BOSTON -- Pressure continues to mount on Senate Democrats to drop their needlessly partisan and wrong-headed plan to defy the will of the voters and hike taxes on Massachusetts families. Today, the Lowell Sun's editorial board slammed Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), for betraying the public trust on the income tax.
By The Editorial Board
For the first time in six years, an official state budget wasn't in place on July 1 -- the start of the new 2016-17 fiscal year.
And it probably won't be for awhile, because progressive Democrats in the 40-member Senate are locked in a battle of wills with House leaders -- also Democrats -- over the mandated rollback in the state income tax to 5 percent.
The Senate, headed by President Stanley Rosenberg, voted 29-11 in May to permanently freeze the income tax rate at 5.15 percent, thereby reneging on the Legislature's 15-year-old pledge to voters to gradually reduce the rate from a high of 5.95 percent.
Their scheme is to freeze the 5.15 percent rate and redistribute the $145 million in revenue that would be lost if the income tax is reduced to 5 percent. The money would go to low-wage earners as an earned income tax credit. It would add $155 a year to families earning $52,600 a year, pushing the total tax credit to $470. It looks good on paper. However, it's bad financing, poor logic, and, most important, a betrayal of the public trust.
First, the Senate's earned income tax proposal would affect about 400,000 workers at the expense of 3.6 million workers who would be getting more in their paychecks if the income tax were reduced. All would benefit under the latter reduction, not just a targeted group under the former plan.
Second, why doesn't the Senate propose eliminating wasteful programs in the $38.1 billion budget -- up almost $12 billion since 2006 -- to finance the tax credit increase? Let's face it, the $145 million redistribution represents .004 percent of the entire state budget!
Third, the state is on path to finish the 2015 fiscal year with a $163 million surplus. Why stiff workers who've been waiting 26 years for total income tax relief when there's other money available?
Fourth, in 2000, 59 percent of voters approved a ballot question rolling back the "temporary" 5.95 percent income tax, set in 1989, to 5 percent. Initially, the Legislature was supposed to do it in three years. But in 2002, a gradual approach policy was approved to achieve the result by 2016. It's time -- and Senate tax-and-spenders should abide by the Legislature's contract with the people to finally get this done.
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