Common Sense Tax Reform Needed to Move MA Forward

Thanks for posting here, Senator! - David (Bumped) - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Here is a copy of the Op Ed I submitted to papers last week. Now more than ever it is crucial to speak out about the importance of sufficient revenue:

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.

State Senator Patricia Jehlen, Second Middlesex District


3 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I hope "the first path" the Governor's proposal

    I am dismayed to read of the “alternative” proposal reported in today’s Boston Globe.

    With “alternatives” like this, we don’t need a GOP. I encourage you to do all in your power to advance the Governor’s plan.

    I hope that you will remind Ms. Murray of her disappointing support for this anti-progressive rubbish — especially when it comes time to decide who our next Senate President should be.

    • Thank you Senator!

      Let me first say I was recently redistricted into your district and appreciate all the North and West Cambridge outreach you have done. I hope that you can convince your fellow Senators to support this proposal. You certainly have my support. Compared to where I am currently living (Chicago, IL), Massachusetts has it way easier. The sales tax is much lower, there is no tax on clothing under a certain amount or groceries. By lowering the sales tax further we can help put more money in the pockets of middle class and working families. By raising the income tax slightly we can make critical investments in our ailing and aging infrastructure, maintain our educational excellence, and continue our innovative health care reform. Thank you for your post.

  2. Keep at it!

    Senator Jehlen, thank you for leading the way on substantive revenue reform and investment. It’s all too hard for a legislator to fight for revenue, and I’ll bet it can feel lonely out there.

    In our well-heeled metrowest ‘burbs, we have plenty of supporters for a plan closer to the Governor’s and An Act to Invest— as long as it is adequate to our MANY needs (not just transportation) and is raised fairly. I am willing to see my tax share rise to invest in my kids’ future and a strong Mass. economy. I am not alone.

    What a tremendous failure of leadership from, well, leadership yesterday. Push back. You have the support of grassroots organizers. I will be watching to see who stands with you. I certainly hope to see my legislators among them.

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Sat 29 Apr 7:22 PM