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September 28, 2008

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ncitizen

More scare tactics. No official statement has been made by the legislature that states where if any cuts will be made. It would make life easier for both sides if they did then we could argue the merits of the cut. Next time you hear that the sky is falling ask the person who said it to document the statement. This includes the newspapers and visual press. Otherwise this is an exercise in media manipulation that you are repeating.

David Eisenthal

Ncitizen,

How would you feel if I said to you that you were going to lose 40 percent of your income, and then said "well, you haven't said what frills or waste - or necessities - you will need to do without."

The Massachusetts income tax produces $12 billion for our state government. That's an awful lot of money to be made up by increases in sales or property taxes - taxes which - by the way - are less fair and - in the case of the sales tax - more economically volatile than the income tax.

So, cuts are likely if the income tax goes away. From what areas? Let's start with local aid - which funds education, public safety, and roads at the local level. One-quarter of the revenues of our cities and towns comes from local aid. How would they make up for reductions in local aid - at a time when expenses such as health insurance are putting even more pressure on local budgets? Proposition 2 1/2 limits property taxes. And there are limits to how much cities and towns could increase fees on services.

Where does that leave our cities and towns? Reduced services - layoffs of teachers, cops, and firefighters.

I'm hoping that it won't take actually going through the pain of massive service reductions to convince Massachusetts voters that Question 1 is a bad idea - but it may come to that.

bostonchick

The Massachusetts legislature refused to pass the proposal in May 2008, requiring proponents to gather additional signatures in order to get the proposal on the ballot. What more statement against this initiative are you looking for, Ncitizen?

Concerned Citizen

While I am extremely concerned about the impact question 1 may have on our state, I am more concerned about how the waste in government is impacting my, and my childrens, future. I personally feel action needs to be taken now. I'll be interested to see our true priorities. Will it be essential state services or having a police detail on every corner?

Ernie

Just some thoughts on this proposal; 1, State workers are collecting way above average pensions that cost the tax payer billions, I met a guy the other day working two state jobs to increase his pension, he concluded he would retire at 52 then he can get another job (another state job?) this is mot fair to the taxpayer. 2, I know at least 6 people collecting "disability" from the state, all these people can work but have proven to a doctor that they are unable. This must cost the state billions if help for people on a temporary basis is warranted but not forever with little oversite. 3, I receive most of my services from my town. The state has cut funding to 2002 levels and the towns are reeling from the cuts. I would rather vote locally and override prop 2 1/2 on an as needed basis than give $3500.00 to the state every year with no input other then an email to my state rep and senator. 4, Without a serious cut to the state budget the real sweetheart spending will never be cut. We need to limit the funds available to cut the waste. The legislature will cut their own benifits last.

David Eisenthal

Ernie,

I have some thoughts on your comments. First, you raise a legitimate issue on pension and disability reform, but you have to ask whether the proposed cure - Question 1 - fits the disease. To my way of thinking, it's like cutting an artery to deal with arthritis.

Second, I think the Commonwealth provides more services to you than you might think. Think about this the next time you drive over a bridge or visit a licensed medical doctor.

Third, even with generous local aid, cities and towns have been struggling financially. The Prop 2 1/2 overrides - "as needed" - haven't been cutting it. It will only get worse if Question 1 passes.

Finally, while there is certainly financial waste in the Commonwealth - as there is in any organization - a major across the board reduction in revenue is not the cure.

David Eisenthal

One more thing. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has developed an on-line game that allows players to cut $12.6 billion out of the state budget - the amount by which state revenues would go down if Question 1 passes. It can be found at http://www.massbudget.org.

Paul Revere

http://www.smallgovernmentact.org/joomla/

The average citizen now pays more in taxes than for food, clothing and housing combined. Help stop the madness by voting yes on question #1

David Eisenthal

Paul,

First, I have a hard time believing you factually. Second, even if it's true, we're only talking about Massachusetts state taxes that would be affected by Question 1. Those are small dollars for most people compared to their federal tax burden. Third, if it's true, this may be a good argument for Barack Obama's tax cut for the middle class - but not Question 1. Lastly, most people really don't want the small government that you advocate. They want value for their tax dollar - and might see Question 1 as a way to shock our state government into providing more value. It is certain, as far as I'm concerned, that Question 1 is not the way to do this.

Concerned Citizen

Budget reforms are necessary in Massachusetts. You can not ask government to curtail its own spending. It will never happen. Our politicians are spending addicts. The people must mandate constrained spending activities and our public servants must learn to direct our money to most essential of services and cut the fat. These are tough times for everyone. It's time for tough love. Force the issue. Vote Yes on Question 1 and demand fiscal responsibility now.

