Monday, June 25, 2007

Information and Misinformation

Taunton voted for a Prop 2 1/2 override as a debt exclusion to fund renovations for their schools. The Boston Globe headline proclaims "In Taunton, even backers stunned by tax-hike OK". How did they do so? There are lessons to be taken from their effort.

... proponents purposefully framed the project as a prudent one-time investment that would save the city millions in the long run. Borrowing $18 million now to avoid paying an estimated $30 million in emergency repairs later, they argued, would only reinforce the city's frugal reputation.

"Taunton people are sensible people: They don't have a lot of money, but they know a good deal when they see it," said John Hoey, a leading supporter of the plan, who has two school-age children.

Hoey said approximately 100 core supporters campaigned aggressively for the project the past two months, canvassing the city to lobby voters and calling 2,500 people the day before the vote, particularly families with school-age children.

Opponents said they had never seen such an effective grass-roots effort in the town. Turnout was 22 percent, an unexpectedly high level for a single-issue election held on a Saturday in June.

This was a good effort and a worthy cause. Debt overrides are sometimes easier to pass than operational overrides. Franklin is a case in point. We just passed our first operational override but have passed debt exclusions for similar school building projects.

Yet, the Globe seems to think this is unusual.

The op-ed column by Joan Vennochi in Sunday's Globe talks about the information and misinformation rampant around this tax situation. Massachusetts is no longer Taxecushetts.

For the business community, generally, and especially for Verizon, this is not Taxachusetts. Businesses in 41 other states pay a greater percentage of their states' total state and local taxes than businesses pay in Massachusetts.

As for Verizon, according to information supplied by the Patrick administration, the company's state and local tax bill in Massachusetts equaled 1.19 percent of its total revenue in 2006; its national tax average was 4.43 percent. And, even as Massachusetts sends Verizon one of the lowest tax bills it receives from anywhere else in the country, Massachusetts ratepayers receive one of the highest Verizon bills in the country.

Unless you're the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, it's hard to get emotional about tax exemptions and loopholes. But maybe it is time to get emotional about the bigger picture here: what is happening in cities and towns across Massachusetts.
Library's closing, services cut, school sports eliminated....

Real information is needed.
Let's put some heads together and come up with a solution that is rational and reasonable.

We will not succeed if we consider "us vs. them", we are all in this together.

We need to consider the commonwealth.

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