Thank you, Charlie Baker, for trying. But as you probably know by now, the governor is no real match for the true kingpins of Massachusetts government.
In case you missed it, Gov. Baker filed a bill this week seeking to resurrect the sales tax holiday, which the Legislature had shot down for two straight years. As he pointed out, the sales tax holiday is one of the most popular things the state government does, and it’s extremely helpful for local merchants who have to compete against tax-free shopping on the Internet. There is a cost to it, of course: about $20 million in lost revenue to the state for the weekend, planned for Aug. 19-20.
The ink was barely dry on the bill when the true lords of the realm – House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg – shot it down, in an almost scolding manner.
“It makes little sense for the governor to file this legislation now when there are several similar bills already in committee,” a statement from DeLeo read. “This year, the Commonwealth experienced unpredicted revenue shortfalls and accordingly, the Legislature had to make significant budget cuts to programs and services.”
“The bill will be sent to the appropriate committee for review, and I will await their recommendations,” Rosenberg’s statement said. “The Commonwealth’s fiscal situation has not really changed.”
In this case, “appropriate committee” means trash can.
Anyone who thinks rank-and-file legislators will rise up in support of Baker’s bill hasn’t observed how Beacon Hill has operated for decades. The House speaker and the Senate president call all the shots on what bills get approved and which get sent to the “appropriate committee.”
But if “unpredicted revenue shortfalls” and the “Commonwealth’s fiscal position” are truly the reasons for spiking the sales tax holiday, I have a solution for the Legislature.
Give back your pay raises.
You remember those raises, don’t you?
Well, if the public has forgotten – and I wouldn’t blame them – they were approved in January while the world’s political eyes were focused on Washington and the beginning of the Trump presidency. It was the first priority in the Legislature’s new session, and it was done quickly and with little debate. The Legislature also included pay hikes for judges and court officials to make it more palatable to the public (“Those hard-working folks deserve a raise!”). And with the overwhelming Democratic majority in the Legislature, leadership had no problem getting the bill approved and overriding the Republican governor’s veto a few days later.
DeLeo and Rosenberg are certainly smiling about it. Their salaries rose from less than $100,000 to more than $150,000, making them the highest-paid legislative leaders in the country.
Like I said, these guys hold all the power. I think most of us would love arranging to give ourselves a 50-percent raise.
So how much did this gift to themselves cost? It’s estimated at $18 million a year, which to me is pretty darn close to what that sales tax holiday costs.
In other words, the 6.25 percent tax you could have saved buying a refrigerator or a new set of tires Aug. 19-20 while giving a boost to struggling retailers will instead go into the pockets of hypocritical politicians.
How about it, Speaker DeLeo and President Rosenberg? Who needs the money, you or us?