Monday, August 26, 2013

"Tech tax? What tech tax?"

"Tech tax? What tech tax?"

What do you bet, that's what every Massachusetts Democrat is going to say leading up to the 2014 elections next year?

The reason is simple. We predict Massachusetts Democrats will repeal the tax next year – right around the time signature papers are due, and in plenty of time to take (bogus) credit for "cutting taxes" right before the general election.

Can't you see the headline in the Boston Globe right now:

"Legislature votes to cut taxes."

Now, let's be honest here. Massachusetts Democrats are absolutely the ones to blame for the tax in the first place. And, the tax is a really bad idea; it's a job-killer. Some Democratic legislators have already gone on-record saying they're against it, which is like a canary in the mine.

Here's what will happen:

GOP leaders are already talking about a tax-repeal campaign, which would require a large expenditure of money and resources to get going. While the GOP prints up signs protesting the tech tax, Mass. Dems will be waiting in the background, counting the tax dollars as they come in.

Then, magically, Dems on Beacon Hill will have an epiphany next spring. First, they will try to convince voters that the economy isn't doing too bad. This is a good election year message for the party in control by itself, but it also will serve as the basis for Dems to claim they can repeal the tax.

And, so – alacazaam, alacazoom.... Some lucky Dem who's facing a tough race will propose an amendment, and the tax will suddenly go "poof" with the blessing of leaders, who have been planning that all along. Democrats will claim they cut taxes and get credit for it, albeit improperly. The GOP, meanwhile, will be stuck with an obsolete initiative as the cornerstone of its campaign... and a bunch of useless signs.

Don't get us wrong. The GOP is absolutely right to call out Democrats for enacting the tax; we support them 100%. The Democrats badly over-reached on this one. But, even so, this may not be the Holy Grail for 2014 the GOP is making it out to be. And, it's no surrogate for having a much bigger, bolder, broader vision to serve as the basis for a reform campaign next year. The GOP should be careful not to put all of its eggs in one tax basket.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How taxes and open road tolls could become an EZ-Pass for GOP candidates in 2014

What if your local cable provider jacked your monthly bill, telling you that they needed the money to provide you better service? And, what if just a few weeks later, you found out that they were actually spending half of the money to make it easier for them to bill you, instead of doing anything to improve your cable service?

We're guessing you'd be upset. But, then again, if there wasn't another cable company in town, or if there was one but you didn't think they offered a better option, would you switch or stay?

In a nutshell, that's exactly the conundrum facing Massachusetts voters these days. And, if Massachusetts Republicans don't see this as a terrific opportunity to show voters how they could run the state better, it will be a huge wasted opportunity.

Just a few weeks ago, Democratic state lawmakers enacted a $500 million tax increase allegedly aimed at fixing certain transportation problems here in Massachusetts.

The transportation finance package included a hefty increase in the state's gas tax, now 24 cents a gallon. Making matters worse, Democratic lawmakers also for the first time added automatic escalators to the gas tax so it would rise each year along with the rate of inflation starting in 2015. It also included a highly-controversial move to levy a sales tax on certain technology services, and it increased the state excise on the sale of cigarettes by $1 to $3.51 per pack. And, as usual, we were told this money was needed to "fix our state's crumbling infrastructure" and to forestall MBTA fair hikes.

Just days later, the Turnpike announced that it's reinstating the tolls on the Western Turnpike. And now, today, the Turnpike is announcing that it's going to spend $250 million constructing open road tolling apparatus along the Turnpike.

So, let's put this all together and boil it down to its simplest form: The state is going to collect an additional $500 million from Massachusetts taxpayers, half of which is going to be spent building a new system to allow the state to collect even more money from Massachusetts drivers at the speed of light and track your travels with precision.

This sort of nightmare could only happen in a state like Massachusetts. These taxes and tolls aren't just bad, they're truly obnoxious and offensive. It's literally highway robbery. What's worse, it's exactly the sort of "Beacon Hill shell game" Governor Patrick led Democrats to campaign against when he first took office.

Yet, the very same people who levy these higher taxes keep getting returned to office, while the GOP (as the party offering an anti-tax message) sees its numbers dwindling.


Running for office is essentially a job interview where the voters are the employer and the candidate is the recruit.

Any successful applicant for any job needs three basic things to land the position – you need to show you're qualified, you need to be likable, and you need to convince your employer you could do a better job than anyone else could.

Individual candidates stumble for many different reasons, some personal, but generally it's the third part of that test that Massachusetts Republicans mess up. Republicans consistently fail to convince Massachusetts voters that they could do a better job actually running Massachusetts (that is, solving the problems that actually confront us) than the Democrats could – even if Democrats mess up, and even if Republican candidates seem highly-qualified and if the conservative principles they expound seem logical and ring true with taxpayers.

Let's face it. Nobody actually likes paying higher taxes. But, people also don't want crumbling roads any more than they want under-performing schools or ineffective health care. As misguided as we think Democrats may be by trying to raise taxes to solve every problem, Republicans will not beat them unless they offer opposing conservative plans that are credible, viable and sufficient, or unless they convince voters that the solutions to certain problems simply should not be found in the public sector. Voters will always vote for an expensive solution over no solution at all – and when the GOP fails to offer real solutions to problems, that's how you end up with a blue state like Massachusetts.

Trust us. Even in this supposedly true-blue state, Massachusetts voters will support a tax-cutting GOP reformer over a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat any day of the week – but ONLY if they think the GOP candidate is qualified, likable, and that they can actually get the job done. And, GOP candidates can only prove the last element by proving that they have conservative plans which are credible, viable, and sufficient to address the problems on voters minds, or that voters would actually be better off by having problems addressed outside of government instead of by the government itself. For example, instead of just (rightfully) trashing the gas tax, Republicans need to come forward with a real plan for addressing all of our state's transportation needs. There are lots of smart people in the Republican Party, and we have no doubt that plan is sitting out there somewhere. It just needs to be brought forward to the voters.

So, if you're a GOP candidate thinking about running for office in 2014, here's our advice. Put on your thinking cap. And don't just trash the other side. Sure, talk about how they're wrong, but offer good ideas and a real alternative in the process. Massachusetts needs a strong Republican Party again. Stand up. Be a leader. Get the job done.