Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My View: Only In Massachusetts Does Investments Actually Mean Higher Taxes

Today, we present the fifth and sixth installment in our series dedicated to the eight public hearings for the Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. This edition of My View comes to us from Representative Angelo D’Emilia.

During the most recent Ways & Means hearings, my colleagues and I heard testimony regarding the Commonwealth’s health and human services. After listening to several agencies falling under our Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) testify, a message of an improved quality of health and life for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents was apparent.

EOHHS Secretary John Polanowicz discussed the Governor’s $119.7 million increase in FY14 for EOHHS. While there are many adults, children, disabled persons and those with developmental disabilities that are in much need of these important and necessary services, those services are becoming more difficult to provide. With that being said, I feel that we need to do a better job of managing the resources that we do have. We must realize that not only are these populations struggling, but many families are on the brink of not being able to afford to keep a roof over their heads or food on their family’s table. We have the ability to provide for these populations if we manage our resources properly.

For example, an area of concern which was discussed at the two most recent hearings was the crisis and subsequent fallout from the drug tampering scandal at the Hinton Crime Lab. This never should have happened in the first place and our agencies are going to need to work to restore the public’s confidence in our system. I think this could be achieved by more transparency and better oversight.

Another area which was discussed on a recurring basis was the fungal meningitis outbreak from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham. Our Governor has proposed a $548.9 million budget for the Department of Public Health, which is a $32 million increase from FY13. Unfortunately, at the end of the day it is the hard working men and women of this state who are going to pay for this lack of oversight, another example of poor management.

A common theme to date through all of the testimony has been the use of the word “investment.” I am finding that here in Massachusetts the definition of this word really means higher taxes. The Governor’s proposal for $1.9 billion in new taxes is outrageous when we continue to hear about waste, fraud and abuse occurring within certain state agencies. The Department of Transitional Assistance, and the state’s Electronic Benefits Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are all prime examples. Perhaps if we started by addressing these issues we could begin to discuss solutions for our fiscal needs.

After listening to these agencies I am seeing areas where the state has a real opportunity for improvement and savings. For example, verifying that individuals who apply for the taxpayer funded assistance benefits are in fact who they say they are. Additionally, tightening up the residency requirements for DTA applicants and changing our EBT benefits to a cashless system is a must. These are just a few areas where we could improve before raising taxes.

In this day and age the best thing we could do for the hard working men and women of the Commonwealth, the property owners, and the small business owners is to tax them less. Keep the dollars they earn in their pockets to spend as they see fit so that they may provide for their families. As that happens, the economy will expand and revenues will grow.

I have, and will, continue to listen for some possible solution to our current economic crisis. Unfortunately, at this time, I have not heard one.