Members and organizational partners are sharing their experiences and expertise as part of our blog series on our Shared Prosperity Agenda. This week, Patricia Negron from Needham argues that fiscal conservatism means investing smart.
As a business owner, I know that I’m only going to be as successful as the community I serve.
Any good businessperson knows, our transportation infrastructure is paramount to the smooth flow of commerce. Cargo ships, trains, and planes, tractor trailers and delivery trucks bring us all of our critical as well as discretionary goods and raw materials day in and out. This requires properly working, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for our ship and air ports, railways, and roads.
We also know that a properly educated workforce is essential to creating competitive businesses that are positioned to succeed over the long-term. I stress “long-term” because it is expensive for businesses to open and close, for the business owner and employees, but there are implications also for the larger community every time a local business shuts its doors. Dollars previously spent at the business often move out of the community, along with the associated tax revenue, drying up community investment and we all lose, yet again.
Access to affordable healthcare is another matter that just makes good policy sense. When individuals can’t afford the co-pay for a needed doctor’s appointment or the time off from work to go, the delay in care and stress associated with an untreated ailment is not only further harmful to one’s health, it inescapably compromises their work performance. This, in turn, has a direct impact on the performance of the employer, which impairs our collective economic health. And, such forced choices drive up premiums for everyone and leave fewer dollars to circulate in the local economy. These costs hurt all of us.
We can only have a healthy economy within the context of a healthy community. A healthy economy and a healthy community both require investments of capital that, in turn, require open discussion, agreement on priorities, and a strategic plan for achieving them.
The key is in the planning. The current political environment has legislators constantly kicking the can, and failing to do their job in planning for meeting the future needs of the community. Such an approach is doomed to failure in the business world and, clearly, it is failing our communities.
A “return” cannot be generated unless investments are made. We must change the conversation from one of “cost” to one of potential returns, and evaluate our public investments accordingly.
Massachusetts should not be one to just “follow the pack”. Historically, we have led the way with practical solutions to solvable problems. As a fiscal conservative, I want my government to work “smart”, and that means I have to invest the resources necessary for that to happen. And that means we must raise more revenue to “invest smart” in our communities, and we must do so in a way that seeks greater investment from the ones who have benefited the most from our community investments. A truly progressive state income tax, like the federal income tax -- as opposed to our current regressive 5.25% flat state income tax --would generate the revenue we need and do so fairly.
It’s time to reject heated rhetoric about taxes and community investment. When one does their due diligence and properly assesses a public or private investment, progressives and conservatives alike will arrive at similar conclusions about the wisdom of planning for the future. Investing in long-term returns is not a radical, ideological position: it is a time-tested, rational, common sense approach in business, and it is one we must apply to our communities.
See Progressive Massachusetts' full statement on revenue here.
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