We begin with the proposition that we are taxed enough. And then that proposition is tested.
Massachusetts tax revenue came in far below expectations in April, destabilizing the already precariously balanced $39 billion state budget and raising the specter of additional cuts to government services.
So far this fiscal year, the state has brought in $462 million, or 2.2 percent, less tax money than expected, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Revenue. In other words, authorized spending is on track to exceed actual revenue by almost half a billion dollars.
As a former State Senator (and future something-else, we hope) puts it:
Nearly impossible to build a budget with an imbalanced economy, tax cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy & rising healthcare costs https://t.co/xLc6GLCCSM
— Benjamin Downing (@BenjaminDowning) May 4, 2017
So, with regard to revenue and spending: I have to give credit to the Governor — and a lesser extent to the legislature — for trying to address the budget shortfall due to rise in state health care costs, with an assessment on non-insuring employers.
I have no idea what they plan to do to control health care spending, a notoriously tough nut to crack.
I give no credit to either Baker or DeLeo — the Axis of Austerity — for pretending that our tax system is adequate to today’s challenges. The Governor himself states that slow wage growth (aka rising inequality) leads to sales tax shortfalls. Imagine what a $15 minimum wage would do for that. There is extremely broad support for a millionaires’ tax.
And by the way, we’ve got plutocratic Trump budgets, possibly TrumpCare, a Trump economy (i.e. not a good one) to fight back against.
In other words, the state needs to do more to claw back some of the wealth that is being siphoned (by federal policies as much as state) to the very wealthiest. Call it re-redistribution. We’ve been calling for it for a long time; but now is the time to address inequality at a state level — via taxation, services, and to an extent, regulation and zoning.
Baker’s got a lot of “political capital”; but unless he uses it to solve big structural problems, it’s stored up where moths and vermin destroy.