There will be a notable absence on Beacon Hill next year, and it has nothing to do with elections: Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, has announced that he’ll retire next January. In his 25 years as head of the nonpartisan research organization, Widmer, 75, played a role that feels increasingly rare in today’s world of scorched-Earth advocacy: sober, smart, and respected on all sides.
Widmer’s analyses of state budgets, widely cited by journalists and lawmakers, were fiscally conservative and attuned to business needs without being ideological. His support for specific policy measures — such as changes in the way municipal employees get health care — have had a measurable effect on the state bottom line. Last year, his warnings about an ill-conceived “tech tax” on computer services paved the way for a remarkably swift repeal. Widmer’s influence only grew over time, and he earned it in the best possible way: through solid facts, sharp analysis, and a palpable concern for the future of the Commonwealth. He will be sorely missed.