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A political trade-off gives us higher sales tax

R.I.P. Billy Mays - All the Mighty Mendit in the world won't mend our hearts
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

Well, Gov. Patrick has signed the reform bills on ethics, transportation and pensions and our trade-off is the sales tax will go up.
Huh?
Now isn't reform in the three mentioned areas worthy on its own? I would think so. Did we need generations of people ripping taxpayers off with the old wink-wink pensions and ethics systems? Did we need the redundant bureaucrats in the various state transportation offices and authorities? The folks in the Legislature obviously thought so, because after years of abuse, they needed a carrot to get the job done.
(Standard disclaimer applies here: I don't consider all of the members of the General Court to be knuckle dragging prehistoric types mired in the bog of the politics of the past just some of them. I can feel the pins they are putting in my voodoo doll now. Ouch.)
You see, the governor wanted an increase to the gas tax. He has said repeatedly the Commonwealth needs more money to fix its creaking infrastructure. The Legislature wanted a sales tax increase, instead and a deal was born.
Here's how I view it. In the last two years, Americans have shown an ability to control the amount of gas they use in order to respond to their own economic conditions. An increase in the gas tax would be something I think most people could absorb easier by driving less.
A sales tax increase is something else, though. I think that will hit people harder and possibly affect the across the border shoppers from Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Now, what we really need is legislative reform. We need terms limits. We need binding referendums the Legislature can't overturn. We don't need the state run by a House Speaker who I can't vote for or against.
I understand that all politics are trade-offs, deals and compromises. I can't help but think there must be some absolutes though some matters that are either right or wrong and that these should be addressed without some said benefit.

***
Speaking of the governor, I have had some issues with him and his administration, but for Western Massachusetts this guy has been a prince. Although The Mittster promised he was going to bring jobs to the region, he didn't despite his standing as a big business pooh-bah.
Patrick has brought private sector jobs here. That counts in my book. He gets a gold star and a cookie.
Patrick has also tried to get the public engaged in the process of government. Our form of democracy requires involvement, something which all too many of us seem to allow others to do for us.
I have hope, though, looking around the area that at least some people have embraced the message of activism.
There are a bunch of people running for the new ward City Council positions in Springfield. Residents in under-represented neighborhoods as well as areas that had no voice on the council will now have one.
That's heartening.
Also interesting is the fact that Agawam has five announced candidates interested in the mayor's job.
I think we will see lively races in Westfield and Holyoke as well.
I know it sounds a bit corny and patriotic it is the Fourth of July season but the more people who run for office and the more people actively support change the healthier our local and state governments will be.

***
I know I'm supposed to be all distraught that Michael Jackson died. While I will be first to admit he had tremendous talent, I've always thought his increasingly odd and potentially criminal behavior eventually overshadowed the work he did.
So, I'm not shedding a tear for Jackson, but I was shocked about the sudden and unexpected death of Billy Mays. Yes, he of the loud voice and jet-black beard that's the guy I'm mourning.
Mays was a working class guy who found his own odd niche and worked it for all he was worth. I admire that. In interviews he seemed to be an unpretentious guy who was gleefully all about the sale and the pitch.
It takes real talent to sell stuff as he did when he started at home shows and state fairs and anyone who knows me well knows I am fascinated by these guys.
I was eating lunch at Jake's the other day home of the best fries in the area and a Billy Mays commercial came on. It was just a little spooky and sad.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.


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