what Question 3 author Carla Howell demeans as "low-priority" spending like education and public safety.

The loss of teachers, cops and firefighters has been like a steady drip in a faucet, never quite catching your undivided attention while causing harm nonetheless.

The 1.25 percent sales tax increase was designed to deal with the drip. The 3.25 percent cut proposed by Howell would be the equivalent of the 10-foot MWRA pipe that failed earlier this year, forcing a shutdown of the eastern Massachusetts water system.

Fire stations would close, cops would be laid off and kids would be stacked in classrooms like cord wood. Let's also talk about the taken-for-granted pieces of community life -- trash collection and snow removal.

Low priorities? Only if Baker really did eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

And we all know how that one turned out.

CORRECTION: It would be hard to have 100 million people with substance abuse problems in a state with approximately 6.6 million residents. Thanks to my anonymous copy editor for spotting the error.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better check your math. I don't think "100 million" Mass residents have substance abuse problems.

October 27, 2010 9:19 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Anonymous- Clearly you've never been anywhere near Faneuil Hall on a Friday night. :)

October 27, 2010 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe some draconian cuts will expose bloated overhead, such as a recently added job in the Worcester school system the Chief Accountability Officer at $120,000 a year. New position, weren't they accountable before?

October 27, 2010 11:51 AM  

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