If states won't raise the revenue needed for local needs, the least
they can do is let those cities and towns tax themselves. At least
that's the proposal by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who this week proposed eliminating some of the restrictions
that prevent Boston and other towns from raising local revenue through
sales taxes, meals taxes or many other fees that comparable cities
use. This proposal joins a slew of other proposals for expanding local
One of the most politically challenging, and politically assailable,
decisions a legislator can make is a vote increasing legislative pay.
Yet, with legislative pay a mere pittance in most states, increasing it
is necessary to prevent wealth from becoming a prerequisite to
hold public office.
Since the Bush administration first recognized the genocide in Darfur, over 250,000 men,
women, and children have died. This number does not count the countless
women and children that have been raped or attacked as a result of the
Sudanese government's campaign to kill and drive out Darfur's ethnic
African populations. The violence and genocide is now spilling over
into Chad and the Central African Republic. Yet, even with such
horrifying statistics, the situation deteriorates day by day.
Even with the good news that came last Tuesday, all too much evidence exists that the basic machinery of democracy in America is broken. Election Day is like Groundhog Day and the first stories of problems with voting machines, long lines, or voter intimidation hit the wires in the early A.M. Fortunately, with progressives in control in more states than ever before, we have an opportunity to get the machinery working, so that the engine of democracy starts humming again.
A number of state leaders have been promoting what seems like a free
lunch. Hand over control of government services to private industry and
those companies promise better service at a lower price. Like most
promises of a free lunch, privatization has mostly ended up being a
deceptive boondoggle, a point the non-partisan news sourceStateline.org emphasized this past week:
In Indiana, critics are condemning
a rushed $1 billion privatization of the states' social services work
-- despite the fact that the companies bidding on the contract have
mismanaged similar contracts in other states and, more tellingly, no
one even bothered to determine whether the companies could do the job
cheaper than current state employees:
Hawaii is the latest state moving in that direction with a proposed Hawaii Innovations Fund which could grow to $200 million in government funds over four years to invest in Hawaii's renewable energy, life science and technology companies.
We've written before about the new 75-year lease of an Indiana
toll road to a Spanish-Australian partnership, and the bad deal for
taxpayers and democracy that it represents. The state's largest
consumer group filed a lawsuit yesterday saying that the deal was so bad that it violates the state constitution. The Citizens Action Coalition
argues that the state constitution requires lease proceeds to pay down
public debt, rather than diverting long-term returns from a lease to
immediate public spending. The lawsuit highlights the core problem with
this kind of privatization -- it's essentially a theft from future
taxpayers and consumers to help pay for government spending today.