David Eisenthal

Concerned Citizen,

You say that politicians are spending addicts, who won't curtail spending. First, this is factually untrue - an example being the mid-year state aid cuts of 2003. Second, where is the fat you're talking about? The number of positions in many state agencies got reduced pretty substantially during the Weld Administration in the early 90s - and the numbers have not risen to previous numbers. 20 percent of the state budget goes to local aid. Are you prepared to see more cuts in local public safety and education? A substantial part goes to transportation. Hope you're not on the next bridge that collapses.

I challenge you to identify particular budget categories of "fat" to show that this "fat" is any kind of substantial portion of the state budget.

Concerned Citizen

I'm just looking at the macro picture. I don't have time to go through the budget line by line. We elect people to do this full time. But I do see the example coming from the top, the office budget for the Governor nearly doubled this year alone, up to $8M. And I also see that despite massive budget cuts, net spending is still up. It makes one realize how much "fat" there was in the original budget. It's up to our elected public servants to figure out how to tighten their belts and at the same time make sure the laws on the books are enforced and the people are protected. This alarmist propaganda about how if Question 1 passes our houses will burn to the ground and crime will run rampant is hogwash. It's not easy managing your finances to realistic budget. We the people have been tightening our belts and making sacrifices. It's amazing how quickly you discover the "luxuries" in your budget when the issue is forced, e.g. lower income and higher expense, layoffs, no bonus, high gas and food prices. Those of us who have made the sacrifice to maintain a realistic fiscal situation for our family should not have to be burdened by governments' unwillingness to get real. Don't whine about how you need the money. We need the money too. Figure out a way to provide essential services and cut the fat. The world isn't going to end if Question 1 passes, but it will force government to make some tough choices just like we have been doing. Time for political class to join the real world if just for a little while. Vote Yes on Question 1.

David Eisenthal

The problem with your thinking is summarized in the quote "don't whine about how you need the money. We need the money too." Congressman Barney Frank once said that public sector is where we do things as a society together. It isn't we versus you - it's us against ourselves if Question 1 passes.

Concerned Citizen

Thank you for pointing out the "problem with [my] thinking". You illustrate your elitism far better than I ever could.

The point I was making about whining is directly related to these fallacious claims about public safety if Question 1 passes. If the budget is tight in the home, you don't keep cable TV and cut the budget for smoke detectors. You don't buy a new car and stop paying your heating bill; you repair your car. You cut back on music lessons for your kids and work with them yourself. You cut out Sunday brunch twice a month and make it a home event. You make sacrifices and work smarter and harder.

David Eisenthal

I should not have personalized things. My bad.

I will say that I think the state has been doing more with less for a long time - really since the Weld administration. I think that there is not much fat in that budget.

I think that some advocates of Question 1, including Carla Howell, are quite straightforward in their view that the issue for them is not essential services versus fat - it is that government at all levels should be smaller - regardless of the prevailing economic conditions. This is a philosophical view that I oppose.

pady


There are other states that have been successful without a state tax. For my city, I estimate that the property tax will be up approximately 10-20% which is still less than the gains from the state tax cut. I get more money and I can save it...which is required more than ever now. This "vote no" initiative seems more of a scare tactics. And all these stories I read about how state employees have been getting paid without even showing up to work...i think this is a real change needed for MA

abecedarius

I'm impressed that you take the time to answer all these comments. I've been a Massachusetts resident all my life and my big-picture view tells me that every time a dollar is given to or received from a government entity, some of its value is "kept" by that government entity as payment for its effort. Thus, the fewer of those transactions the better for the hard-working citizens for the state. Of course, we do need services, like roads and fire and police. But we don't need double-dipping, and retirement under age 50, and fake medical disabilities and Diane Wilkerson, and other abuses by "public servants" who find a way to game the system. If the pols had shown some respect and listened to our 2000 vote to roll back the tax rate to 5.0%, we might respect them a little more. Feeling relatively powerless, I see this YES vote as my best chance t be heard.

steven

David,
Here is my problem with the argument from your side, in addition to what i've already read from concerned citizen. The state of mass. has the highest REVENUE PER CAPITA of any state in the nation--$3800/individual(note: our TAX BURDEN, the as the term is defined is not the highest, but if you add in fee's, fed aid etc., we are the wealthiest state--and we sure do spend it).
Tell me then, why is it that states with FAR LESS per capita revenue/budget (ie FLORIDA) have such better schools than us, better infrastruc., quality services, etc. I have personally lived in 4 other states that are more well managed and never heard the whining and crying from the legislators that you hear in mass anytime we ask for fiscal restraint.
The way I see it,it's a simple equation: If we have more money than any other state yet our education system, for example, is still so underfunded = IT MUST BE MISMANAGEMENT, IT'S NOT A MONETARY ISSSUE. I don't see how you can argue that there is no possible way to make such drastic cuts when 30 of the other 50 states survive on 40 - 60% less rev/budget per capita than we do. Maybe they're just really lucky, but i doubt it.
The waste is ther, trust me. And we cetainly can find ways to make up some of the money by getting more people working and off welfare/disability. I personally know 4 people (friends) who are abusing the system--perfectly capable workers that probably cost the state 10 grand/yr EACH. We need to end the giveaway programs. help only those that really need it by policing this much better.
I've sai my piece--let me know what yo think.
Thanks--Steven

