Our View: Baker pulls a rabbit out of the hat with the 1986 Reimbursement Act | Editorials


“I’m sure Barbara Anderson is up there watching us with a smile as she raises her fist in the heavens.”

— Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation

In 1986, Barbara Anderson, founder of Citizens for Limited Taxation, in conjunction with the Mass. High Tech Council, drafted a successful ballot question that requires the state to return money to taxpayers when state tax revenue increases by more than wages and salaries in the same year.

Anderson, as historians and state government buffs may recall, was the tax-cutting pioneer who is famous for passing the 2-1/2 Proposition, another ballot question. success that has limited the annual increase in property taxes that cities and towns are allowed to charge. at 2.5 percent. While the 2-1/2 Proposition limited local tax increases, the 1986 ballot question sought to limit state tax increases.

The only problem is that, except for one other time — in 1987 — the growth in tax revenues has never exceeded the growth in wages and salaries. Enter the current year. While the final tallies have yet to be certified by state auditor Suzanne Bump – which she will do in September – it is clear that the amount of tax revenue collected by the state far outweighs the increase in wages and salaries. treatments this year.

As reported in Sunday’s edition of The Eagle-Tribune by Statehouse reporter Christian Wade, “Governor Charlie Baker said on Thursday that, based on the state’s strong tax collections – which have increased by 20% over the past year – he expects the law to be triggered for the first time in decades, with estimates of more than $2.5 billion in potential taxpayer rebates.

That $2.5 billion would be added to residents’ reimbursement checks next year. For someone earning $75,000, that would mean a refund of around $250. This is in addition to several other reimbursement programs being considered by the Legislative Assembly and the Governor this year.

House and Senate negotiators are working this weekend — through the midnight Sunday deadline at the end of the legislative session — on a “series of expanded tax credits and/or resident rebate checks of Massachusetts that could total $1 billion,” according to a report in Commonwealth Review. “The package includes extensive tax relief for renters, elderly people who own their own homes, children and people on low incomes. The package also includes rebates of $250 to $500 for low-income residents and a steep estate tax cut.

This last-minute jockey — along with Baker’s invocation of the 1986 ballot refund issue — was likely entirely avoidable and demonstrates the unfortunate dynamic at the Statehouse. Baker has been pushing for tax cuts for months, tabling legislation that would have cut the gas tax for a few months as well as other measures that have been snubbed by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

Statehouse Republicans, a largely ignored and powerless minority, have been on the right side of the issue, along with Baker.

In times of historic inflation, the right thing to do is to give taxpayers a break. Indeed, it is something that Barbara Anderson, who died in 2016, understood 35 years ago when she pushed for the passage of the refund referendum. As Chip Ford said, she’s probably pumping her fist as she gazes at Massachusetts, decried for so many years as “Tax-a-chusetts.” This nickname seems to have been abandoned, thankfully, although taxes are still high in this state.

But it would be an appropriate thing to do – perhaps in memory of Barbara Anderson if not for the taxpayers – to implement this reimbursement program approved by voters in 1986 and end the tax once and for all. ‘Tax-a-chusetts’ insult.

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