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Tax Talk is Taking Over

Tax Talk is Taking Over

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Published by: perrytruthteam on Oct 17, 2011
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The Boston HeraldOctober 6, 2002
Tax talk is taking over
By Elisabeth J. BeardsleyHeavy-duty tax talk - hiking taxes, cutting taxes, even outright abolishing taxes - hassuddenly overtaken the gubernatorial race as the state's fiscal crisis deepens.Republican Mitt Romney has morphed his message into all-taxes-all-the-time, whilefending off charges of tax squishiness from Democrat Shannon P. O'Brien - who has ahistory of backing tax hikes.Meanwhile, Libertarian Carla Howell, newly admitted to some televised debates, is risingon the right flank with a ballot question to get rid of the $ 9 billion income tax.The candidates are all publicly decrying recession-era tax hikes, but at the State House,where the dollars are doled out, activists are already agitating for stacks of new levies.And legislative leaders - struggling to plug a structural deficit in excess of $ 1 billion -are increasingly desperate for ways to ward off hundreds of millions of dollars in looming budget cuts.Pro-tax and anti-tax forces agree: The tax hikes are coming, and might well dwarf lastyear's $ 1.2 billion dive into taxpayers' pockets."It's all but inevitable - it will not be a trivial tax increase," said Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts Director Jim St. George, who is organizing a drive to repeal business tax breaks and ratchet up the income tax - again.Added tax-cutting crusader Barbara Anderson: "We're looking at tax increases for the restof our lives."Recovering from what some have called a weak debate showing Tuesday night, Romneyhas tried to seize the conservative high ground by accusing O'Brien in every other breathof being a reflexive tax-and-spender.Yesterday, Romney highlighted the high-tax plight of a Lynnfield family that's strugglingto raise four kids on a $ 50,000 income.But after a short stint on that high ground, Romney - who raised the ire of party hardcores by refusing to sign a "no new taxes" pledge - will be back on the defensive this week when he faces down the tax-abolishing Libertarian candidate.Slated to take the debate stage for the first time on Wednesday during a debate on WB-56
TV, Howell says she'll come out with guns blazing - trying to peel away Romney'sconservative base and force O'Brien Democrats to see the light.Like O'Brien, Howell pointed to chinks in Romney's anti-tax armor - policy proposalslike higher taxes for SUVs and new "assessments" on green space developers."He's a high-tax, big-government Republican," Howell said. "He's perfectly happy to bethe guy in charge of a bloated, greedy ever-growing state government. Same withShannon O'Brien."The sudden outbreak of tax talk isn't merely political rhetoric - the new governor willdetermine the veto dynamics in the Legislature, and therefore whether and which taxhikes can be pushed through.Lawmakers last year struggled to scrape together the two-thirds majority vote necessaryto override acting Gov. Jane M. Swift's veto of a $ 1.2 billion package that hiked fiveseparate levies.But legislative leaders were never able to round up two-thirds support for even steeper tax hikes - even though a majority of members in both branches backed raising theincome tax rate to 5.6 percent.Lawmakers are already whispering that a Democratic governor would mean they couldget away with hiking taxes on a simple majority.In the state Senate - where a new president will be elected in January to replace losingDemocratic contender Thomas F. Birmingham - leaders are openly calling to hike theincome tax to 5.6 percent, repeal corporate tax breaks, and impose new taxes on gas andalcohol.The tax-hike sentiment is growing as the damage from last year's $ 900 million in program cuts begins to sink in, said Senate Health Care Committee Chairman Richard T.Moore (D-Uxbridge). "It's not going to be something we'll be thrilled about, but it'ssomething we're going to have to look at," said Moore, a candidate for Senate president.But the movement could falter in the more conservative House - where members appear to be exhausted with tax hikes after going along with Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's $1.2 billion package last year.Finneran said it's "too early" for a general discussion of taxes - but he put an immediatespike in liberals' drive to foist new taxes onto businesses, which escaped last year'sincreases unscathed.The so-called "Fidelity tax break" and its parallel tax break for manufacturers make aneasy "symbolic" target, but don't involve a "significant sum" of money, Finneran said.

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