The Massachusetts Senate must serve as the last line of defense against the latest attempt to undermine Proposition 21/2. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick cannot be counted on to veto such measures as previous Republican governors had promised.

The House last week advanced the effort to buy off the primary opposition to Proposition 21/2 overrides in any community — senior citizens. Lawmakers passed 111-34 a bill that would allow cities and towns to offer moderate-income senior citizens abatements that would offset the tax increases imposed by the passage of overrides. Those 65 and older with incomes of less than $60,000 whose property taxes exceed 10 percent of their income would qualify.

But don't expect those advocating for overrides to spell out the fine print for seniors. Nor that the abatements can be suspended after a year, sending seniors' taxes up along with those of everyone else. The message will be only that seniors will be exempt and don't need to vote against spending plans.

Since its passage in 1980, Proposition 21/2 has safeguarded the interests of taxpayers against those in municipal government who cannot control their spending habits. The measure already permits communities to raise their taxes as much as they'd like — all they have to do is convince voters of the merits of their plans.

But that's too high a hurdle for the backers of this cynical bill, who sell it as a way out of communities' "fiscal crises" while "protecting" seniors. It offers no real protection at all.

The bill now advances to the Senate, where it should get the rejection it so richly deserves.

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