EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 21, 2013

Column: Hazy days on Beacon Hill: Anyone seen a budget?

Barbara Anderson
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — If you consider summer to be the three months of June, July and August, we are smack in the middle of it. Now, with Congress and the Legislature on vacation, even political activists can relax and enjoy the season.

Wait! They haven’t left!

The fiscal year 2014 state budget, for the fiscal year that began on July 1, isn’t finalized yet.

The budget has been late before, usually when there is a fiscal crisis; in the past, late budgets have led to income tax hikes. And in fact, Gov. Patrick, along with liberal activists, wants an income tax rate increase, from the present 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent as well as gas and cigarette tax hikes and a new tax on computer services.

The Legislature, while passing the latter three, has fortunately made it clear that the income tax hike is not on the table. So the governor wants an even bigger gas tax increase; last Friday he vetoed $417 million in transportation funding from the $34 billion budget because his transportation bill doesn’t have enough new revenues to cover it.

I’ve never seen anything like this year’s process. There are two bills pending: the budget, and the transportation tax package that increases the gas tax, but not enough, according to the governor, to fund all the transportation spending in the budget. For some reason the transportation bill increases cigarette taxes and creates the new tax on computer services, neither of which has anything to do with transportation.

There was also a fiscal year 2013 supplemental budget that passed earlier this month. As the Electronic Benefits Transer (EBT) scandal unfolded, some House members tried to put language in the FY 2014 budget to reform the welfare system; instead there is language in the supplemental FY 2013 budget from the governor to study the issue. He has also stated that he’ll be looking for money in a FY 2014 supplemental budget to fund a photo ID requirement for welfare benefits. Remember that the original FY 2014 budget still hadn’t passed when he said this.

Trying to follow our state government’s timeline: For some reason the budget was sent to the governor before the Legislature sent him the bill to fund some of it. He vetoed the budget because it wasn’t balanced and also sent back the funding bill because it wasn’t big enough. Somewhere in there he cut some local aid, which is sacred to many legislators, to pressure them to support more taxes.

The House then the Senate took up this mess, voted against the higher gas tax, prepared to override the governor’s veto. No one yet understands the impact of the computer services tax on our small businesses.

Could we elect a governor with management skill next time? But good news: After state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, R-Taunton, paid the Patrick administration $800, it released information on how many EBT cards are carrying surpluses (Nearly 1,800, with one account topping $12,000). Full disclosure: I and the other two Citizens for Limited Taxation staffers each sent her a personal check for $25 to help reimburse her political fund. Taxpayers need to know how much their generosity is being abused.

Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, reports that legislation has passed requiring the taxpayer-funded MBTA retirement payments be posted so we can better understand why we need transportation revenue hikes. It’s not all about keeping fares reasonable, folks.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, our federal politicians are still arguing about immigration reform. This past week, the Black America Leadership Alliance led a rally Monday demanding that “our leaders reject amnesty, enforce immigration laws as written, and support policies that put black U.S. citizens back to work.” Speakers included Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Elbert Guillory (R-LA), and former Florida Congressman, Colonel Allen West.

I just mention this since we’re told that those of us who oppose amnesty are racists.

Meanwhile, Obamacare is falling apart, with the business community getting a delay in the mandatory tax and unions finally noticing it’s costing them full-time, middle-class jobs.

Another political “duh” moment. Tell them there’ll be a new tax and lots of paperwork on companies who have more than 50 employees and suddenly companies lay off a few, don’t hire the 51st, divide themselves into two companies, share part-time employees with other similar companies. You could work at one fast-food restaurant in the morning, another in the afternoon, no benefits.

So far this year the number of part-time jobs in the country has climbed by 557,000. The number of full-time U.S. workers fell by 240,000 in June.

Ongoing government “duh” moment. As the economy continues to drive in low gear, both federal and state Democrat politicians want to increase the minimum wage. Incredibly, according to the Washington Post, the City Council of Washington, D.C., just passed a local law requiring Walmart to pay $12.50 an hour; the company is threatening to pull out of three planned sites for stores that would anchor malls serving the low-income residents of that Democrat-run city.

Overwhelmed by politics, we must ask: where are the lazy, hazy days of summer we used to sing about and enjoy?

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.