Progressive Mass – 188th Senate Scorecard – 2013-2014

188th SENATE SCORECARD (2013-2014) (for more scorecards, click here)Scorecard_SENATE_2013-2014.jpg

We research and compile this material for progressives to assess legislators’ voting records. Read more about our scorecard process, its virtues and limitations, here. We welcome you to use and share this material, with attribution! 

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Don’t know who your State Senator is? Find out here: progma.us/whoismylegislator.

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Fixing the MBTA Imperative for Our Economy: PM Member Robert Fitzpatrick in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe West  - March 22, 2015. 

Does the state need to adopt additional tax increases to address the problems of the MBTA and its overall transportation needs? 

Robert Fitzpatrick

Yes

By Robert Fitzpatrick, Newton attorney, member of Progressive Massachusetts and secretary of the Newton Democratic City Committee.

None of this is new. In 2009, a similar commission appointed by Governor Patrick found that the MBTA’s “Forward Funding” scheme adopted in 2000 was based on unrealistic cost and revenue assumptions and concluded that the “Outlook Is Bleak.” Even with five fare hikes since 2001, the T runs at a structural operating deficit and has taken on significant additional debt.These are tough times for Boston commuters. Record snowfall totals this winter created massive traffic snarls and shone a harsh spotlight on the MBTA’s deficiencies. In February the T’s general manager resigned and Governor Baker appointed a commission to study the agency’s problems.

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Medicare for All? PM Director Ben Wright in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe South  - March 21, 2015. 

Should Massachusetts adopt a single-payer healthcare system? 

Yes

By Ben Wright, director of Progressive Massachusetts. Ben has worked on electoral and issue campaigns on the South Shore, including, updating the bottle bill and raising the minimum wage.

Massachusetts should adopt a single payer health care system to improve individual health outcomes, expand care to everyone, and reduce costs for both individuals and the government.

In 2012, per capita health care spending was $8,233, more than 2.5 times higher than most developed nations. However, we have proportionately fewer physicians and hospital beds, and our life expectancy increases since 1960 are below those of other developed nations, according to a PBS news report.

We have a huge spending problem, and single payer is the simplest solution. With so many other priorities – including education, transportation and infrastructure -- we should be implementing solutions that will reduce costs to society and improve care.

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Fixing the T Requires Investment: PM Member Kevin Loechner in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe South  - March 14, 2015. 

Should we increase taxes to fix the T?

YES

kloech.jpgBy Kevin Loechner of Hull, member of Progressive Massachusetts, Democratic activist and daily mass transit commuter.

If you have ridden public transit lately, you know how frustrating it has been. The experience on our roads hasn’t been much better. Traffic on Route 3A has increased due to major delays and breakdowns on the MBTA’s Greenbush Line and ice in Hingham Harbor. The unusually brutal winter has magnified the underlying structural problems within our transportation infrastructure.

A 2009 report identified more than $3 billion in deferred MBTA maintenance costs. These costs have probably gone up since then. The Federal Highway Administration in 2014 said more than 50 percent of the state’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Clearly these issues need to be fixed, and due to the costs involved we will need to increase some taxes in order to pay for them. The recent winter breakdown of our transportation system is a stark reminder that we need a comprehensive funding plan. 

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Regressive Tax Structure Helps the Richest, Hurts Communities: PM Member Chris Matthews in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe South  - March 7, 2015. 

Should the state adopt a graduated income tax?

YES

11008985_10204095494287850_478943708_n.jpgBy Chris Matthews of Scituate, member of Progressive Massachusetts and Treasurer of the Plymouth County Democratic League.

The MBTA is falling apart, property taxes are rising annually, and Governor Baker recently cut desperately needed substance abuse funding to balance the budget. The time has come for Massachusetts to join the majority of states in implementing a progressive income tax to increase revenue and reinvest in our communities.

Today every Massachusetts taxpayer, from CEOs earning millions to waitresses earning $3.00 per hour, pay the same income tax rate of 5.15%. But when we look at the total state and local tax burden, which pays for services, infrastructure and education, the richest 1% only pay between 4.8-6% of their income, while the poorest Massachusetts taxpayers pay 10.1%.

This means we’re overtaxing those least able to contribute while giving a discount to those most able - a regressive tax structure. Instead, we could increase tax rates based on income with a graduated income tax, like our federal tax system, increasing fairness.

Despite our needs and continuing budget woes, our income tax rate has actually decreased, from 5.95% in 2000 to 5.15% today. That’s meant less money for improving education and public transit and local aid, leading to cancelled trains, growing class sizes, and unsafe roads and bridges.

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Muddling Along, Makeshift Fixes and Misdirection: Analysis of Gov. Baker's FY2016 Budget Proposal

budget.jpg

Analysis by Robert Fitzpatrick, Progressive Newton

On March 4, Governor Charlie Baker released his proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2016, which starts this July 1. The new Governor’s first budget proposal – and the reaction of some Democratic legislators to it – contains some positive developments but a lot more to be concerned about.

