Monday, April 27, 2009

Governor Patrick threatens veto of sales tax increase

Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems his abysmal poll numbers of late do in fact bother our Governor.

Today he responded to news that Speaker Bob DeLeo is pushing a 25 percent sales tax increase by issuing a letter threatening to veto the increase if it comes to his desk.

First reaction: Bravo. About time. I do not particularly care what political calculations inform this move - this sales tax nonsense needs a crib strangling. Word coming off the Hill this afternoon is that DeLeo's forces are 10 votes short of the 106 required for passage of the hike with a veto-proof majority. This fun note comes from the State House News Service: "Exchanges on the House floor are said to be feisty, with some members delivering expletive-laden rejections to members of DeLeo's leadership team trying to corral votes." The fact that the Governor's letter pushed them to this point is a good thing... right?

But then the cynic in me demands I give Patrick's letter a second, closer read. And, sigh, my enthusiasm is dampened.

First, the Governor's claim that a gas tax increase, which would hit everyone in the state who drives or rides in a motor vehicle, is "targeted" is quite a stretch. The claim that it would "create jobs and support economic growth" is just unfiltered hogwash.

Patrick's crocodile tears over supposed "broad-based" tax increases, then, are... less than credible.

This, like just about everything else, is political. By fighting back DeLeo's broad-based tax increase, Patrick simultaneously scores political points with voters who are not paying close attention (note his disingenuous cries of "reform first"), and vastly improves the chances of passage for his own preferred tax hike - the gas tax increase.

DeLeo would raise $900 million per year by increasing the sales tax by 25 percent, to one of the highest in the nation. Patrick would raise $500 million per year by nearly doubling the gas tax to - you guessed it! - the highest in the nation (or so the sticker on the pump at my local filling station reminds me roughly once a week). He would also nickel-and-dime us to death with an array of smaller tax increases on items that he, in his wisdom, deems bad for us (alcohol, tobacco, candy, soda).

Both plans would enact broad-based tax hikes in the midst of a recession. Both would lift Massachusetts to "highest in the nation" status at a time when the state is already bleeding employers and population. The difference is less in magnitude than approach - Patrick wants a number of "targeted" hikes, whereas the House is (for political reasons) drifting toward the "one and done" approach. Both are terrible ideas.

The fact that these two hikes are presented as alternatives speaks volumes, yet again, about the need to get ourselves a functioning two-party system. Legislative Republicans are doing their level best with limited manpower and resources (they corralled a good group of business representatives on short notice today to protest the sales tax plan), but there is only so much that can be expected of them with such diminished numbers.

1 comment:

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