November 4th is going to be an interesting day here in Massachusetts. Election night will have nearly everyone on the edge of their seat, not because the state’s presidential pick will be in doubt, but because the fate of the state’s income tax will be decided.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of Question 1, put forth thanks to the efforts of the Committee for Small Government. Not everyone here shares my feelings, however.
Supporters of Question 1 believe that, after years of runaway spending (the Massachusetts state budget has risen $1 billion dollars per year for the last fifteen years) the only way to force meaningful reform on Beacon Hill is to deny our elected officials a significant chunk of revenue.
Opponents of Question 1 believe that, while reform may be needed, eliminating the income tax would be irresponsible and throw the state into financial chaos.
Governor Deval Patrick has made no secret of his disdain for Question 1, calling it a “dumb idea” last December before the initiative was even certified to appear on the ballot.
Since then, Patrick and a host of other individuals and organizations – all of whom guttle from the public trough – have turned up the volume on their campaign to defeat the measure. Their radio and television ads preach doom and gloom, and warn ominously of calamitous repercussions to befall children and the needy if the measure succeeds. They also claim our roads and bridges will crumble, our houses will burn, and criminals will roam free in our neighborhoods if we act recklessly by voting yes on Question 1.
I’m willing to test that theory.
When voters elect politicians to represent us, we expect that they will work hard on our behalf addressing real problems facing the state. In the Bay State we end up with bills intended to establish the position of Massachusetts Poet Laureate; promote traditions and diversity of all citizens of the Commonwealth; regulate the price of water sold at entertainment venues; establish a golf license plate; address the theft of milk crates, and other such vital legislation.
And when they aren’t frittering away time on silly laws, our elected officials are stuffing money in their undies in payment for sweetheart deals.
While the collective brainpower on Beacon Hill expends its creative allotment on the establishment of a “great places in Massachusetts commission,” it figures the best way to fix real problems is to simply spend more of the taxpayers’ money. Little by little, the indolence of the Massachusetts State Legislature adds up, until the voters have had enough.
You see, back in 1989 when Mike Dukakis was governor and the state found itself in a rough financial patch, the legislature voted for a temporary income tax increase – from 5% to 5.9%. Just enough to tide the state over.
In 2000, after it became clear that the legislature had no intention of keeping its promise and restoring the original tax rate, the people of Massachusetts passed a citizen’s initiative to force the issue. The measure passed, but the legislature again balked, and only rolled the rate back to 5.3%.
It’s their money, after all. We just earn it for them.
So, to the solons of Beacon Hill, and everyone else with a hand-out to legislature, I say too bad. You had your chance to do the real work of a public servant and instead spent your time — our time — on nonsense. Time and again you’ve shown your disrespect to the citizens of the Commonwealth, so if you wake up on November 5 to learn the well has run dry, don’t blame those of us who have begged you for years to do actual work; don’t call us selfish for wanting to keep a little more of what we earn; don’t call us ignorant or reckless because our patience has run out.
Blame yourselves for failing to keep the public trust, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work trying to earn it back.