September 28, 2005
Don't make him angry...
The normally mild-mannered Eisenthal Report turns green, grows enormous muscles and busts out of its shirt:
Outgoing Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Eric Kriss gave an interview that appeared in this morning's Boston Globe. In this interview, Kriss said that Massachusetts cities and towns are "in their worst financial shape ever" and that this is "a crisis largely of their own making." Kriss blames "overly generous" salary increases for public employees, a "failure to control" health care costs, and "aversion to development that could spur new tax revenue." These comments can be best described as bizarre and out of touch with the reality that faces local governments in Massachusetts. [my emphasis]
Yup, more victim-blaming from the Romney administration. Really, municipalities are facing the same squeeze that middle-class families are facing: Spiraling health care costs and real estate prices, which make it difficult to develop because it dilutes the tax base. Add Prop 2 1/2 making it impossible to raise revenues to fill the gap, and you've got a nasty squeeze.
I mean, "a failure to control health care costs"? How the hell does the city of Framingham or Leominster or whatever do that? Shouldn't that be the state's job? The feds'?
I came down hard on Charlie Baker -- probably unfairly and on too little information -- for bringing these things to light with Kriss and Romney in the room. If this is what he was objecting to, then he's got a point. My bad.
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This is a classic case of towns, cities, and neighborhoods feeling the effects of systemic problems, and then being told by their "leadership" that they must find the solutions to their problems within their own communities.
Let's face it, the federal government is in a financial crisis, and that has put additional stress on states, counties, municipalities and communities. It's all about choices and values. In 2000, when the current administration inherited record surpluses, they made a choice that reflected their values. Instead of investing in our nation, it's people, and it's future, they chose to line the pockets of the richest 1% of the entire country.
Choices have consequenes and those consequences cannot be ignored. Now, more than ever before, we need creative, innovative leadership at the state and local level to stem this tide. Ultimately, though, what is required, is leadership on the federal level. Leadership that does not say you can have your cake and eat it too, but leadership that says, progress requires tough choices, join with me, let's make them, and move forward in the best tradition of our country.
Posted by: Ben | Sep 29, 2005 10:40:25 AM
Well, I disagree with your categorizations. Truth be told, this real estate price increase should be lining the coffers of the cities and towns, who are primarily funded by real estate taxes. Cities like Cambridge have increased taxes over the last few years and now go by a standard of home resale value, rather than intrinsic worth.
And not all towns are in trouble. The City Of Somerville is doing just fine, largely in part to their sale of lingering municipal property. These sales not only give the city a one-time burst of cash, but it also allows developers to own the land, which means those developers will pay taxes on that land. I really think that most municipalities are in the dark ages when it comes to cleaning house, supporting development, and using their tax dollars wisely.
Posted by: Ed | Oct 2, 2005 5:48:50 PM
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