The battle to eliminate the Massachusetts state income goes on the November 2008 ballot as referendum Question No. 1.
The proponents are led by perennial libertarian Carla Howell along with the usual tear down government crowd cohorts of Barbara Anderson and her Citizens for Limited Taxation Group
On the other side are the usual people and groups that always ban together and can always be counted on to fight the anti tax initiatives of Howell and Anderson. They include the public employee and teacher unions, contractors, vendors, consultants and so called questionable unmonitored human-service agencies who get Billions in State Contracts. Joining in the effort is Michael Widmer from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation misnamed because they are solely a business lobbying group. Others are expected to be allies to defeat the measure are members of a failed to take action to instill confidence group. They include local officials along with the Legislature and governor who have failed to provide stability in accountability of government expenditures.
If the voters approve the measure after millions are spent by both sides, the legislature and governor will not be expected to abide by the voted referendum.
Widmer and the allies are stating to the voters to find another way to send a message to the out of tune reality of a Legislature and governor who appear not to be listening to the cries and frustration of a most depressed, frustrated citizenry.
The citizens are living in fear of the current economic realities affecting their lives with foreclosures and economic uncertainty from an asleep Boston Statehouse, Washington Congress, and Presidency. The out-of-control costs of gasoline, food, education, healthcare, utility expenses are coupled with mortgage or rent payments, job uncertainty and retirement fund losses. A winter heating season is approaching with the potential highest heating costs even seen in the northeast adds more fuel to voter fears.
Widmer is predicting a budget shortfall of $1.5 billion already in the 2008 to 2009 state budget this year of $28 billion that should have been addressed before the election and not delayed?
The repeal crowd of Howell and Anderson appears to have a most certain winner in their proposal as the time appears ripe to tear down government and not sensibly attempt to lower taxes and provide needed expected services.
The voters intense frustration is there with the $23 billion shoddy Big Dig project that was originally to cost $2.3 billion and was mostly to be paid by the federal government. The Massachusetts Turnpike constantly having daily headlines of mismanagement. Examples I see: The office curtains of the governor, Cadillac SUV, police details, legislators friends profiteering from state contracts and deals, bloated pensions of some selected politicians, and vacation junkets that only adds fuels to the bitterness of voter anxiety.
The forthcoming vote will be a battle of needless rhetoric and wasted energy from both sides. Irregardless of whom wins will only spur on continual mean spirits until the next battle occurs with those who profit by doing Public relations and media receiving big dollars from each side. This should not have happened if all parties had conducted themselves for the common good over the years. Both sides did not and only show selfishness of their own greed.
Those who have watched each side of the Special Interest Debacle feeding frenzy have witnessed self interest first and not making government what should be for all citizens. These actions have allowed Massachusetts Government to be at this juncture of chaos and despair.
The Howell and Anderson group continued advocacy of so called limited taxation and government has been a failure that allows state and local government to be in the current continual lack of oversight and structural mess. They never advocated sustainable checks, balance, and accountability mechanisms of expenditures.
Similarly, the public employee and teacher union bosses did not do more for their membership to insure public employment as an honorable profession and merit employment practices. Several public employee unions abandoned their own membership resulting in the state becoming an expensive purchaser instead of a provider of traditional services. Those bosses failed to insure and monitor the state delivery system of what their members struggled to valiantly provide resulting in a shadow unaccountable runaway wasteful private system of providing those traditional services. Now these very same union bosses as organizing the very same vendors and providers to make up for loss dues their terminated state worker members whom little was done to save once provided. Widmer and his so called business taxpayer group contributed to the current lack of faith in state government by sanitize pointed attacks on government budget expenditures as long as they did not affect his dues paying members who do business with state government receiving taxpayer dollars.
Those over the years wanting and advocating proper government state services in contracting, budgets with proper oversight, and measured with accountability were continuously drown out and not listen to. These include the State Auditor, former House and Senate Ways Post Audit and Oversight committees, crusading legislators, former inspector generals, reporters, and citizen advocates. Thus assurances to taxpayers by having taxes and fees spent judiciously and prudent continuously eroded over the years to the current state of special self interest of government abuse we are now witnessing.
There can be no respect for state government until Massachusetts citizens know there are no waste, fraud, and abuse of their tax dollars guaranteed by having a working system of accountability and oversight.
Citizen ctatesmen and stateswomen from both sides are desperately needed now to make Massachusetts Government better as well as standing up to special self interest when their groups and people go astray who do not advocate for the common good of all.
The author is a retired state employee.