Waltham city councilor
Under normal circumstances, Massachusetts would already have an approved budget for the next fiscal year approved. Currently, we do not have a spending package for the new fiscal year as we brace for a potential large drop in revenues. In the face of economic turmoil and a global pandemic, state leaders are behind schedule in finalizing a budget in part because they are awaiting word on what federal aid the state might receive.
It is in this pivotal moment that a question arises – will we shape our own fiscal future or wait for divine intervention from the federal government?
The answer to this question is particularly crucial to cities and towns, who rely on local aid to provide the essential services we need and will require a lot more of it as we try to cope with the pandemic and prepare for the time when it passes.
We need a progressive tax package to ensure the state can provide that critical aid to municipalities and make the other investments essential to our future.
More specifically, we need to eliminate or reduce tax breaks for special interest groups and very high-income households, and use the resulting revenues to support our schools, expand our local public health services, and fix our ailing transportation system. I was part of a group of local officials who urged state leaders to follow this approach.
This is not the time for wasteful tax breaks or catastrophic cuts. Arguments for economic austerity are devoid of history or compassion for our struggling neighbors.
Our economic crisis is unprecedented. Massachusetts had the highest rate of unemployment at 17.4 percent in June. MassINC estimated that nearly 1 in 3 Massachusetts renters missed a partial or entire rent payment from April to June.
We must utilize all the tools in our fiscal toolbox to ambitiously raise revenues. This includes raising the corporate tax rate, temporarily eliminating charitable tax deductions, and raising rates on long-term capital gains and dividends.
It’s time to invest and maintain programs that will put people back to work and restore our state’s prosperity.
Our circumstances do not define us. We can define our future.
President of Acella Construction, in Norwell; Scituate resident
In presenting the case to help Massachusetts cities and towns suffering revenue shortfalls and potential budget cuts because of COVID-19-related issues, a group of municipal officials across the state is petitioning Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Thomas DeLeo, and Senate President Karen Spilka to raise taxes.
These tax hike proposals include some familiar appeals: Raise taxes on corporations. Raise rates on long-term capital gains and dividends. Suspend the tax deduction for charitable contributions.
Municipalities have been hard hit by COVID-19, but so too has the business community. This proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem, one that deserves a more thoughtful, creative, and comprehensive discussion than simply “let’s raise taxes on corporations.” Again.
Surely, these officials know what COVID-19 has done to businesses. And it will be businesses and their owners who would be most impacted by this proposal.
Many businesses statewide were forced to shut down or sharply curtail operations due to state and local restrictions since March. Many industries have suffered. For example, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association has predicted the pandemic could wipe out 25 percent of our state’s restaurants, or 3,600 businesses. There are similar concerns across a number of industries – all while our state’s unemployment rate has climbed above 16 percent.
It’s difficult to argue that the business community is well-positioned to pay additional taxes, as they struggle to retain their employees, rebuild their businesses, and recoup four months of losses.
Many in the business community are consistent, strong supporters of area nonprofits and charitable causes. South Shore Habitat for Humanity and South Shore YMCA are among the organizations my business and others in my region regularly support. Suspending the deduction could cause many to reduce or eliminate these contributions in the name of financial survival.
The business community is in a fragile place right now and cannot be further handicapped. Businesses drive the economy, and with our support, can lead us in rebuilding it.
I urge the governor and legislature to say “no” to this proposal. There may well be a solution to the problem that the municipal officials outline. The one they recommend, however, is not the answer.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact email@example.com.