NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 8, 2014

Unfair taxation looming here again

As I See It
Joe D'Amore

---- — The state’s wire services recently released a report that a committee known as the Tax Fairness Commission appointed by the Massachusetts Legislature is expected to make recommendation for a graduated tax to levy an increasing burden on high-wage earners and supposedly a lesser burden on low-wage earners. The recommendation will be delivered through a constitutional amendment aimed at replacing the state’s current flat income tax of 5.2 percent.

The commission will also recommend increases in certain exemptions and tax credits to provide income tax relief for low-income individuals.

“We’re looking at fairness,” said state Sen. Michael Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat and commission co-chair of the 15-member panel, which was created by an amendment to the transportation bill of last July. “The question is, is it fair that the poorest pay a higher percentage of their income to taxes than do the richest? We tried to address that in a specific, but not too specific, way.”

The problem with this ruse is that it has been tried before. The taxpayers of Massachusetts are protected by the constitution that mandates level taxation across all income levels, but progressive Democrats have assaulted this provision with ballot initiatives for decades. The last one was soundly defeated by voters in 1994. They believe that to alleviate the regressive and punitive aspects of taxation, a graduated tax solution is in order.

Massachusetts voters need to be aware of this development and be prepared to defeat this ballot question if it materializes again. The progressive aspects of a graduated tax scheme will never work in Massachusetts since the state’s spiraling spending patterns on social programs, including those gripped by massive abuse and inefficiencies such as the EBT-related programs, will cause all citizens to have their taxes increased.

If this constitutional amendment is passed, there would be a lowering of the boom of sorts as individual tax brackets would selectively be snared for increases beyond 5.2 percent. This phenomena is illustrated well in California, a state that has embraced the graduated tax system and has seen its fortunes decline as a result of it. Individual taxpayers are charged 6 percent at a paltry $27,897 annual income and then a whopping 9.3 percent at $48,942.

The median household in Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Census, is $66,000. Therefore, the cream of middle-income earners in Massachusetts, the so-called “working class,” would be the primary recipients of a “graduated” (higher) level of income taxation. The blow to fledgling business start-ups and job creation will be devastating.

You may remember that last year legislators said no to Governor Patrick’s massive tax increase proposals. Since it is politically difficult to pass a sizable, “across-the-board” increase, a graduated structure will provide an opportunity for a more stealthy solution by allocating increases to new brackets across the entire spectrum of wages. This would largely be done behind closed doors in committees without any public input, amply supported by the constitutional amendment.

Constitutional amendment proposals provide a saving grace for Massachusetts voters. It requires a lot of votes and effort to pass them. Voters must become keenly aware of this perennial attempt by progressive Democrats, who seek to make our already overburdened taxation even more burdensome.

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Joe D’Amore lives in Groveland.