, Salem, MA

April 17, 2013

Letter: Ignoring the need for taxes doesn't solve anything

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

It is regrettable that The Salem News, in its April 4 editorial, has again railed against a proposal to raise taxes to meet vital needs of the state. This time, the target is Gov. Patrick’s plan for improvements in public education and transportation with funding from additional tax revenue. The News even enlisted the old “tax-and-spend” shibboleth, as if taxing and spending were not what all legislators do everywhere. The question is not whether we tax and spend, but how wisely we do it.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but we need to consider that the purpose of taxation is to pay for the important needs of our society that cannot reasonably be met privately. It is easy for politicians to get applause by opposing tax increases. But it takes vision, wisdom and leadership to assess the significant needs of our state and to propose a practical plan, including the tax revenue, to meet them. Without such leadership, our economy and the quality of our civil society will inevitably fall short of their potential. Patrick has wisely crafted a plan to address several needs of the state that are critical to our economic future: rebuilding and developing our transportation infrastructure and improving education both for young children and at the postsecondary level. There is ample evidence that such improvements are needed. Just run over the potholes, watch pieces fall off highway bridges or wait for a broken-down T train. And count the young people who don’t finish high school and those who can’t qualify for available jobs for lack of higher education.

These problems are a drag on our economy, and we are lucky to have a governor who is trying to address them. This is in contrast to our political leaders in recent years who simply ignored these needs, allowing them to accumulate for future resolution while they accepted the kudos for holding down taxes.

On the other hand, the News and our legislative leadership seem to scarcely recognize the need side of the tax question, but rather tend to exaggerate the hardship that would result from a tax increase. Estimates are that the governor’s plan would be unlikely to cause real hardship to anyone and would cost the average taxpayer about as much as a cup of coffee per day. For benefit received, I would count that a real bargain. And the assertion that it would impede our economic recovery seems to assume that tax money is lost to the economy, which it is not. In this case, it would go mainly toward more jobs and purchases for fixing our transportation and improving our schools and colleges, thus providing some economic stimulation.

I urge the News and the Legislature to focus on the vital needs of the state and to support ways to address those needs. The statement of Senate President Therese Murray that it is too much to plan for 10 years ahead is absurd. Such a view represents the old pattern of delaying a solution for the future while the problems accumulate and impair our progress until a leader comes along with the necessary courage and leadership to move the state ahead. We can do better than that.