Carla Howell draws the attention of Commonwealth magazine

( – promoted by Patrick)

A least one journal of opinion is taking Carla Howell's ballot measure seriously. Commonwealth magazine, published by MassInc isn't about to ignore the libertarian proposal to abolish the state personal income tax  the way the media elite did six years ago. This year, defenders of the status quo aren't taking anything for granted. But more importantly they have to draft hard logic and facts against the backdrop of inefficient government. The blood in the streets scenario is unlikely to change hard hearts. Given that most believe state government is not their friend, the pro-income-tax ensemble soon to be organized the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation will face a very tough fight.

Given the anti-tax sentiment across the state, perhaps no one should have been surprised that 45 percent of voters said “yes” to this idea six years ago. But the state’s political and media establishment, who pretty much treated Howell as a pariah and the ballot question as nonsense, were thrown for a loop by its strong showing.

They might want to listen to Methuen resident Kasia Sokalla, one of the 10 original signers of the 2008 initiative.   “This will be the first serious tax cut for working-class and middle-class Massachusetts voters that I can remember,” she says. The proposal got 53 percent of the vote in Methuen the last time it appeared on the ballot, and Sokalla says, “We voted to end the income tax in 2002 because working families deserved and needed the money.”    

In Fitchburg, where voters have turned up on the winning side of state elections and referenda to the tune of 83-1 since 1994, the “no” vote won last time, with 53 percent. But Jason Lefferts, editor of Fitchburg Pride, the city’s year-old weekly newspaper, still thinks officials should keep an eye on this year’s campaign. “I think people’s first reaction is, ‘Well, yeah, of course, if I can get rid of the income tax, I’m going to vote for it,’” he says.

It would probably be a good guess to say that if the legislature had followed the will of the voters in 2000 and fully rolled back the PIT to 5 percent, Carla Howell would be working on some other issue. Required reading:…

About Karl Marx

Left wing libertarian conservative.

  • The Angelic One

    Karl, thanks for the head's up regarding MassInc's article on Carla Howell. Two items caught my eye; the first dealt with how the process will unfold this year with regards to Howell's petition:

    The anti-tax campaign has collected the required 66,593 signatures to advance the question to the next hurdle, the Legislature. Lawmakers have until the first Wednesday in May to give the petition the go-ahead or reject it. A third, rarely used, option gives lawmakers the opportunity to draft a countermeasure that would also go on the ballot. If lawmakers give the petition a thumbs-down, a likely course of action given the fiscal consequences, repeal supporters will have to persuade 11,099 more registered voters to put their John Hancocks on a second petition to get the question on the November ballot.

    Thanks to the presidential contest, voter turnout is expected to be high this fall, which means that the 2002 result may not be a predictor of what happens this time. There is at least one bit of evidence that anti-tax sentiment is strong: Last year, voters in about 70 communities weighed in on Proposition 21/2 overrides, and according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, less than half of the overrides succeeded.

    The second item was state GOP Chairman Peter Torkildsen's comments on what the Republican plan of action will be in dealing with the proposal to eliminate the state income tax:

    “I personally understand why someone would vote for it out of frustration that Beacon Hill has not been doing its job for quite a few years now,” says Torkildsen, a former congressman. “A lot of people on Beacon Hill start the argument with how much money would they like to spend,” he says. “A better starting point is, ‘What’s an appropriate level for people to pay?’ and then ‘What’s the most economical way for the public officials to use that money?’”

    My initial reaction to Torkildsen's comments: "That's it?" While the Democrats are putting together their coalitions to defeat Howell's petition, the chairman of the state GOP morphs into a Hamlet-like pose & spouts rhetorical questions. No wonder the Republican Party is considered irrelevant in this state!

    Last month on this blog I made a suggestion on how the GOP could utilize the petition as a strategic tool to help the party regain its street cred with the voters in this state. The details can be found here:

    Deval Patrick & most Democrat leaders have publicly stated that they oppose Howell's petition AND they refuse to reduce the state income tax from 5.3% to 5. Howell's efforts thus far have succeeded because enough angry taxpayers want to send a message to the political class running Beacon Hill. These factors present a great opportunity for the state GOP to come across as less right-wing than the Libertarians, less totalitarian than the Democrats, & more in tune with the moderate temperment of most of this state's voters. It'd be a shame if said opportunity was squandered or (even worse) ignored. Carpe Diem, baby!

  • This is an extraordinary dumb idea and populist idea. The money to run the state has to come from somewhere. There are multiple choices:

  • Dramatical spending cut. However, given the amount the budget would have to be cut, it is not possible. Remember, most of the budget is not discretionary spending.
  • Raise fees, sales tax and local taxes. This would have 2 effects: Loosing the federal exemption for the state-tax (hence we deliver more money to the federal beast) and discourage economic activity as it would be taxed higher.

    If lowering the overall tax burden was of real interest, then removing the sales-tax would have been the right choice. However, as presented, this is just a populist idea that plays well in the day-to-day politics, but is not bringing the state forward.