Editorial: Eliminating income tax is madness

The Patriot Ledger

It was lost in the holiday weekend preparations but make no mistake about it: the news that the question to end the state’s income tax qualified for the ballot this November is a seismic event.

The damage that will come if angry and hurting voters pass this question is immeasurable, and as bad a scenario as anyone can create in their minds, the reality will be worse.

Eliminating the income tax will gut more than $11 billion from state revenues, which is about 42 percent of this year’s $28.3 billion budget. There are federal mandates such as Medicare, debt service obligations and long-term bonds and negotiated contracts that will be first in line to be paid.

How much do proponents think will be left over to distribute to cities and towns for public safety and education? Where do supporters believe the money for day care and prescription drug programs will come from? How will we prevent staffing cuts in vital services such as mental health and youth services and affordable housing programs?

And it won’t just be the low-income families who will be hurt. The likelihood of standing there watching your $500,000 house burn down next to understaffed firefighters who cannot safely enter the dwelling because of staffing or equipment shortages grows exponentially with the passage of this measure.

Anyone looking forward to having the Level 3 sex offender lurking in your neighborhood because there are insufficient facilities to incarcerate him?

Be prepared to spend more to fix your car regularly because the growing number of potholes will multiply like rabbits when there are no crews to patch them or skidding accidents when there is no salt and sand on icy roads.

Do not buy into the argument that this will stimulate the economy. Lower-rated schools, deteriorating infrastructure and higher insurance costs because of public safety cuts will trigger a moratorium on corporate growth here in Massachusetts.

The backers of the proposal are being disingenuous. The state, for so long in the top tier for tax burden, has fallen to 32nd nationally.

And the claim that passage would mean an average of $3,600 to each taxpayer is misleading. According to the respected Massachusetts Tax Foundation, the state collected an average of $1,506 per person in 2005.

But despite all the numbers that show how dangerous passage of the question would be, there is still strong support for the measure from people struggling to make ends meet.

In 2002, when the measure first appeared on the ballot, it was defeated by a mere five percentage points. Early polls show passage is a coin flip.

Anyone who cares about our state and the quality of life cannot leave defeat of this draconian measure to an enlightened electorate because when the gas pump hits $75 or more to fill your car and $200 to feed a family of four each week, it’s hard to see past your wallet.

Perhaps the best argument we can make is the money you save on the income tax can be used to pay a mover to transport you and your family to a state that meets its citizens’ needs.