Since it’s a gorgeous sunny day, I’ll favor the most wildly optimistic take on today’s WBUR polls of the tax ballot initiatives. The millionaires’ tax? Very popular! 77% support it. The sales tax cut, from 6.25% to 5%? Also very popular! 67% support.
The millionaires’ tax is likely to net about $2 billion, designated for transport and education; the sales tax cut would lose $1 billion. The sales tax is regressive, hitting the poor harder than the rich — such that it was opposed by liberals like Mike Dukakis back in the 60s. Isn’t it all fungible anyway? (Am I missing something?) I’m not saying that money isn’t necessary, but like the lottery, it does come from a sub-optimal source.
As two interested observers in California and New Jersey attest in Commonwealth Mag, raising revenue in a progressive way is not a catastrophe, the higher taxes causing hardly a ripple in the quality of life; but creating the possibility of long-awaited public investments:
While our state economies differ in some basic ways, the people in each have reached similar conclusions about the value of taxing the highest incomes to make important public investments that improve our schools, economies, and quality of life: it works. We heard many of the same arguments that are now being made against the proposal in Massachusetts to raise taxes on incomes over a million dollars in order to invest in education and transportation, and our experience with similar taxes has proven to us – and the people of our states – that those claims don’t hold up. The new revenue has helped improve our states’ economies by supporting vital investments in education and infrastructure. And rather than suffer from millionaire migration, our states have grown million-dollar earners at a healthy rate — in fact at greater rates than many low- or no-tax states.
It’s been confirmed again, the way to support local business and job growth — in manufacturing in particular — is well known: Provide infrastructure and education. That means public investment, and not giveaways to private interests like Amazon. From a new report from the Center for Budget and Public Priorities, this is how you do it:
- Expand customized services to small and medium-sized manufacturers. Manufacturing can be cost-effectively promoted by manufacturing extension services and customized job training. Manufacturing extension services provide individual firms with lower-cost access to high-quality advice on improving competitiveness. Customized job-training programs provide worker training specific to the firm’s skill needs.
- Invest in infrastructure and services that make the community’s land better for business development. Job growth can be cost-effectively promoted by improving services in distressed neighborhoods, cleaning up brownfields, and investing in transportation infrastructure.
- Increase public spending on services that increase local workers’ job skills. Better skills for local workers help attract and grow higher-wage jobs. Adult skills can be improved by programs from birth onward. Effective skills development programs include the following: high-quality child care, high-quality preschool, K-12 education, college scholarships, and adult job training.
The second two bullets: That’s what we’re about to do … with or without the legislature’s help.