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Post MTA

Each year I go to MTA, I have a sense that we could be more effective if we organized sooner. This year, we did a reasonably good job, but there's still room for improvement.

The issue that dominated the convention was organizing to defeat the referendum that would eliminate the income tax in Massachusetts and decimate education and local services. The Committee for Small Government wants to force a reduction in government spending and has hit on an attractive sound-bite: get rid of income taxes. They claim the average savings, per taxpayer would be around $3600. They don't tell you that someone earning a million dollars a year saves $53,000 and that the lost revenue would about equal the discretionary spending in the state budget (ie, the money that the state contributes for local services, like police, fire, and education).

In 1980, a referendum was introduced that limited the amount that property tax could be increased in the state. Proposition Two and One-Half had draconian effects on education. Across the state, nearly 10,000 people were cut and many young teachers were driven out of the profession. Class sizes increased People who had lived through that time spoke eloquently at the MTA meeting about the results. This referendum would probably have similar effects.

At that time, there was a perception that Massachusetts residents paid too much in taxes. This time, I think people are more aware of our precarious circumstances. There is deferred maintenance all across the state: our public buildings are in poor shape already and the roads and bridges are falling apart. The biggest risk is people believing they can "send a message" by voting for the ballot measure. If it passes, it really will be a disaster for the state.