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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, January 18, 2013

Over the top

That sound you heard was the lead balloon of Deval Patrick's tax proposal crashing. Hard.

Even as the governor was discussing regular increases in gasoline taxes, MBTA fares and registry fees, office chatter and talk show yakking focused on the extraordinary size of his propose income tax hike, with little if any mention of the accompanying sales tax cut.

And unlike the $450,000 annual threshold for imposition of higher federal income taxes, the Bay State levy would kick in earlier and harder eliminate deductions that have helped ease the bite in recent years,

The Herald had no problem finding families to share their fears, while elected officials became scarce.

Those voicing fears are not just the usual anti-tax crowd either. Big Patrick fans were walking around in semi-shock after hearing or reading the speech, as fearful of the consequences as the Tea Party crowd was angry.

It's really very simple. While the speech was designed to be inspirational, with visions of happy children and unclogged highways, Patrick did not do enough in the traditional pre-speech run-up to prepare friend and foe alike to the cost of the vision.

He did an even worse job in that 20-plus minute address and the dumping of even more costs the day after borders on full scale public disaster nightmare. Clean up on Aisle 2014!

While the goals are pure, long overdue and there is never a good time to call for higher taxes,  Patrick may have hit the absolute worst time -- in the quiet period between congressional explosions over the economy.

The foolishness in Washington has left everyone on edge about the future of the economy and the remedies that will be needed to make the nation grow again. We are becoming conditioned to the idea we are going to pay more for less on the federal level.

Patrick has his own serious concerns as Massachusetts CEO but his speech and follow-up have turned a blind eye to that anxiety -- and only made it worse.

There should have been immediate examples of what a combined income tax-sales tax shuffle would mean in the wallets and pocketbooks of Bay State residents. Particularly the sales tax cut, which has been virtually lost in the headlines.

The roll-out of this doomed plan will likely become a textbook case in future years in how not to do political communications.

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Anonymous Doug Rubin said...

I definitely don't agree with your analysis. I think the fact that Legislative leaders have remained open about the discussion of new revenue post-speech shows the Governor has done the work and laid out a plan that is well-thought out and workable. In addition to the expected negative response on talk radio and among some Republicans, there has been supportive comments from legislators and other elected officials and the business community. For example:

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts:

“A lot of our Main Street businesses have seen billions of dollars’ worth of sales go to New Hampshire and Internet sellers. At first blush it’s a very bold move to restructure our tax code to make it fairer.”

Cong. Steve Lynch:

"After listening to Patrick call for a massive $1.9 billion tax increase to cover new spending for infrastructure and education, Lynch gave the governor credit for balancing a proposed income tax increase with a sales tax cut and showing “courage.”

“We’ve got a similar challenge down in Washington, but I’m glad to see the governor taking he bull by the horns, and he’s got to convince some legislators in there but I think he’s stepping up and exercising leadership,” Lynch said."

Cong. Joe Kennedy:

"Education and transportation are critical pillars in expanding economic opportunity across the Commonwealth. While there is no question we need to approach these challenges in a fiscally responsible way, the investments proposed by Governor Patrick will stimulate growth and keep Massachusetts competitive for generations to come."

January 18, 2013 8:11 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Thanks, as always, for your comment Doug. But I see you're noting support from elected officials and folks with public policy-related jobs.

I'm talking about the reaction I'm hearing from folks at work, people who are looking at paychecks that have already been shrunk by the elimination of the 2 percent Social Security tax cut and who are now being presented with headlines about much higher new income taxes.

I have no doubt the governor did his homework with lawmakers. But the way the message hit the public Wednesday night means there was less homework on how the message might be received. And that means there's a lot more work ahead to sell the good works being proposed with the increased revenue.

January 19, 2013 6:42 AM  

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