Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beacon Hill Republicans offer no solutions

All I keep hearing from Republican critics of plans to raise revenues to address the state's $4 billion deficit is that we should cut costs first, reform the system, the economy is too weak to withstand new taxes, people will go to New Hampshire to shop, and so on.

The one thing I have yet to read or hear is a plan...or even a portion of a actually do this. Where are the specific plans to cut costs and reform the system so that we don't need to raise taxes and fees?

There aren't any. The Republicans on Beacon Hill have no plan. Instead of proposing specific fixes, they have chosen to demagogue the issue.

Let's take an example from yesterday. Here is a release from Republican State Rep. Karyn Polito:
Well, we all knew it was probably coming. Now it's here.

Yesterday, several leading members of the House and Senate were quoted as saying they are considering increases in the state sales tax and the state income tax as ways to generate revenue to bridge budget shortfalls....

I think new taxes need to be off the table unless and until we make a serious effort to tame irresponsible state spending. I fully acknowledge the important role that our government plays in the lives of everyday people in this state, and I admit there is a price we all have to pay to fund those programs. But, I refuse to ask my constituents to pay more money to support a system that is fundamentally broken.

What do you think?
I will tell you what I think (and thanks for asking). I think it's high time that Rep. Polito and other opponents of plans to raise revenues get specific. What "irresponsible state spending" needs taming? How exactly and specifically will you fix "a system that is fundamentally broken?"

Now, I cut out the three middle paragraphs of her statement, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Please, if you come across a specific cut--even one dollar--in her discussion of the issue please let me know, because I missed it.

It's not enough to be for or against something, there need to be specifics. Whether or not you agree with proposals to raise gas taxes, meal taxes, sales taxes or any other kind of tax (and I have supported some of them), at least the proponents of those measures have been specific in how much revenue they will generate. Citizens are given the information they need to make a decision on whether or not to support a measure.

"Tam[ing] irresponsible state spending" sounds like a great idea, but it is meaningless if there are no specifics regarding what state spending is irresponsible and how much we will save by taming it. As an example, reforming the state pension system sounds like something that needs to be done, but for all of the stories of pension abuse and double-dipping, I haven't heard a discussion of how much money a comprehensive reform plan would save.

The rhetoric can only take us so far. Republicans on Beacon Hill can either snipe from the sidelines or unveil specific, detailed proposals for reform. So far, they have had lots to say, but nothing to offer.

Update: As if on cue, my State Senator Jennifer Flanagan--who I strongly supported during her campaign and still strongly support--circulated this op-ed to local newspapers today suggesting that we need to reform our transportation system before raising gas taxes. Her column does not mention specific numbers, which is a problem because I just don't see how one gains support without presenting evidence. But at least it does refer to a specific bill, Senate President Therese Murray's proposal to save $6.5 billion over 20 years by restructuring the state's transportation system. I'm curious enough to go searching for the details, but how many voters are? Again, if our representatives want to gain support for their proposals, they need to be specific.

OK. So that's a start...$325 million each year. Now we've only got $3.7 billion to go.

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