Should any increases in major state taxes be on the table in state budget talks for next year?
Needham resident, community organizer, former Congressional aide, member of Progressive Massachusetts
It’s déjà vu on Beacon Hill.
The decades-long hostility towards raising additional revenue strikes again. It was just last fall that the Legislature let stand $210 million of the $320 million Governor Charles Baker vetoed from the fiscal 2018 budget. The slashing of that crucial spending was, unfortunately, a predictable byproduct of the Legislature’s refusal to implement new taxes or fees in fiscal 2017.
Even with those cuts, this year’s state budget is again facing a potential deficit. The government was forced to rely on temporary revenues and the underfunding of essential programs – like MassHealth, services for homeless families, and snow and ice removal - all while hoping there will somehow be an end-of-the-year surplus. No wonder US News and World Report ranks Massachusetts 48th for balancing its budget.
Budgets are supposed to reflect priorities, but instead of thinking big and investing in our future, we are stuck playing catch-up from previous shortages. The Commonwealth has a variety of complex problems requiring investment. Our transit system malfunctions regularly (even when it’s warm outside), schools grapple with overcrowding, affordable housing remains woefully insufficient, and the opioid crisis continues to devastate our communities.
But we also want to do more than put a band-aid on wounds that require surgery. We want to expand MBTA service, strengthen our schools, provide shelter for struggling families, and move towards universal health care. The last thing we need to do is shut the door on sources of much-needed revenue.
As we look to improve upon state services and protect the laws that make Massachusetts feel like home, we should look for creative opportunities to increase spending capabilities. Whether it be from pollutant fees or new corporate taxes, marijuana sales or tax-deductible donations to government institutions, there are innovative ways to generate sufficient revenue for a responsible budget that won’t hurt the people’s pockets. It would be irresponsible not to even consider, let alone refuse to explore new potential sources of revenue or raising existing ones.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo should work on a game plan rather than punt the ball on first down. Tax increases should definitely be on the table as we look to fix our broken budget.
State representative for the 9th Norfolk district, Norfolk Republican
In an ordinary year, increasing the taxes of the hard working men and women of Massachusetts should only be on the table after all other options are exhausted. But as we all know, it is not an ordinary year and raising taxes should definitely be off the table for this year’s budget debate.
The reality is that the world has changed dramatically over the past year and fiscal year 2019 is on track to follow course. The new federal tax plan that was passed last month creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for many of our fellow citizens and has the potential to have a negative impact on the Massachusetts economy. Fortunately, it appears the benefits might minimize these negatives but at this moment it is too early to tell.
The creation of the $10,000 cap for state and local tax deductions in the new federal law is going to send shockwaves through our state. If we couple this with the proposed additional 4 percent tax on earnings above $1 million — the subject of a state ballot question this fall — and our punitive death tax, Massachusetts is poised to be a costly state for taxpayers. To add additional tax increases onto this already excessive structure would be pure folly.
While the Commonwealth is anticipating increased revenue collections, we must still remain vigilant in weeding out waste and abuse. As legislators, we need to make the tough choices to streamline programs and ensure that we spend our neighbors’ hard earned money efficiently.
Having a foolhardy approach toward spending, justified by a tax increase, only sets the groundwork for disaster when the economy eventually adjusts.
Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live; but if we are not fiscally prudent, it will simply become too expensive to raise a family or run a business here. New Hampshire is already trying to poach our current and future businesses by touting their low taxes and inexpensive cost of living. If we vote to raise taxes this year, it will send the message that Massachusetts is not “open for business;” and instead we are embracing the old “Taxachusetts” moniker.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)