A common sense tax reform package

On April 3, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

jehlen_op_edBy State Senator Patricia Jehlen
Second Middlesex District

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

Massachusetts has reached a fork in the road. One path leads to an even better education system, a reliable public transit system, well maintained roads and bridges, and a revived economy.  The other path leads to further cuts for vital services, decrepit roads and bridges, increased fares on public transportation, and long waiting lists for early education and elder home care.

That first path is paved with a common sense tax reform package. This package can be based on a two part adjustment to the tax code: raising the income tax rate in conjunction with a near doubling of the personal exemption.  This would make the tax structure fairer and more progressive while also providing the revenue to keep the commonwealth moving forward.  Most individuals and middle class families would pay close to the same amount they currently pay in taxes while higher income earners will pay a bit more but still at a lesser level than in the 1990s. This is just one proposed plan to consider, along with other alternatives, in an effort to achieve our revenue goal.

A quick history lesson shows why this modest revenue proposal is needed.  The days of “Taxachusetts” are long gone.  Since 1977, when we were in fact among the most highly taxed states, we have cut state and local taxes 26%, more than every state besides Arizona.  Nationally, the average decrease is 7%.  Since 1998, state taxes as a share of personal income have been cut by over $3 billion annually. Special business tax breaks to particular sectors have more than doubled in the last 15 years.  In fact, had we kept taxes at the same rates as in the 90s, we would not have been dealing with budget deficits each year since the recession.  Instead, we would have had an extra $3 billion annually to invest in education, transportation, home care, and other necessities.

As a result of these tax changes, Massachusetts has been forced to make crippling cuts to the services that make our state attractive to business and improve our quality of life.  Our transportation infrastructure is at a crisis point.  Local aid is down 46% since 2001, after adjusting for inflation. Early education and care is down by 28%.  Higher education is down 31%. Public health funding is down 25%.  The recession only accelerated this process.  For instance, even without adjusting for inflation, home care funding for seniors is down 6.3% over the past 5 years.  These cuts lead to tangible problems, like a 30,000 child wait list for early education and a 1,200 elder waitlist for home care.

To keep Massachusetts a great place to live, work, and raise a family, we need more revenue.  These goals are not aggressive or financially wasteful.  Our aim is to merely get back to the reasonable funding levels of the budgets passed during the Romney administration by using a tax structure closer to, but still less burdensome than, the one under the Weld administration.

Our economy and quality of life depends on people standing up to demand these investments.  We need an education system that produces the skilled workforce that makes Massachusetts attractive to businesses.  We need a transportation system where frequent MBTA breakdowns are not keeping commuters trapped underground for hours in 40 year old, rusted-out subway cars.  We need elder support services that allow Massachusetts residents to age gracefully in their own homes.

The time is now to move our state forward on the right path, for ourselves and for future generations. Budgets express our values.  I believe we value living in a state that strives to have an excellent educational system, that fixes a failing transportation system rather than kicking the can down the road again, that makes smart investments to ensure a dynamic economy for decades to come, and that chooses to invest in the future, as our parents and grandparents did before us.

 

10 Responses to “A common sense tax reform package”

  1. A.Moore says:

    I don’t see anything here about the abuse of our tax dollars which if addressed first might still not be enough but we would make tax increases more tolerable to us. Plus the same old speech we have heard over and over again for years that the first thing they are going to cut out is help for the llderly, children and so forth. The same speech is getting boring now. Let me them clean up their house before coming to us for more to waste. High wages, those special paychecks for whatever we see so often, high priced vehicles for the staff to run around in and so on and son. Even Obama took a pay increase while many in MA and city took raises. For more revenue look in your own house.

  2. Bostom says:

    Dear Senator Jehlen,

    Few of us doubt the need for the expenditures you’ve enumerated. But many – if not most of us – question how giving an administration with an atrocious track record for irresponsible spending, ineffective oversight, and especially for so many unethical appointees who, after all, direct how the money is spent, billions of dollars more to solve the problems you list.

    Here’s one example. There are hundreds more. How can a taxpayer feel the money required to improve our public schools (and no one doubts they need improvement) is well spent when we learn that not only do we have an “Early Education and Care Commissioner” in Massachusetts who was being paid $200,000 a year before abruptly resigning last month ahead of an investigation into why she was moonlighting in a PhD program instead of reporting to her office (which employees 153 people!); who lives in New Haven, Connecticut; and to whose department the governor’s new tax plan would allocate an additional 350 million dollars? The vast majority of those dollars will not be used to improve the education of our children. They will go towards paying for a bureacracy, just one of hundreds like it that are bankrupting us.