David Eisenthal

Steven,

I accept your figures as accurate, but misleading. One of the reasons that Massachusetts ranks high in per capita revenues is that this state collects a lot of revenue that ends up going to local governments. Something like 20 percent of the Massachusetts state budget goes for local aid. This means that your $3,800 is really more like $3,000.

In comparison, Florida transfers a lot less state revenues to their cities and counties. Those local governments tend to have their own sources of revenues, such as sales taxes. In fact, in 2006, sales taxes comprised 33 percent of state and local revenues in Florida, but only 13 percent here in Massachusetts.

I also would disagree with you about the quality of public services in Florida as compared to Massachusetts.

One more thing. The cost of living here in Massachusetts is far higher here. It costs more to run a household, a business, and - yes - a government here than in other parts of the country. Think of energy costs alone.

There is likely need for more efficiency and for reform - elimination of the income tax is not the answer.

Cory Layne

You say: The cost of living here in Massachusetts is far higher here. It costs more to run a household, a business, and - yes - a government here than in other parts of the country."

Yet New Hampshire, just over the state line does fine without a state income tax or a sales tax, and when I lived there, there was no shortage of services. Teachers were paid, streets were maintained and plowed, police kept crime down, and communities didn't need all that much "aid" from the state treasury because more of the local residents' money never went to the state in the first place. Their energy costs are, if anything, higher than Massachusetts, but they have a lot fewer government buildings to heat in the winter or air condition in the summer.

Another major difference between New Hampshire and Mass. is that New Hampshire has no highly paid career politicians at the state level, no ridiculous pension plans for retired politicians. The state legislature is paid only for its limited time in session and travel allowance. There is no incentive for anyone to live off the taxpayers unless they are full-time employees of the citizen-run local, county, or state government providing services that the people are willing to pay for.

The property tax was high but could be paid in installments if necessary and the property owner received a statement with a breakdown of where the tax money was going—how much for education, police & fire protection, streets and roads, municipal and county administration, etc.

Further, money for the operation of the state government was passed up from the municipal and county property taxes rather than collected by the state (except for the state lottery, fuel taxes, and a few other sources of state revenue).

The closer government can be kept to the people, the smaller and less costly that government will be.

Part of the reason the cost-of-living is so high in Massachusetts it that government charges the taxpayers more for its "services" than other states.

I say, Vote Yes on Question 1. Let the career politicians in Massachusetts know you aren’t going to take it anymore.

And if you are interested in my take on the current financial crisis and how the federal government and Congress have caused it, take a look at my blog at:
http://corylayne.blogspot.com/2008/10/financial-crisis-cause-and-effect.html

Steven

David,
I very much appreciate your response to my inquiry regardin per capita state wealth and have certainly taken under consideration.
I must say that i absolutely do not agree w/arguments comparing us to New Hampshire and other states like it for obvious reasons--(as stated my Mr. Lane). However, I again must stress that if you look at the figures w/regards to the size of our budget compared to every other state--it's not even close in most cases.
I think we can perhaps compromise here, but compromise means a YES vote, here's why. As we all know, our reps do not have a good track record of listening to our refs., so this vote is by no means binding and most likely will be ignored or modified. instead, i see it as a way to achieve 3 goals
1. At least REDUCE the income tax to say 3% (would save workers/taxpayer money and in economics simple PERCEPTION on the part of the citizen can become reality in terms of consumer confidence and trust of out legislative process
2. Encourage fiscal restraint
3. Encourage more transparency on beacon hill (one can not argue that this is needed--warranted or not--again perception is everything and we need to buildback trust in our state gov't.
one thing i am willing to conceed is that most people that will be voting on 1 will probably have no idea about running a state budget let alone a small business and that is why referendums don't(and should never) force our reps to do anything. There is undoubtedly alot of ignorance w/regards to this issue, and this ignorance is fueled by tv and radio advertising/soundbites that oversimplify the issues.In the end, all referendums are just recommendations
I will still vote yes, but with what i believe to be a thorough knowledge of the its ramifications and possibble drawbacks (w/ some help from your site.
Thanks Again--Steven

Stacey Stokes

I am tired of seeing municipality, civil service employees and other state workers get pay hikes when I am working two full time jobs to try and make ends meet. I would have voted yes on question one for the simple fact that I am fed up. What is going to be done about all this waste and how can I benefit from a no vote on this question.

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