What is our real tax burden?

What is our real tax burden?

There’s been several stories in the local news lately about studies that rank the relative tax burden on Massachusetts citizens. I’ve noticed how inconsistent they are. One study says we’re in the middle of the pack, while another says we’re taxed more than only a few other states. What’s the deal?

Of course, it never occurs to the politicians to cut expenses from the other end of the spectrum where the high priced do-nothing consultants and political hacks hang out.

The Massachusetts GOP News & Views blog has looked into the research and come to the conclusion that the differences among the studies depends on what taxes are being included. One study just looks at income tax, while another includes excise and property tax and a third includes all taxes and government fees.

And why the flurry of tax stories? Because it’s government budget time and the opposing sides want you to either think that your tax burden is low enough to support increased taxes or so high that taxes should be cut. So which is true. While only one may be true, MassGOP says our attitude about it depends.

Ask yourself a very simple question “Am I getting my money’s worth?” That is really the only answer you need to come up with. If you feel as though your community, or state government, is providing a reasonable value for the amount of tax levied then you will likely support any tax increase proposals. If you feel as though you are not getting your money’s worth then you will oppose the idea of tax increases.

Unfortunately, too many taxpayers fail to approach the subject with enlightened self-interest. Instead they let the media and political activists define the debate and let themselves get led around by the nose.

Don't believe the hype

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1 comment
  • Well, there is a completely under-utilized tool in Massachusetts: the underride. Ever hear of it? When we went through an override battle in my town a few years ago, I was informed by my alderman about the existence of the underride provision – it is the only direct way to undo an override. Unfortunately, Massachusetts’s override provisions do not (so I was told) have a mechanism to build in an automatic sunsetting of an override – in other words, to allow overrides to be structured temporarily. That was a drafting flaw by the drafters of Prop 2 1/2 a generation ago.

    But citizens of small municipalities (one of the great advantages of the New England system of governance) might be able to cobble together sufficient voter support to force public officials to commit to presenting an underride to the voters in a given period of years (like 5 years, I would suggest) or else not run for reelection at that time…. It’s a bulky way to go about it, but the fact that it’s utterly ignored as an issue disturbs me.

    Taxes are misspent in this Commonwealth in the same ways that corporate budgets are full of fat in some places and too lean in others – I don’t think the Commonwealth is much better or worse than many private companies in that regard (and there is a market discipline on the Commonwealth’s fiscal management – including bond ratings….).

    Our public infrastructure is a mess, woefully undermaintained since the advent of Bill Weld. It’s one Mitt Romney’s major blunders, because it severly undermines his bid to demonstrate managerial competence (which his Bain career was not really about – being a consultant is much more about being a salesman than a corporate leader, but I digress). And I wonder how Republicans (I am an independent of many years standing, previously alternately Republican and Democrat) will regard Mitt’s stewardship of the local GOP party… Mitt at least avoided the worst of the hack cronyism of his predecessors, to his credit.

    I would love to see the state constitution amended to allow the Senate President and House Speaker to be removed from those offices by Commonwealth-wide recall elections. That would help instill more public accountability to those positions.