NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 11, 2013

Tax man taking another bite

Barely noticed in the state’s $34 billion spending plan is an item that should make us all sit up and pay attention -- a $500 million tax increase that will hit every smoker, driver, and computer data-based business in our state.

Add it up, and that’s a lot of people who will be getting a significant tax hike.

The money is ostensibly going to “infrastructure improvements” to the state’s highway system, but already there is an argument over whether it is enough. The governor thinks a bigger tax hike is needed, and a showdown with the Legislature is expected on Friday. All of our local Democratic lawmakers voted to support the tax hike, while the handful of Republicans left in the Statehouse voted against it.

This is a state that already ranks in the top 10 for highest per capita taxes, according to a variety of surveys. Now that burden is set to go even higher. We think lawmakers should stop the run on taxpayers’ wallets and take the harder but more responsible course -- review how money is spent, and spend it more wisely. It can be done, as is witnessed by families across the state who stretch their dollars, and private businesses that retool and reinvent as the economy changes.

The most odious of the proposed tax increases is a 3 cent per gallon hike in the gas tax -- which doesn’t seem like much until you consider what else lawmakers slipped into it. The tax hike is permanently linked to the rise in inflation, a practice that is rarely used in tax law. That means that in the future, lawmakers won’t have to vote to raise the gas tax -- it will automatically increase, no fingerprints attached. That’s politically convenient for the Legislature, but irresponsible to taxpayers, and cowardly as well. If lawmakers want to raise taxes, they need to make the case for it, every time.

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