, Salem, MA


March 23, 2012

Barbara Anderson: Beware Beacon Hill's charge of tax-and-spenders' brigade

To paraphrase Alfred, Lord Tennyson: In the spring, Beacon Hill's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of taxes. So remember his other words, "I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair."

The action is simple: Let legislators know that, come fall, we'll vote against anyone who increases the Massachusetts tax burden, which is already fourth-highest per capita in the nation.

I appreciate that Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo has said there will be no new taxes this year and has stated his opposition to Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to tax candy and soda. The speaker has earned some credibility from Massachusetts citizens because of his support for public employee health care and pension reforms. I think he is sincere in his "no new taxes" message.

But as Lord Tennyson observed, "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." I have seen this movie before.

It was the spring of 1989. Gov. Michael Dukakis had returned from his own presidential campaign to insist on a billion dollars in new taxes. The Senate waited to see what the House would do.

House Speaker George Keverian backed his Ways & Means chairman, Richard Voke, D-Chelsea, when he said there would be no new taxes. I admired Keverian and believed Voke; I still think they were sincere.

But come summer, Dukakis was joined in his demand for "new revenues" by the Senate leadership, and the House caved. As a result, we got the largest tax increase in Massachusetts history, including a "temporary" income-tax rate hike that we'd still be paying except that voters expressed their preference for the old 5 percent rate on the 2000 ballot.

Unfortunately, the Legislature froze part of that voter mandate in 2002, so we're still paying some of that "temporary" 1989 tax hike. Earlier this year, Beacon Hill allowed a 0.005 percent reduction in the income tax rate to 5.25 percent.

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