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Christine Morabito

End the waste by cutting sales tax

By Christine Morabito
October 1, 2010

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I ATTENDED my first Tea Party rally on Boston Common in 2009. The event blew me away; as a conservative in Massachusetts, I’ve never been surrounded by so many who share my concern about a government that’s out of touch and out of control. And in November, voters like us may very well succeed in rolling back the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent.

Opponents, predictably, are ringing the apocalyptic bells, warning about cuts to police, fire, and education in order to coerce people into voting no. But how can we be sure these aren’t just scare tactics employed by the very people who profit from excessive spending? After all, we witness these same shenanigans every time we ask government to cut anything. We may as well ask them to donate a kidney.

If Question 3 passes, long-suffering taxpayers will be afforded the opportunity to force state government to do what it has been unwilling to do: act responsibly with our money. In 2009 Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature raised the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. This put a bee in our collective bonnet.

Total state spending, including off-budget, has reached a staggering $52 billion. If Question 3 passes, the estimated reduction in revenue will be $2.34 billion, about 5 percent of total spending. The loudest opposition comes from those who insist the initiative will force Beacon Hill to cut aid to cities and towns. Government will never voluntarily reduce its spending.

We must not tolerate legislators and lobbyists holding our most important institutions hostage. Promoters of big government on both sides of the aisle always threaten to cut the services essential to average citizens while sparing the special interests who fund their campaigns.

Governor Patrick has claimed, ad nauseam, that he has cut the budget to the bone. Interesting. How is it that we simple peasants have no trouble seeing waste, fraud, and abuse all around us? Maybe we should start a hotline: 1-800-SWINDLE has a nice ring to it.

The problem of nepotism and favoritism in state and local government is well documented; consider recent coverage about patronage hires at the state Probation Department. Meanwhile, there are even public servants who, despite having been convicted of crimes committed on the job, are still collecting their pensions. Earlier this year, a judge ordered Somerville’s pension board to keep paying the pension of a Middlesex County official convicted of stealing change from courthouse photocopiers.

Citing unnamed sources, the Valley Patriot, a monthly newspaper in Merrimack Valley, recently described a transportation company that drives a substance abuser from Lawrence to Boston for daily methadone treatment, costing the state $3,000 a month. Yet there’s a methadone clinic in Lawrence. These reports are difficult for citizens to verify independently, but they are in keeping with what many of us have seen from government. (Full disclosure: I contribute a column to the Valley Patriot.)

It’s often said that such abuses are isolated cases. But put a hundred of these examples together, and the money starts to add up. Voting yes on Question 3 is an opportunity to stop enabling greed and the mismanagement of our tax dollars.

Patrick, not surprisingly, is against the initiative but recently bowed to political pressure by joining his gubernatorial rivals — Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill — in agreeing to respect the will of the people. Cahill and Baker have opposed the question, too, and in some ways, I understand why: No politician wants to be the one to tell people they have to cut things.

But Question 3 will give back hundreds of dollars a year to the average family and stimulate a sluggish economy. By reducing the sales tax to 3 percent, the measure will allow us to keep more of our hard-earned money and stimulate the private sector, creating thousands of productive and sustainable jobs. Many Massachusetts families have been forced to cut 10 to 30 percent from their budgets during this recession. Surely, Beacon Hill can manage to cut a more modest 5 percent.

Christine Morabito is a Tea Party activist from Haverhill.

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