Editorial: Question 1: A dangerous solution

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

We would be disingenuous to argue there is not justified anger at taxes and waste in government.

But even the most ardent proponents of Question 1 on the ballot to eliminate the state’s income tax would be hard-pressed to come up with 40 percent of waste and inefficiency in the budget, which is how much revenue would be lost if voters approve it.

If this passes, nearly $12.5 billion – 40 percent of state spending and nearly 60 percent of the total revenues – would evaporate. In addition, the state would lose more than $1.25 billion in federal reimbursements and matching grants because we could no longer fund those programs.

The backers of the question, led by one-time Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Carla Howell, are playing off taxpayers raw emotions and leading a campaign of distortions and untruths.

Foremost is the claim that passing the question will put an average of $3,600 back into taxpayers pockets. True enough, on average. But you would have to make $75,000 or more to realize that savings.

People making less than the state’s average income of $50,500, who comprise more than 65 percent of Massachusetts tax filers, would save less than half that amount, according to the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Those earning more than $100,000 annually would get the most back, about an average of $16,300. The inequity is stunning.

On top of that, the loss in local aid would put the onus on cities and towns to raise property taxes and those that have room in their levy limits could see increases that not only would negate any savings from income taxes but could exceed that amount through the regressive property tax.

The proponents also claim state and local spending exceeds $69 billion, again a bit of disingenuous math that double counts numerous revenues and grants, including gross lottery receipts and other items such as funds transfers.

But the reasons to vote against the measure extend far beyond the misleading rhetoric of supporters. Massachusetts’ $31.8 billion spending bill includes the $28 billion budget and other off-budget items such as school building assistance, pension, health care and MBTA subsidies.

Of that total, the state has more than $12.5 billion in statutory obligations such as education (Chapter 70) funding, school building bonds, Medicare and transportation bonds. That would leave about $5 billion to pay for every other human, transportation, education, public safety, environmental, health, elder and veterans’ services.

Put another way, if we grant the supporters’ figure of $3,600 in savings, that’s about $70 a week. Take that $70 and go hire yourself a cop, a firefighter, a teacher for each of your children, a college degree, new roads and bridges, a train to ride to work, a crew to plow your street in the winter and fix potholes in the summer, physical and mental therapists for handicapped neighbors or family, unlimited books to read, state parks to walk, ride or camp in and on and on. You’d realize fairly quickly just how far the state makes your $70 a week go.

This is a monumentally terrifying referendum that not only throws the baby out with the bath water, it burns down the house and moves out-of-state so the child is orphaned and left to grow on its own with the wolves. We strongly urge you to vote no on Question 1.

The Patriot Ledger