Yvonne Abraham

Who needs state taxes?

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / October 5, 2008
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Come November, those stinking state taxes could be history.

Libertarian Carla Howell has a heroic proposal on the ballot that would nix the Massachusetts income tax. Pull $12.6 billion from the state budget, she reckons, and those money-grubbing bums on Beacon Hill will shape up real quick.

They'd have to, wouldn't they? Because - poof! - half their revenues would be gone.

Not a moment too soon, I say. I mean, geez, all they do up there on Beacon Hill is take my money. And what do I get in return? Big Dig overruns. Giant pensions for public employees. Pricey police details.

In fact, 41 cents of every state dollar is wasted, according to Howell. She gets this figure not from budget experts - or experts of any kind - but from randomly selected voters asked for their own estimates. And that's good enough for me.

Anyway, what better way to persuade the pols to stop squandering my money than to withhold it from them entirely? And I could really use the cash in these trying times. Howell says the initiative will return an average of $3,600 to every one of us. Yay!

OK, well, not everybody would get $3,600. If you earn $50,000 or less, like two thirds of the state, you would average just $850 back. But I make more than that. And the lucky dogs who earn $100,000 or more, will get an average windfall of $16,000.

And as Howell says, "How much more good would that money do left in the hands of the people who earned it?"

Exactly. So, instead of funding ridiculous enterprises like public education, roads and bridges, prisons, courts, healthcare, police, and fire departments, I could use the money for something that benefits me.

For example, an enormous flat-screen TV.

But there are a lot of people out there trying to spoil this for me.

Mike Widmer, president of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says abolishing the tax will cripple Massachusetts, hike property taxes, produce massive unemployment, and cut most state programs by 70 percent.

He claims you couldn't cut $12.6 billion without wiping out a lot of state services, and even if you froze all road and bridge repairs, slashed police departments, and fired all state workers you wouldn't be close.

That's why Howell and I have no patience for experts. They always want to argue facts and figures. Why, Howell says we could slash the $12.6 billion and nobody would even notice. Granted, she can't come up with one specific example of what she'd cut. But put the state's books online and the public - the same folks who came up with the 41 percent - will set things straight, she says.

Now if there are any bleeding hearts out there worrying about the sick and the homeless, I say to you, chill. Howell says that after Question 1 passes people will be donating money all over the place.

Oddly enough, none of the people Howell interviewed for a nifty video on her website said they would give any of their savings to charity. And none of the people I talked to downtown on Friday mentioned it either.

For example, Denis Marcin, a software release manager who said he supports Question 1, said he would invest his extra money in the stock market.

"I don't get any benefits [from the state]," he said, puffing on a pipe near City Hall Plaza. "I have no kids in school." He said the needy cut off from state services would "get donations from other places."

If only the folks on Beacon Hill could be more like he was before he started pulling down six figures: "When I was a kid, I budgeted money closely, because I didn't have very much."

That's the spirit, Denis. Let's teach them a lesson right out of the Book of Howell.

Even if it could bring the entire state to its knees.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail is

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