Earlier this week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick outlined plans to improve education and rebuild our transportation network. To pay for this, the governor said in his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night that the state’s taxpayers need to “contribute” a little more.
How much more? Try nearly $2 billion.
We’d be hard-pressed to come up with a faster way to sink this state into economic oblivion.
To raise this money, Patrick wants to increase the state income tax by 19 percent from its current 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent. At the same time, he would double the personal exemption from $4,400 to $8,800 but eliminate many itemized deductions. The net to the state would be an additional $2.8 billion from taxpayers.
Patrick also proposed lowering the sales tax from its current 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent, a 28-percent cut. The state would lose $1.1 billion in revenue, according to administration projections.
Finally, changes to the corporate tax structure would add $194 million to state coffers. The net gain to the state from all of Patrick’s proposals would be $1.9 billion.
State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were skeptical of the proposals. They sat silently in the legislative chamber as Patrick presented his plans. Later, they were more vocal.
“This is about taxpayers funding the Deval Patrick legacy project and quite frankly I don’t think the taxpayers want to or can afford to,” said Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, the House minority leader.
Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, said the governor “threw long” and held out the possibility of a meeting “somewhere down the road.”
Some local lawmakers expressed doubts about the tax-raising plan.
State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, called it “too expensive and risky.”
“We need to remember unemployment is still high and we have some big health care expenses coming up,” she told reporter Shawn Regan. “The Legislature and the governor have done some good work recently cutting spending and building our reserves, that’s what needs to continue. ... Our transportation problems have built up over a decade. We’re not going to solve them overnight.”
“He’s off track to be raising taxes on working families right now,” said state Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover. “What we ought to be doing is tightening programs like EBT. There’s $400 million right there that the governor and his people don’t even know who it’s all going to.”
An independent analyst questioned the impact of the plan on the state’s shaky economy.
“Clearly the changes make the state’s tax system more progressive, but it is a large increase to impose on those who make the decisions whether to invest in Massachusetts, especially in a fragile economic environment,” Michael Widmer, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told the Associated Press.
Patrick’s proposals would extract $1.9 billion from the pockets of taxpayers without even beginning to address the problems the state has with spending and waste. As Lyons notes, the Patrick administration cannot even account for 19,000 welfare recipients. This is not an administration to which taxpayers should hand billions more.
Patrick’s plan punishes earners and will drive some to leave the state at a time Massachusetts needs all the taxpayers it can get.
Patrick acknowledged in his address that “there is no good time to raise taxes.” That’s true. But it is particularly bad timing to whack taxpayers with a $1.9 billion bill just as the state is struggling its way out of recession.
Patrick has indeed “thrown long.” Let’s hope lawmakers are playing solid defense for taxpayers and swat this pass away to prevent its completion.