Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: No income, poor outcome

On Nov. 4, Bay Staters will have a lot to consider. With the current presidential election shaping up to be one of the most important in history, it may be easy to lose track of another important issue in Massachusetts. Question 1, undoubtedly one of the first items voters will encounter on the ballot, asks Bay Staters if the state income tax should be abolished. If passed, the proposition would go into effect, by passing the legislature and lawmakers who would undoubtedly scrap the notion. Voters can’t let that happen.
In the current fiscal and economic crises, Gov. Deval Patrick is scrounging for ways to pull the budget together. Pulling out a huge source of state income would be like removing all water from the scene of a fire.
Without the crucial funds supplied by the scaled income tax, public schools ‘-‘- many of which are already struggling to stay afloat fiscally ‘-‘- would be the first to suffer. Education in Massachusetts would become an exclusive ideal that only the richest districts would enjoy.
Take the case of Texas, one of the few states in the country that does not levy a state income tax. Schools suffer a huge gap between the richest and poorest, prompting Education Week to recommend a policy overhaul to save even the controversial Texas charter schools, attended primarily by less-privileged students, in a Feb. 15, 2005 article.
But beyond public schools, other services and necessities will certainly fail without an income tax to support them. Crumbling roads and bridges will remain unfixed and public transportation will grind to a halt. The MBTA, already drowning in an ocean of debt, would have to either raise fares or cut services to make up for the missing government funding, likely putting a chokehold on Boston’s fragile network of ageing roads and bridges.
Of course, Massachusetts would find ways to replace the lost income. Sales taxes would spike to outrageous levels, burdening Bay Staters equally, regardless of income. The beauty of the income tax law is that it demands more from those who have more and less from those who have less. Without the ‘Robin Hood’ element, citizens earning $100,000 per year and citizens earning $25,000 annually will both be subject to suddenly more expensive goods. Businesses will languish as customers ‘-‘- particularly college students who typically don’t have a taxable income ‘-‘- consume less, and the state economy will suddenly be left in a perilous position with little upon which to fall back.
It’s clear that removing the income tax laws in Massachusetts is the wrong idea at the wrong time. When the commonwealth is struggling to pull ends together to maintain its most basic services, don’t take away its only tools.

One Comment

  1. You have a fundamental error in your piece – in Massachusetts, public schools, meaning K-12, are funded primarily through local property taxes and other local revenue streams, not state income taxes. The only time state money is used is when a local district is unable to meet the mandated minimums according to the Education Reform Act.<p/>However, our colleagues in the UMASS, state, and community college system, which is primarily funded through state revenues, would likely see exorbitantly higher tuition and fee rates as the state would have to prioritize the higher education subsidies against public safety, Health and Human Services, pensions, etc.