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Massachusetts shows us how to do it right

No, that title is not sarcastic or ironic. I am singling out for praise an aspect of Massachusetts politics that I admire, and think every state should emulate.

As I've noted far too many times to count, Massachusetts is an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Besides recapturing the governorship last year (after 16 years of Republican governors), the Democrats hold both US Senate seats, all 10 US House seats, all other statewide elective offices, and over85% of the legislature. This situation has led to a near-ideal demonstration of political Darwinism, as Republicans and other conservatives have had to adapt to an incredibly hostile environment -- or just get the hell out. (I've argued that "Massachusetts Republican" ought to be added to the list of endangered species.) So when one encounters one of these, it is very likely that they are a very canny, very capable, very astute politician. (Or, alternately, a "token" Republican, a RINO, kept in captivity by the majority and displayed every now and then to show their "tolerance" of these poor creatures.)

A better example cannot be found of the sheer resourcefulness of these hardy survivors than the state's income tax structure.

In 2000, in a rare display of common sense, the people of Massachusetts had a referendum on their income tax rate. They voted, 59%-41%, in favor lf slashing it from 5.85% down to 5%. (It had been raised as a "temporary, emergency measure" in the 1980's.) The then-speaker of the House didn't care for losing control of that much money, so he got the legislature to "freeze" the cut at 5.3%, with plans to jack it back up later.

That's when the conservatives got clever. They proposed a two-tiered tax structure. The "official" rate would be 5.3%, but the state would also recognize the old rate of 5.85%. Both rates would be listed on the tax returns, and the voter -- if they felt that the state needed the money -- could check off a box and pay the higher rate. But the default rate would stay at 5.3%.

That innocuous little move has kept the politicians at bay for years and years. Every time they bring up the idea of raising taxes again, their detractors just line up and ask each and every elected official to show their own state tax returns. After all, if they believe that everyone ought to pay higher taxes and the state needs the money, then they MUST be already paying that higher rate, right?

Well, Boston area talk show host/newspaper columnist/gadfly Howie Carr is one of the most devoted followers of this perennial game, and yesterday he once again continued his search for a single Massachusetts politician who chooses to pay the higher rate. And the search goes on.

Personally, I think that it would be great for a Massachusetts Republican to choose that higher rate for just one year. It would be a hell of a talking point -- whenever one of the Democrats talks about raising the rate, all they have to do is say "I tried that higher rate, and it stunk on ice. I paid more, but I didn't see a single damned benefit to anyone -- especially not me. Have any of YOU paid that higher rate?"

In so many ways, Massachusetts represents the worst of the Left. And here, we see the "nanny state" in full flower. They want to use the full power of the State to compel people to do what's "best," because enough of them aren't voluntarily doing what they should -- and as proof, not a single Democratic lawmaker (as best as Howie can determine, and he's got GREAT sources for this stuff) has the courage to do what they say "ought" to be done without being at the figurative point of a gun.

It says something that this simple shaming technique seems to be working. It says that these lawmakers are not completely and utterly beyond the pale, that they are not beyond being embarrassed when caught in flagrant hypocrisy. It says there just might be hope for Massachusetts after all.

Not much, but just a little.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Massachusetts shows us how to do it right:

» American Traditionalist linked with Something Done right in Massachusetts…No Kidding!

» Maggie's Farm linked with A few Saturday Links

Comments (10)

Actually, it would be wonde... (Below threshold)

Actually, it would be wonderful if all tax increases would affect lawmakers 1 term before the public...

I am SO, so glad that I fan... (Below threshold)

I am SO, so glad that I fanally left MA and moved to NH. Now, what do I get? A Democratic NH legislature talking about an income tax.

Here in Oregon, there's an ... (Below threshold)

Here in Oregon, there's an annual rebate of sorts that's sent back to people and businesses. But there's no "rainy day" or backup savings for lean years. This year the business community offered to forgo the rebate if the State would only use that money to establish the Rainy Day fund. Our mostly Democratic legislature couldn't even agree to accept this funding. They're still trying to figure out a way to be fiscally responsible.

Let it be known that from t... (Below threshold)

Let it be known that from this day forward, all legislation passed by the Congress and Senate will affect said houses to the degree of ten times the effect on the broad populace. This effect will remain permanent.

I agree that the idea of ha... (Below threshold)

I agree that the idea of having a "future tax increase" be optional, and then watch who chooses the option, is a good one. Of course, I still think Texas does it better by having no state income tax. But I would be willing to see legislation considered for designating where people can send checks if they really feel the lack of a state income tax. The only problem is that we have our political culture so finely tuned to the idea that a politician who proposes a state income tax will not be asked to serve again after the next election that I wouldn't want to upset the balance.

Jay is just OBSESSED with M... (Below threshold)
Richard Burns:

Jay is just OBSESSED with Massachusetts. Its some kind of unhealthy preoccupation. I spent time in Mass and even lived there for a couple years, I didn't get the same impression he does. Much of the rural areas are die hard conservatives. There're not all marching in lockstep with Karl Marx.

"I spent time in Mass and e... (Below threshold)

"I spent time in Mass and even lived there for a couple years, I didn't get the same impression he does. Much of the rural areas are die hard conservatives. There're not all marching in lockstep with Karl Marx."

Consider yourself lucky Richard, I have lived in mASS my whole life, and "conservatives" what few are left I agree, ARE in rural west.
Jay's posts om mASS should be a WARNING to the rest of America, what will happen if loony friggan liberals get complete control of government. They will MANDATE and TAX your ass's to death while criminals will kill and steal what little you have kept.
Make no mistake mASS. is the WORST joke of a state in the country, and the proof will become clearer once Gov. Coup Deval starts enacting some of his lefty plans.

Liberals are greedy. This i... (Below threshold)

Liberals are greedy. This is news?

Voters overwhelmingly pass 5%. they get 5.3. this is a victory?

I've lived in MA my whole l... (Below threshold)

I've lived in MA my whole life and I can tell you that it is an overstatement to portray MA as ultra-liberal. There are certainly a lot of Liberal people in MA and they are the majority, but if you listen to the radio and talk to people on the streets, you will hear and see a large number of conservative people.

I think the thing about MA is that it is very socially liberal, and the conservatives in the area tend to be liberal with their societal ideas. MA is probably 50/50 when it comes to money, which is why we have had so many republican governors.

The sad fact is that MA get... (Below threshold)
Ignatius Gorgonzola:

The sad fact is that MA gets only 80 cents back from every tax dollar it sends to Washington. Most red states, on the other hand, get more than they send to Washington - MA pays welfare to the red states in other words.

Hence an equally good suggestion would be for all those red states to simply refuse to take MA's money. With that extra 25% returned from Washington, MA would be able to avoid income tax altogether, without slashing any benefits! A win-win solution - red states would get the low taxes they love, and MA wouldn't have to pay local tax and still enjoy all their benefits.

Of course, if the red states still wanted the money, they could, um, volunteer to pay it themselves.






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