SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 16, 2013

Benton: Tax grab could open the door for GOP

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Writing on these pages earlier this week, fellow columnist Barbara Anderson spoke of the growing discontent among voters over the recent tax hikes enacted by the Bay State’s Democrat-heavy legislature.

It’s not something that’s likely to dissipate as a result of the recent tax “holiday” bestowed on Massachusetts consumers by those same lawmakers. After all, as many, including local GOP activist (and Salem City Council candidate) Sean O’Brien, have pointed out, if relief from the sales tax is required, it’s likely that tax is too high in the first place.

Historically, when Democrats get feeling comfortable, they cannot resist the urgings of the entitled class — public employee unions, social activists, etc. — to boost government spending. And the results of the most recent elections have Democrats feeling very good about their chances.

Adding to the problem is the fact that today’s Democratic Party is dominated by members of its liberal or “progressive” wing who are more inclined to tax and spend, particularly when the economy appears to be on the rebound. Gone from the leadership ranks are fiscal conservatives in the mold of former House speaker Tom Finneran or the late Mike Ruane, the longtime state representative from Salem who served as vice chairman of the Ways & Means Committee for many years.

The latest tax grab has opened a door for Republicans who will aim to take advantage in the 2014 campaign when initiatives to repeal some of the Legislature’s latest fumblings may also be on the ballot. One would roll back the automatic increases in the gasoline tax, requiring legislators to do their job and vote on it if and when one is required; and another would repeal what Anderson aptly describes as the Gov. Deval Patrick-inspired idea “to tax computer services of some sort provided by some companies somewhere, maybe in something called ‘the cloud,’ maybe not.”

All of which could be good news for Swampscott’s Charlie Baker, who’s said to be nearing a decision to take another run at the governorship next year; and Leah Cole, the freshman state legislator from Peabody who can campaign for re-election as one of the few fervid anti-tax-and-spenders remaining on Beacon Hill.

Perhaps this week’s meeting of the Republican National Committee in Boston will inspire more to run beneath the banner of the Grand Old Party.

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Indeed, another political columnist is predicting big things for Peabody’s newest political personality.

In his “MASSter List” feed Wednesday commenting on the results of the previous day’s special election in Worcester, Mike Deehan observed, “That five-way Democratic primary for the seat vacated by former Rep. Fresolo was won by 26-year-old Daniel Donahue, continuing the trend of new Rep candidates being younger than me. In 30 years, during the second Gov. Leah Cole administration, we’re all going to look back at this as a golden age. Mark my words.”

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One of the nation’s great political journalists, Jack Germond, who once headed Gannett’s Washington bureau and was a regular on “The McLaughlin Group” panel discussion show on PBS, died this week at 85 years of age.

No truer words were uttered than in his 2004 book “Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad,” when he observed, “ I am convinced that we get about what we deserve at all levels of government, up to and including the White House.” (Tip o’ the hat to friend Helen Corbett of Middleton for reminding me of that one.)

Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.