Thursday, April 30, 2009

This is why the Reps passed the sales tax increase

From the MWDN:

This year, the state of Massachusetts is facing one of the most challenging budget years in history. The Legislature faces unprecedented and tremendously difficult choices in crafting its Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Steeply declining revenues resulting from the national recession have created a statewide deficit of nearly $2 billion, which will force reductions to nearly every state agency and program, and will lead to the elimination of many state programs. These cuts will affect every single family in the commonwealth, regardless of where they live.

The House of Representatives recently released its budget which is approximately $1.8 billion less than last year. This budget, if enacted as is, will slash local aid to cities and towns by nearly 30 percent, decimate health and human services, and allow commuters to be faced with steep toll hikes, fare increases, and service cuts which would have a devastating impact on the economy of the commonwealth. In addition, fees would increase for college students at our state and community colleges and the University of Massachusetts system, and those colleges and universities would be unable to provide the education that our students deserve. In addition, the local aid cuts would clearly affect the education that would be provided to our public school children in MetroWest, as well as such basic services as fire and police protection and local trash pickup.

Despite some reports to the contrary, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has already voted to reform our transportation system (which will include the elimination of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority), has already voted to reform our state pension system, and has already voted to tighten our ethics laws. Real reform is on the way. We expect these reform bills to be on the governor's desk for approval before the budget and the accompanying sales tax increase will be on his desk for approval. Every member of the MetroWest delegation was proud to vote for these necessary and long overdue changes in the way we conduct business in state government. However, these reforms are simply not enough to prevent the drastic cuts in the state budget with which we are currently faced.

Recently, we were forced to make the difficult decision whether or not to vote in favor of increasing the state sales tax by 1.25 cents. We are acutely aware and sensitive to the fact that families in the commonwealth are already struggling to make ends meet. Our families are no exception, and we face the same difficult circumstances that your families face. We expect that we will be taking an unpaid furlough in the next few weeks and will be contributing more to pay for our families' health insurance. Rightfully, no one wants to pay more and no one in the Legislature was happy about taking this vote at this time.

While we acknowledge that raising the sales tax is a dismal option among many dismal options, we cannot sit idly by while our cities and towns are struggling, our transportation infrastructure is crumbling, and while the Commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens are not receiving even the most basic care. With the $900 million generated annually by this modest increase, we will be able to devote $200 million to restore local aid, $300 million to stop Mass Pike toll increases and commuter rail fare hikes and service reductions, and $400 million for health and human services so that the disabled, mentally ill, and the elderly will receive fundamental supports. With this tax increase, the towns in MetroWest will receive millions of dollars in additional municipal aid, which will allow them to avert cuts in public education and public safety. After we voted for the sales tax increase, we were able to responsibly vote for these spending measures. We note that every member of the Massachusetts House, even those who voted against the sales tax increase, voted in favor of the spending restorations, because they knew that these restorations were necessary to prevent damage being done to our constituents. It was the only responsible vote to take.

Massachusetts' sales tax, even with the proposed increase, will still be comparable, and in many cases lower, than all of our neighboring states with the exception of New Hampshire: Connecticut has a 6 percent sales tax, Vermont has 6.05 percent, Rhode Island has 7 percent and New York has 8.25 percent. In fact, Massachusetts' sales tax burden with this increase will place us squarely in the middle of all 50 states. Unlike many other states, Massachusetts' sales tax includes exemptions on necessities such as food, clothing, gasoline, and home heating oil. These exemptions will remain in place despite the increase.

We struggled with this decision because we appreciate the effect that any tax increase would have on Massachusetts families. We carefully weighed those effects by considering the damage that would be done to our commonwealth by the cuts to human services, public education and public safety that will occur without the sales tax increase. This vote effectively kills consideration of any of the additional tax increase proposals such as the 19-cent gas tax increase, alcohol tax, and/or candy tax. We note that even with this increase in the sales tax, many significant and severe cuts will remain. In the end, our priority was to preserve our communities and protect the most vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth.

Submitted by MetroWest delegation members: Rep. Tom Conroy (D-Wayland), Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford), Rep. Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland), Rep. Pam Richardson (D-Framingham), Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow), Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg).

13 Comments:

At April 30, 2009 at 8:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did you expect them to say? That they were going to give up there raise, or that they would end collecting travel expenses? This is just more of the same trash they have been spewing for years.

 
At May 1, 2009 at 8:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many have given up the raises or given them to charity. The per diems are another issue. I don't have a problem with per diems for anyone who lives more than 50 miles away, but anyone who lives closer than that should not get the per diem.

 
At May 1, 2009 at 10:27 AM , Blogger Brian V. said...

I have a rather generic question. THis flu pandemic thing. How are we as a state going to pay the expense of this if we take a hit Businesses may have to close, hospitals will be overrun, people will be avoiding public transportation and public events, and the state is going to have to hit the ground running with staff if this does escalate. Where does the money for that response come from

 
At May 1, 2009 at 10:46 AM , Blogger Can't think of a name said...

