Over 40 per cent of the income of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services comes from state contracts. We are very thankful that we have just come through the state budget cuts relatively unscathed. However, in order to maintain the quality of services we provide to the Island community we must be constantly vigilant.
Though the income tax question received little attention when it was last on the ballot in 2002, political observers were stunned by 45 per cent of the vote being in favor of eliminating the state income tax. At the time, a gallon of gas cost less than $1.50, home prices were soaring, and the economy, if imperfect, was not the dominant issue.
Voters for months have endured unemployment increases, flat or decreasing wages and home values, a rising cost of living, and, for the last month, have watched with unease and even panic as stock prices plunged and the credit crisis spread around the world.
In these very troubled times, when people feel so much economic uncertainty and anger toward government and Wall Street, it can be very tempting to want to keep the state income tax money you would otherwise pay. However, we should be careful what we wish for.
In all, the state directly employs about 67,000 people at a cost of $5 billion. Others, such as teachers, police, and firefighters, are supported by aid from the state. Still others work at nonprofits like Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, caring for the mentally ill, working with persons who are disabled, and providing the many services that make our lives more livable. That works out to more than 150,000 jobs statewide.
A much-respected business-funded organization, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation issued the following report about the huge consequences of a yes vote on question one.
“After accounting for five legally-mandated state programs, the rest of state government would bear across-the-board cuts of 71.1 per cent with the loss of $12.5 billion in state income tax revenue. The cuts would affect almost all human services programs for children, elderly, and adults, courts prisons, our state colleges and universities, state parks and environmental programs, transportation programs, state employee pensions and health benefits, Registry of Motor Vehicles and other programs.
“Except for that portion of Chapter 70 aid to cities and towns that is legally mandated, state aid to cities and towns would be cut by 71 per cent. The large cuts in local aid would lead to higher property taxes which for many individuals would more than offset their income tax savings.”
In order to provide our many services and programs for the Island community, we need the revenue we receive from the commonwealth. Martha’s Vineyard Community Services needs your help. Please vote no on Question One.
Julia Burgess is executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.