Be mad, but don't be crazy
Back in May, I wrote about the misguided effort behind Massachusetts ballot question 1 on repealing the state income tax. I just don't see how you can have such a big dislocation of revenue without a plan for figuring out how we would deliver the services through some other means, public or private. If you look at our financial markets right now, you can see how chaos can spiral out of control when we have unsound financial plans.
Today's Boston Globe had an editorial piece on the same subject, recommending a No vote on Question 1. Read the editorial for a list of all the various groups who oppose question 1 -- the Mass Municipal Association, Chambers of Commerce, teachers, school administrators, religious charities, even the Mass Taxpayers Foundation.
Some tidbits from the editorial:
After steady work by fiscal conservatives in the Legislature, Massachusetts has shed its "Taxachusetts" epithet and now ranks 32nd for overall tax burden - that is, all taxes paid as a percentage of personal income. That is below the national average and well below competitor states such as New Jersey, California and Michigan.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates that some $13 billion in state spending is non-discretionary: required by court order, the constitution, or federal law. The $12 billion cut would have to come out of what is left.
The state could stop spending every dime it now spends on local aid and every dime on human service programs - food banks, domestic violence and homeless shelters, care for autistic children, substance abuse and more - and still not have enough to make up for what is lost to Question 1. The state could fire all 67,000 state employees - every prison guard and college teacher - and still have to find another $7 billion.
And, most amazingly proving the craziness on the part of the backer of Question 1, Carla Howell:
Carla Howell, chairwoman of the committee sponsoring Question 1, says 41 cents of every tax dollar is wasted. How does she know that? It's what people estimated in a survey she took.
That's the kind of sound financial analysis that caused our current Wall Street mess. I am all in favor of cutting taxes, but only with a plan that figures out what we will do in their place. With the lower tax burden in Massachusetts, what is the analysis that shows that we could and should cut our way to the bottom?
As the editorial says:
We hope voters will remember the slogan that helped defeat an earlier tax repeal effort - "I'm mad, but I'm not crazy" - and reject this reckless measure.
If you read the comments to the editorial, it's clear that there is a lot of anger among taxpayers. There is no doubt that there is money to be saved in the state government. But, it's much more effective to do surgery with a scalpel than with a meat cleaver.