Brad Marston, a candidate for State Representative in the 8th Suffolk District, succinctly explains the choice facing voters in November.
Most voters agree that the state should be taxing citizens in order to pay for critical state services: education, roads, public safety etc. In recent years, due to the economic crisis, the state has come to voters again and again with tax hikes that they say are necessary to pay for these services.
Voters have patiently accepted these tax hikes because we don’t want to see cuts to critical services.
But over and over the state has diverted this money toward other priorities.
We’ve seen severe cuts to education spending for several years running. The state has cut Chapter 70 local aid funding for three years. Towns have been forced to react to this with a combination of property tax hikes and service cuts – including teacher layoffs. We’ve seen some towns forced to cut back on trash pickup and police patrols as well.
We’ve seen major cuts to our public universities, and to public libraries. Our bridges and roads are not properly maintained.
The Department of Transportation says that 10% of Massachusetts bridges are now “structurally deficient,” and 131 of the states 1,798 overpasses are in need of repair.
Tax Money Wasted
Meanwhile, the state budget continues to grow. The state pension system now accounts for roughly one third of the state budget, and represents a huge unfunded liability. Massachusetts currently has the country’s 7th highest pension debt.
Towns are currently overpaying for health insurance of their workers – but the state has failed to pass reforms, such as GIC or plan design, which would make it easier for towns to re-negotiate health insurance costs.
The state has failed to address the rampant abuse of “patronage jobs.” Legislators have for years steered state jobs toward friends, family and political supporters. They often increase the budgets for state agencies where they have the greatest success in placing their friends. Our Probation Department has doubled in size, even while the number of people on probation has decreased – because the Probation Department has become a dumping ground for patronage hires.
Take a look at just the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Many states, like Nevada and California, now offer the most routine DMV services using automated kiosks. These kiosks work like ATMs and could make DMV services available in more places. It would save tax payers millions by eliminating many jobs at the DMV. And that is exactly why it has so far been impossible to implement kiosks in Massachusetts.
No one who has been to the DMV would ever want to work there. The jobs are tedious, and the pay is low. But the last laugh is on us – each one of those DMV workers will, after a few years, be able to collect a state pension for life.
We Have a Choice
Two years ago there was a ballot initiative to reduce the state income tax back to 5%. Voters were told that if the tax cut passed, we would see cuts to local aid. So voters defeated the income tax roll-back by a narrow margin. We got the cuts to local aid anyway.
Voters have a choice to make. We can continue to vote for tax hikes and hope that, after we fill the state’s nearly infinite desire to fund perks for themselves, they will finally fully fund our priorities – like schools, roads and public safety.
Or we can vote for change. We can cut back our taxes and force them to spend the money on what they promised.
We’ve waited patiently for several years now, hoping tax hikes would restore services. It hasn’t worked.
We need to stand up to the state’s many insider interests. Together, weÂ can force the state to pay for the services we need, cut the waste, and lower our taxes.
h/t Jack Gately for the video