Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to Talk Revenue

One Massachusetts is trying to push the issue of revenue the best way possible -- through the grassroots. Deval Patrick and the state legislature have cut the budget this year, through midyear cuts, by over 3 billion dollars. This is on top of cuts that have taken place year after year after year. The result?

Don't you all see it? This state is facing crumbling roads and we can't manage to run a functioning subway system. Teachers are being laid off in every community. In fact, schools often can't even fund substitutes anymore -- forcing students of all classes into study halls when their teachers are absent. Health clinics are being cut. Parents are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars a season so their students can play sport or participate in extracurricular activities -- both things that are proven to help student performance.

Paul Levy made the interesting comment at BMG that we pay anyway. No matter what, we're going to pay. If we don't adequately fund our roads, we run over bad potholes that do hundreds of dollars of damage to our cars. My car, just last winter, ran over a bad pothole, which threw my car out of alignment. If we adequately funded our roads, maybe that wouldn't have happened? Studies have been done that have shown the average person pays hundreds a year to fix their vehicles because of our bad roads. A somewhat modest increase to the gas tax of 15-20 cents could actually save people hundreds a year. The state isn't providing enough funds for schools? We pay anyway -- in cuts to quality, added fees and interest payments on debt schools take on to fund new textbooks. Why pay for something once over when you can pay twice as much?

Some in the State Senate have clung to the utterly meaningless and distracting slogan, "reform before revenue." In reality, it's a do-nothing slogan, because the legislature -- unless we poke and prod them -- doesn't even have the appetite to reform. While it's true that we can't completely tax our way out of problems, we can't "reform" our way out of them, either. We don't need reform before revenue, we need reform and revenue. So, for sure, let's save money where we can, improve services through reform where we can -- but we also need to make sure that our system is adequately funded. If it's not, we'll pay anyway -- and it will probably be by magnitudes more.


Anonymous said...

"Reform over revenue" is not meaningless. Tax increases, especially a gas tax, will not save the average family any money. The state cannot continue to burden the citizens to cover up their mispending habits.
Having attended budget meetings in my town, one of the biggest to them ate "state mandates". If they don't do what the state mandates, they get a cut in funding. Towns can't customize to fit their needs.
State government needs to cut it's own spending (not police, teachers, etc.) Where are the cuts in the state legislature's budget? The whole Easter fiasco should be clue to everyone. The system is broken. You don't put money in a pocket with holes in it. Fix the pocket first.

Ryan said...

If you go through tolls regularly, it saves you money.

If you use public transportation, it saves you money.

If you drive on the roads regularly, you're risking damage to your cars, so this saves you money.

It ensures we don't get hit with a $400 million swaption, which saves us all money.

So, yes, at the end of the day, we can pay a little bit now -- or a lot later on. Paying up now, rather than delaying these costs or expenses, saves us money.

The state legislature has cut $3 billion just this year. Every year, since I can remember, its cut hundreds of millions more. There's some efficiencies left, but a) not enough to cover the real costs to this state and b) they represent costs to our state just to find them and fix them.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the reforms happen in an instant? Nobody public or private should be able to "retire" after 23 years. Nobody should get an extra year added to their service for working one day in the next calendar year. You can't be defending these practices are you?
These egregious practices should be cleaned up in a week, then talk about revenue.

Ryan said...

Note how both of those things are on everyone's reform list in each branch of state government. Your point's moot. So once gov't Patrick signs them into law, I assume you're going to support new revenues for this state?

Anonymous said...

If the ship is being steered toward fisical responsibility then I don't mind throwing some more coal into the engine room. I realize it's tough to turn such a large ship around, but as the news media uncovers these abuses if the Gov reacts quickly and gets all his minions to act I'll cut him some slack. Get some transparency and end the abuse. Otherwise I'd just as soon go down with the ship because the steerage people will lop off their heads before it really affects me personally.

About Ryan's Take