    I could go on, and will if you’d like to engage in this discussion, but without concrete plans whose real cost is known in advance, who in their right mind, for instance, would give the MBTA a blank check for more money when the people running it now do such a terrible job with the money they already get? How can a taxpayer feel the money they now pay for something like the State Drug Lab is being well spent? Do you think their performance to date warrants increasing their budget? How about the state’s Department of Public Health? Their failure to adequately (or to be honest, even minimally) oversee and regulate compounding pharmacies in Massachusetts resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of menengitis cases. Then there’s those pesky EBT cards, issued by the state so that recipients can draw cash from ATM machines to spend in any way they chose. By one estimate, of the 75,000 EBT cards issued each month by the state, 20,000 go “missing.” Each month! By the state’s estimate, the average annual expenditure per card is $5700.00 and the EBT card program’s total cost is in excess of 427 million dollars a year. All of which is spent by card recipients on anything they like. Do you feel the state is a responsible steward of the taxpayer’s money in this regard?

    I could continue in this vein but I think you know where I’m going. How can you, the Patrick administration, and the state legislature ask taxpayers for billions of dollars in additional revenue when we see, day in and day out, what an incredibly bad job the state’s doing now managing the monies our taxes already provide?

    It strikes me that before asking for more spending, you and your colleagues might devote a lot more time and attention towards reviewing existing programs with an eye towards ending those not clearly needed; first by determining their neccessity, and if and when that’s proven beyond a doubt, examining their effectiveness in terms of return on dollars spent. Only after substantial cuts in the current budget have been made should we be considering increases. That’s how it works at my house, and I’m sure that’s how it works at yours. Ultimately, we can’t spend what we don’t have. Morally, we ought not be spending money we don’t have (or worse, borrowing money to be repaid by generations to come) before examining every alternative, identifying what programs and expenditures we can do without or postpone, and only then entertaining the idea of spending more.

    I suspect these suggestions may run counter to your political philosophy, but I would be happy to hear from you – in much greater detail – how the worthwhile objectives you’ve listed could be funded by means other than increased taxation.

  3. j. connelly says:

    Until you take the fox outta the henhouse on “Bacon Hill” The pillaging will continue. God Almighty could have it rain gold on to Messachusetts & the “Bacon Hill” crowd would still find an excuse to create a new tax.

    There may be a little less corruption on the hill but that is only because the “Bacon Hill” crowd continues to rob the taxpayers. Spending hundreds of thousand of $$$ for signs on the Highways announcing Deval’s name (suprised he did not have the sign plug his book) for Highway Projects was a good example of wa$ting taxpayer dollars.

    We need a real money manager/procurement officer who will use the monies properly and return fund$ to the citizens at the end of the year.
    All of the past 40 decades of taxcuts, Prop 2 n a half, etc., Many Layoffs of the real public workers while hacks survive and where…WHERE…has that money DISAPPEARED?????

    Make realistic cutbacks, (hacks) the elected officials sit back because they have so many hacks running around doing the jobs the elected officials are supposed to do. The cities functioned much better with more real workers,; Clerks, DPW workers, Fire/Police, etc in past years & there were a lot less hacks/consultants/aides. Less taxes/fees.

  4. Barry the Pig says:

    I did not even this, but I think I can summarize it: More taxes.

  5. A. Moore says:

    I am not a Romney lover but didn’t he leave with a surplus of money left over? Or am I having another senior moment? PLus he did not take a paycheck. Whcih many we have in office should do because that is about what they earn.

  6. mememe says:

    and here we go again. Give us more money or “cuts for vital services, decrepit roads and bridges, increased fares on public transportation, and long waiting lists for early education and elder home care.”

    No mention of cutting all the other stupid programs that the city and state feel they need to throw money at. Please dont believe these lies and look for yourself what they decide to spend money on while saying they will no educate the children. $700,000 on bottle water last year? Yep thats our green state gov’t http://massopenbooks.org/

  7. Darnell says:

    I have to laugh when Senator Jehlen keeps saying “we” cut taxes. Has she ever voted for a tax decrease or against any tax increase? I don’t think so.

    She is your typical Massachusetts tax and spend liberal. It’s as simple as that.

  8. amen says:

    can’t add more to this, it’s all covered. just want to be sure the Senator knows more people agree on the waste/fraud. i’ve never heard a word from her on the outrages that are showing up all the time. Clean House. BYW, Romney didn’t take a salary, but it wasn’t a savings. His salary amount was split between his office staff to bring up their salaries.

  9. Frugal Bugle says:

    Hard to believe that someone with such concern for the elderly
    would continue paving the road to their financial ruin. Three things
    would put the state on the right track in a hurry

    #1. Stop all expansion and spending on Charter Schools.
    We can’t afford two public school systems . Period

    #2. Replace the EBT program with vouchers redeemable
    Only for foods which can be cooked at home.
    If people are hungry and poor we should help
    If people are poor and in bad health we should help
    A good diet of healthy food will mean savings in health care
    Costs to the taxpayer.

    #3. Recoup lost sales tax on Internet sales
    How much has the computer cost the Commonwealth?
    Enough to put an end to it
    How long has it been going on with no solution?
    Too long.

    This is REFORM and common sense.

  10. A. Moore says:

    As usual, we got it again, 800 million, wonder what that will really add up to be. These people just don’t want to work for us at all. What do we have to do? Draw them pictures with a crayon to understand that they already have the money and more? How stupid do they look when on a daily basis we pick up the newspaper to see more of our money wasted or being some huge perk for them. They must be laughing at us all the way to the bank.

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