That definition of insanity has become a cliché, but it is all that comes to mind when I hear from supposedly learned and thoughtful people that what Massachusetts needs is MORE tax cuts!
Between 1998 and 2002 Massachusetts enacted tax cuts, primarily to the state income tax, that cost us approximately $2.5 billion annually. While the 2008 recession and the stubbornly weak economy has added to our fiscal troubles, this $2.5 billion cut in the state's annual revenue stream is the main cause of our ongoing budget crisis. Year after year we face huge budget deficits that we can only close by using one-time revenue - like the Rainy Day fund - or through draconian cuts to services.
Yet despite these fiscal realities, here is Josh Barro writing an editorial in The Boston Globe advocating for - you guessed it - more tax cuts! Part of his editorial is interesting, if speculative. He posits that the federal Affordable Care Act will result in a significant increase in federal funding for Massachusetts, perhaps on the order of several hundred million dollars annually over the long term, and potentially a larger amount in the shorter term. We'll see if this money actually materializes.
But what is ridiculous is that Barro goes on to suggest that we should spend this money - that we don't have yet - on more tax cuts! Isn't this is the very definition of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? We cut taxes willy nilly ten years ago, and our communities have been paying the price ever since. Local aid cuts, cuts to higher education, cuts to services for the mentally ill and other vulnerable people, an infrastructure in shambles - these are the results of all those tax cuts. Does Barro really think we need more of that?
We need to bring some sane fiscal investment and planning to Massachusetts, not more kneejerk tax cutting in the vague hope that somehow it won't just continue to worsen our situation. If - and that's a big if - there is any new federal funding several years from now as a result of the health care law, let's try something different. Let's use whatever money comes our way to invest in our communities and work towards the kind of Commonwealth in which we all want to live, work and raise a family.