To find out what I mean by “reverse the curse” you will have to read to the end. No shortcuts, please!
What “9C” describes is a law that Massachusetts must have a balanced budget at all times. Unlike the Federal Government, Massachusetts is NOT allowed deficit spending. Here is a link to the law itself: http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws…
Thus, whatever our state government spends, or plans to spend, payment must be in place for that spending, whether through bonds, fees, tax revenue of some variety, or a fund such as “the rainy day fund.”
When the actual revenue from personal taxes, capital gains taxes, sales taxes [etc.] turns out to be less than the estimated revenue on which a year’s budget was based, section “9C” requires the current governor, like all governors since the 9C law was enacted, to balance the budget by either raising revenue, or cutting line items. No governor has any choice about this – Section 9C requires that the budget be cut to match real and actual revenue.
No one has had the intestinal fortitude to look at how regressive our state system of taxation is in Massachusetts, so when the actual revenue is less than the revenue estimates upon which a budget was based, what happens is the executive [Governor] orders the executive agencies [about 2/3 of our government structure] to cut their budgets by a percentage – in this case I believe it was about 9%.
The executive does not micromanage WHAT each agency cuts. The Commissioners and Deputies who run executive agencies actually decide what to cut to make their quota of cuts. Most Commissioners, deputies, and upper managers are inherited and recycled from administration to administration. There are few new faces. Practically speaking, most of those deciding what DCF, or DMR, or DMH will cut got their jobs under Romney, a few under Swift, and some even under Weld. There is tremendous institutional inertia.
I don’t feel like Governor Patrick “fooled” me – I do feel like the economy he got as opposed to the economy he thought he was about to manage are very different – and personally, I support restructuring how revenue is raised and spent not shrinking government services. I assure you, no one asked me nor have I been consulted or received a written response to any letters or columns I have written.
What I had hoped for, and so far, have not seen, was the intestinal fortitude to not cut, but instead radically restructure how revenue is raised.
Unfortunately, the word “tax” is treated like a curse in this state. That “curse” needs to be reversed.
What is needed is not cuts. I do not think gambling revenue is the answer, either. In the current economy, the idea that folks will throw an endless stream of money into a black hole [whether by gambling or using credit cards] is no longer valid.
What is needed is progressive taxation to fund progressive programs and which supports economic activity such as education and manufacturing that actually generates goods and services and meaningful employment.
I would love to find out that there are elected and appointed officials with the courage to pursue a real solution by revamping revenue to not depend so much on capitol gains, and regressive taxation like the sales tax and the property tax.
I have not seen that kind of courage, and that is what disappoints me.
Cutting the programs that serve the most defenseless, substituting prisons for schools and hospitals as repositories of the mentally ill and the offspring of drug addicted families is a cowardly solution.
The fact that surrogates are allowed or perhaps forced to do the actual cutting doesn’t change the reality that no one is doing – or even standing up and talking about doing – the hard work of changing the paradigm itself.