Our governor and Legislature are at a critical juncture, faced with the choice between making sweeping cuts that could have far reaching consequences for the health and well being of the state or raising new revenue to support the public structures that keep our state and its economy functioning smoothly.
At its deepest level, the conversation is about what kind of state we want to live in and how we are going to pay for it. But so far, the discussion has been relegated to cuts.
Governor Patrick’s announcement he plans to lay off 2,000 employees sent shockwaves through the state yesterday. State officials are anticipating a revenue shortfall of $600 million for this fiscal year and $2-3 billion for next year. As advocates point out, cutting 2,000 jobs doesn’t simply mean 2,000 people are out of work.
It also means services and programs will be cut. Higher education, public health, human services are all on the chopping block. Patrick is also seeking powers under state law, to make cuts in the judiciary branch and to Local Aid. This means the cuts could also affect everything from the judiciary branch to schools, fire and police departments.
In times like these, the public systems we have built in Massachusetts are more important than ever – job training programs, social services, our public higher education system which is training the skilled workforce that attracts businesses to our state and grows our economy.
Leo Sarkissian, executive director of Arc of Massachusetts, a group of organizations providing care for the developmentally disabled, is among those calling for new revenue. “Replacing the recent increase in the sales tax with a progressive income tax would not only address a large portion of the shortfall but would lead to a more stable and equitable tax policy,” he testified this week in Framingham, during a meeting sponsored by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue as part of its listening tour.
Last night on Emily Rooney's Greater Boston show (view here, 10min, 30seconds into the program), Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said leaders in the state need to have the courage to “deal with the gas tax,” noting that critical state transportation infrastructure projects will not likely be funded without a gas tax.
Also on Rooney’s program, Mass Municipal Association Director Geoff Beckwith agreed. “It’s not a question of whether a gas tax gets passed, it’s a question of when,” he said. “The longer we wait, the more we’re going to put off investments in our economy.”
A legislative committee is looking into the state’s Tax Expenditure Budget, a document which lists exemptions, like the state’s lack of a tax on real estate transfers and the revenue the state forgoes for each ($2.6 billion for the real estate transfer tax. $6 billion for not taxing services).
A tax break benefiting large corporations in Massachusetts grabbed headlines Monday after legislators learned it would cost the state $535 million over the next seven years. Want to learn more about the Tax Expenditure Budget? Come to ONE Massachusetts’ Tax Expenditure Budget Training with Peter Enrich:
Location: 30 Winter Street, 9th Floor,
Boston, MA 02108
Date: October 22, 2009 – 5:00pm – 7:00pm
(cross posted on ONEMassachusetts.org)