The MCHC Mailbag features comments, ideas, and thoughts sent to us from readers and citizens. To submit a note to the Mailbag, email to [email protected]. Try to keep submissions below 400 words. We'd love to see any letters to the editor that you think are good. We reserve the right to print only part of longer submissions, and to select postings based on their readability and relevance to the purpose of this website.
The following letter to the editor appeared in the Boston Globe on Sunday, May 10.
To the Editor:
I agree that Gov. Romney is waging war on the people of Massachusetts, and the legislature isn’t far behind. But the Globe can expand the debate by informing the people of Massachusetts about a practical, positive plan that would eliminate the budget deficit.
Jill Stein’s new non-profit organization, the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC – www.masschc.org), has developed detailed proposals for fair taxation that would close the budget gap and offer tax relief to 60% of Massachusetts taxpayers. It is the comprehensive, non-regressive and broad-based program we need to establish diversity and resilience in the revenue stream. It would fund all basic services with no undue burden on any sector, and do it fairly.
We owe it to our cities, towns, elders, working families, children, schools, firefighters, police. The budget cuts are a result of favors to special interests and outdated modes of taxation, and they are completely unnecessary. MCHC gives Beacon Hill a positive, growth-promoting strategy to protect the people of Massachusetts. Now is the time — livelihoods and lives are at stake.
Adam Sacks Lexington, MA
Owen Broadhurst, who is running for City Council in the town of Agawam, has found that the MCHC message is very relevant to the problems faced by his community. Here is a note he sent us on his experience.
May 2, 2003
As I have been criss-crossing about Town gathering signatures on my nomination papers, some people have taken note of my support for certain educational programs and my prior vocal support of fair contracts for municipal employees- and they have asked me: Will I push for property tax hikes to pay for this wish list? Will I push for cuts in other services? A very few became irate when it seemed to them that I was being evasive.
My reply has been that the Town of Agawam, unlike several of its neighbors, is very well situated for smart growth and sustainable development that can expand our tax base; that the Town of Agawam can both save a small fortune and make a small fortune in resource conservation, a fuel efficient fleet of municipal vehicles, and reclamation and conversion of solid waste and effluent; that I have always been in principle opposed to the raising of regressive taxes and would prefer to both lower property tax rates and shift the differential in every homeowner’s favor; that the Town need not solely rely on the state of Massachusetts as source for grant monies; and most importantly that huge hikes in property taxes together with deep cuts in city services will eventually become our fate as it has been the fate of our metropolitan neighbors if city leaders do not take initiative to demand that our legislative representatives endorse, support and fight for common sense tax reform at the state level, i.e. MCHC!
Municipal leaders, civic activists, union representatives, teachers, firemen, police, parents and senior citizens in need of services should make for natural allies of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities. The preservation of city services, expansion of educational access, improvement of educational outcomes, extension of sewer services, and enhancement of senior services and affordable housing all are popular goals each in desperate need of increased funding- and ultimately the city’s capacity to provide all of these while also reducing the property tax burden for homeowners, several of whom now live on fixed incomes, depends on legislative leaders at last developing the wisdom and foresight to seed these needs in the realization that a rich source of revenue has long been overlooked while the legislature squeezes blood out stones even as they pursue budget priorities that in the final analysis will discourage economic growth, prolong our fiscal crisis, and dampen the prospects of an economic recovery.
Promotion of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities and its aims shall therefore become a major component of my City Council campaign as I write letters, press releases and hold forums for voters. Ultimately, this campaign spells tax relief for most residents in not only their payment of income taxes, but in their payment of excise and property taxes. Ultimately, this campaign is key to the preservation and expansion of educational programs and city services. The Town of Agawam needs a City Council that will urge its legislative representatives to support and fight for these aims- and it is my goal to get as many citizens, civic leaders, and elected leaders involved as possible.
This is not a campaign that we can leave between ourselves, our locals, and a few friends and allies. This is a campaign that we need to bring before City Council meetings, School Committee meetings, before Mayoral adminstrations, Select Boards, Aldermen and Town Meetings. This is a campaign that we need to promote and write about in local newspapers, and discuss at local meetings of Golden Age Clubs, Senior Centers, Lions Clubs, and Rotary Clubs. We will find throughout the course of our campaign for this initiative supportive Democrats and supportive Republicans, and we must see to it that ward, town or city committees for both learn about it, discuss it, and place it on their agendas.
All politics is ultimately local, in my humble opinion. The most willing audience for tax reform shall ultimately be those who want to support and improve municipal services. I plan on promoting this heavily.
