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.