They really think that they can sell this to us so we think it was a great thing they did for us. We have no choice in it happening I guess, but we sure don’t have to thank them for doing this TO us. Higher costs for things at a time when we all have less money, and when the President is encouraging us to spend a little to get the economy moving. I would be really curious about what other states are doing to handle budget shortfalls. Of course, our budget was short even before the economic downturn, so we started out probably in worse shape than many other states. But how are they handling this? NH, RI, CT, what are they doing? Are other states raising their sales taxes or increasing their gas tax? Or are they cutting things like salaries, overtime budgets, and not filling unnecessary jobs when they are vacated because someone retires. How about making state employees pay more for their health insurance, get a less attractive retirement package, or stop the practice of paying them for unused sick time. Sick time is not vacation time. You are only suppose to use it if you are sick. Companies are not even required to give you sick time! But in MA, state employees get a huge amount of paid sick time, and then they get paid for what they don’t use. Cutting that ridiculous perk could save the state millions. Simple question, why are we not doing more to cut expenses instead of raising revenues?

 
At May 1, 2009 at 10:55 AM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

Brian,

I'm would bet the rainy day fund gets raided if any big disaster were to strike. The infrastructure is already in place for these kind of suspected outbreaks. In large enough numbers, this could cripple business, schools and all public meetings and gatherings, for a week or two.

And today, the papers report that revenue expatiations are way down for this past month.

The fight between Deval and DeLeo is heating up and look for this to effect which taxes

 
At May 1, 2009 at 12:09 PM , Blogger JJ said...

The fight you mention between DeLeo and Patrick, is that a good thing for us as taxpayers or a bad thing? Not sure that either of them is someone I would trust to represent my best interests at this point in time. But if you were to choose one to back over the other, who would you go with Jim?

 
At May 1, 2009 at 1:50 PM , Blogger Jerry G. said...

Taxes have to go up or services have to go down. There are no other options. They have cut the budgets for services already, and still we are short. We opposed the toll hikes here in Metro west, the gas tax would have not been evenly distributed, those of us with longer commutes would be paying more of a burden, so isn’t the increase in the sales tax the better of all the options? We don’t pay more on the necessities, so the burden of this tax will be on people who have expendable income, those with more money. Maybe I am missing something, but to me, that sounds like the best of the options we were faced with. Jim, your thoughts?

 
At May 1, 2009 at 3:58 PM , Blogger 6th Middlesex constituent said...

Pretty much a done deal, isn’t this? They have enough votes to over ride the Governor’s veto I hear, so not much we can about this at this point but suck it up and drive to New Hamshire to shop. On princial alone, I will do that whenever possible, not because I want to drive across the state line, but because they are charging me more without asking what I thought about that, and I have no way to do anything about it except to not pay that extrac charge, which means shopping in another state. If enough people did that, which I know is unrealistic, it might make a statement, but it would also mean the state will still be running with a huge deficit. No win situation here.

 
At May 1, 2009 at 5:09 PM , Blogger Derek said...

They always have a reason for doing what they do, and sometimes their reasons are even good ones, and some times they actually do the right thing. Personally, I think raising the sales tax may be the right thing at this time. Seems more fair and equitable than a toll hike the way they were proposing it, or a gas tax. But I have one question that maybe you can answer Jim. Is this a “forever” raise of the sales tax, or is this just for a specific amount of time? I have no problem with uping this to cover necessary expenses in these times of lower revenues because of the economy. I just don’t want this to stay in place forever, giving them more of our money to spend any way they want when this crisis is over and the income and real estate tax income goes back up to what it use to be. How is this law writing in regard to that issue?

 
At May 1, 2009 at 5:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep looking here for more information that is not available in the paper. I know it is important to get this type of information out there, but I come here for your insight and your ideas Pillsbury, more than I do for a recap of the news. Yeah, I like to come here and get the scoop on this type of thing, but I like it better when I find things here I did not know about and some ideas I had not thought about. You do good work on this blog, but get back to being someone who voices his opinions, that is what keeps bringing me back here.

 
At May 1, 2009 at 5:28 PM , Blogger Harry said...

Headed home for the weekend like many of my fellow bloggers here. 1st thanks for the information and 2nd I agree with Anonymous who said he likes your thoughts better than a recap of the news. You make me think about issues differently and although I don’t always agree with you I have come to respect your point of view as one being based in fact and reality. So lets see more of that Pillsbury point of view here. Nice weekend everyone. See you back here, same channel, same subjects, next week.

 
At May 2, 2009 at 1:46 AM , Blogger B. Murray said...

Time to face the music. We over spent for years, now we have to pay for that. Sales tax is not what we may want, but realistically it is probably the best solution. But how do we keep them from overspending this money?

 
At May 4, 2009 at 12:27 PM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

Neighbors,

It's easier to admit that an increase in the sales tax would do us all a world of good, in terms of paying for things we want. And I do agree, as I have stated last year, a small increase in certain taxes would be appropriate, BUT, any new tax increase, whether sales, gas, cigs, alcohol, candy, whatever, will be with us forever.. .just like those dam tolls.

I'll pay my fair share... and so will you I'll bet. But to continue to fund those at the State House who have no regard for fairness to the tax payer, fairness to the commuters, and the gaming of the system that keeps them high in salary and benefits is not something I will support, in tax increases.

They must cut their own spending before ant tax increases happen.

 

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