Letter to the Editor
April 23, 2003
Speak up about fiscal crises
This year’s state budget is shaping up to be a major disaster for communities like Lexington. Programs that are important to our schools, health care, and environmental protection are going to be slashed. And this will occur despite $500 million in fee increases.
The disturbing thing is that legislative leaders are still protecting billions of dollars of tax loopholes and tax privileges enjoyed by corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers. And they are upping the tax burden on ordinary people who already pay too much. According to one recent study, when all state and local taxes, including deductions, are considered, people in the lower 40 percent of income groups are shouldering about twice the tax burden of the wealthiest 1 percent. And the cuts and fee increases that are being considered will make our tax system even more unfair.
The cuts to local aid will hit Lexington hard. To preserve our schools, police, and fire-fighting, we will have to be replace these cuts in state aid with increases in local property taxes and local fees. Because local taxes tend to fall with full force on people with modest incomes, this represents a shifting of the tax burden onto the backs of average people who are already paying more than their fair share.
We can’t afford to be fooled by the “no new taxes” politicians who are just protecting the unfair tax system that benefits their wealthy friends. The cuts in state programs are injuring our economy and hitting average people in the pocketbook. We’ve got to let the politicians know that we want a real solution to the budget crisis – one that involves greater fairness in taxation. When everyone pays their fair share, it will provide the revenues needed to maintain essential services.
A number of Lexington residents are going into Boston on April 30 for a major rally at the state house in support of stopping the cuts to all vital services and raising revenues in a fair way. To find out how to join up with them, or to learn more about fair tax solutions, call 781-674-2422 or e-mail [email protected] or go to the Web site www.masschc.org. We can speak up and save our communities!
Prof. David Yamada’s Remarks to the House Revenue Task Force, April 7, 2003
My name is David Yamada. I am a resident of Boston, a law professor at Suffolk University Law School, and a citizen who is active in public affairs. I speak with all of those roles in mind in urging you today to enact revenue-producing measures to help us avoid the inevitable human pain and misery that will be inflicted by the proposed budget cuts.
I am sure that every day you are fielding calls, letters, and visits from constituents and others asking you to spare a specific program or service. We also know that unless the pool of revenue is increased, saving one program means gutting another. And so, good health care will be played off against good education, a clean environment will be pitted against safe streets, and access to justice will compete against access to higher education.
Well, I want all of these things, and I think that most fair-minded citizens of the Commonwealth feel the same way. Therefore, it is time to enact revenue-producing measures that restore funding to all vital services and programs and that embrace a model of fair taxation. I know that a number of research and advocacy organizations have offered, or soon will be offering, proposals to help close the budget gap. For example, the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities is putting forth a tax package that calls for closing unproductive tax loopholes and for developing a fairer overall tax structure. It even contemplates eventual tax cuts for low and middle income earners. By adopting the MCHC tax package, Massachusetts could realize roughly $2.9 billion in additional revenues during the next year.
I realize that I may be speaking against pure self-interest in advocating for fairer taxation. By my calculations, I recently have entered the bottom end of the top quartile or so of income earners. I may not be rich, but I’m here to say that those of us who have been blessed with some economic good fortune should pay a fair amount of taxes to help us avoid the crushing impact of the proposed cuts. And despite the results of the income tax referendum last November, I think that many people would agree if they knew that their money was going to fund vital services and programs.
In short, this isn’t about “class warfare” or “soaking the rich”; it’s about basic fairness and human decency. Put simply, people and communities will suffer if these budget cuts are approved. So let us take the term Commonwealth seriously by generating more revenue in a smart, humane, and equitable way. Thank you.
Letter to the Editor, Published in the Boston Globe, February 28, 2003
Wealthy aren’t paying fair share
Joan Vennochi portrays voters who “don’t want cuts in education and don’t want new taxes” as being unrealistic and naive (“The tough truth on taxes”, op ed, Feb. 25). Yet the response of already overburdened taxpayers is understandable.
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Massachusetts taxpayers with the lowest 20 percent of incomes pay 9.3% of their incomes in state and local taxes. In contrast, the wealthiest 1 percent pay an effective rate of only 4.3 percent. And corporate taxes have declined more than 75 percent in Massachusetts over the past three decades as a portion of state revenues while corporate profits markedly increased.
So the tough truth on taxes is that corporations and wealthy citizens are not paying a fair share. The tough truth is that we have a broken electoral system that allows for massive contributions to politicians running for office, who then vote in legislation that favors these donors.
Tax reform that closed corporate tax loopholes, instituted smart taxes on harmful corporate pollution, and ended exemptions for luxury purchases would go a long way toward making up the budget shortfall.
Vennochi is right. The state needs more money from taxpayers – corporate taxpayers who benefit from infrastructure but no longer pay a fair share.