 

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Structural Deficits: The Price of Tax Cuts

The Boston Globe recently reported there's an expected $1.5 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2016.

This is an alarming figure, and as both the Republican Governor and the Democratic Speaker of the House have ruled out any tax increases, we can expect yet another round of cuts to our already slashed budgets and agencies.

Already we hear many voices rail against "living beyond our means" and the need to tighten belts further. But this narrative always leaves out an important piece of the story of our structural deficit -- we've lost $3.3 billion in FY2015 ALONE because of tax cuts enacted 1998-2002:

IvestinMA_-_Cost_of_Tax_Cuts.JPG

via Mass. Budget and Policy Center

Given the massive reduction in our revenues, it should not be a surprise that we are repeatedly facing budget shortfalls. But now that we've lived through this cycle -- and are seeing the disastrous results of underinvestment and austerity -- we need to reject the simplistic and false narrative of "overspending" and talk about how we've been underfunding.

Why is it always more cuts -- to programs and investments that have already been cut -- but never restoring lost revenue? Especially when our tax system is so unfair

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Legislatures Matter: John Oliver

State Legislatures and their work are easy to ignore. There's no "Beacon Hill" segment on the nightly Maddow show, and even local media coverage is inconsistent and limited. But John Oliver, hilariously, explains exactly why you should care -- and why we work to keep you abreast of what you need to know to pressure our MA State House to enact progressive priorities. 

Legislatures -- wielding a terrifying amount of influence, safe in the knowledge that no one will be paying attention! 

Do you know who YOUR State Representative and State Senator are? Find out: progma.us/whosmylegislator-ma --then add your legislators to your contacts! They need to hear from you, regularly! (Calls and Emails are best -- but social media contact can help too). 

We have Social Media and official contact info for State Legislators, on our Resource page: progressivemass.com/maleg

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Snowpocalypse: Laying Bare The Wages of Austerity and Under-Investment


The snowstorms have highlighted the dangers of slashing budgets -- things fall apart. We can do better. Help convince the Massachusetts Legislature -- it's time to invest in MA. 


The transportation debacle at the MBTA, after the historic snowfalls, has people talking about what happens when you don’t invest in infrastructure. Even the media have started paying attention.

But this story is bigger than just the T.

The system’s collapse foreshadows what is in store for ALL our public services and infrastructure:

> Our cities and towns are losing crucial local aid money

> In some places, the quality of our education system is dropping, while we are siphoning money to for-profit charter schools, many of which cost more and provide no benefits over the public schools they are replacing

> We have a substance abuse crisis in the Commonwealth, and too often those most in need are denied beds, or diverted into the criminal justice system, which only exacerbates the problem.

> Public higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for the middle class, saddling more and more young people with crippling debt.

After over a decade of cutting budgets to the bone, we need significant reinvestment in Massachusetts, and that takes revenue.  We CAN raise revenue to reinvest in Massachusetts, simply by asking that everybody pays their fair share--and right now, the wealthiest in Massachusetts are not.*

With just a small increase on taxes for those earning over half a million dollars a year, which ensures everyone pays their fair share, we could raise over $2.1 billion dollars in revenue, and revitalize our Commonwealth.

This MBTA crisis crystallizes what happens when you don’t invest, and it should be an object lesson for all our public sectors. 

Now is the time for political leadership, but we know that Beacon Hill has passed on opportunities to lead in the past. The grassroots must insist that that the right message is heard -- and that legislators act on it.

We can do so much better, and now is time to reach out to your legislators and start working with them to create bold economic and social change (review our 2015-16 Shared Prosperity Legislative Agenda here). And we must continue to work on this message until there we see political leadership and real change.

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Our Taxes Are Unfair: PM Member Amanda Smith in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in the Boston Globe North section - February 8, 2015

Should Massachusetts consider adopting a graduated income tax?

Yes

amandas.jpgBy Amanda Smith, Malden Democratic activist and member of Progressive Massachusetts

If you ask most people, fairness is something we value strongly. But our income tax system here in Massachusetts is incredibly unfair, and it fails to generate adequate revenue to fund important public services that make Massachusetts a place where businesses thrive and people want to live.

We have a flat tax system, which our state Constitution mandates. By taxing everyone at the same rate, a flat tax overly burdens low and middle income families while taxing the very wealthy the least. A family making $30,000 or $100,000 is taxed at the same rate as a family making $1 million or $10 million [see fig. 1 below for more on how taxes disproportionately burden lower income families]. So the responsibility of funding public services falls disproportionately on those who are the most strapped financially — especially in a high cost of living state like ours — while those who’ve been doing very well for decades avoid paying their fair share.

According to a recent survey by WalletHub, Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of a flat tax and instead favor progressive taxation, where people pay income taxes in accordance with their ability to pay. In such a system, the wealthiest families pay a higher percentage than low and middle income families. It makes complete sense to me: low and middle income families have less income to contribute, while the wealthiest are more able to pay and arguably have benefited the most from our stable system of government and community infrastructure.
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