Last week the Tax Foundation ranked Massachusetts 23rd in the percentage of personal income that goes toward state and local taxes. Bay Staters are docked 9.5 percent of their paychecks, slightly below the national average of 9.7 percent. (New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are highest; Alaska, Nevada, and Wyoming are at the bottom, with New Hampshire coming in 46th.)
Today the Boston Globe responds with an editorial calling the TF study a "boost" to "efforts to tamp down anti-tax sentiment." The Globe suggests that voters keep our middle ranking in mind when going to the polls this fall:
In November, voters will be faced with a ballot question to eliminate the state income tax. The tax foundation's report shows Massachusetts moving in the right direction. It should help inform a debate based on facts, not slogans.
The Pioneer Insitute begs to differ, with Steve Poftak pointing out that Massachusetts still ranks seventh in per-capita tax burden, and that our fall in the Tax Foundation charts is almost solely due to a rise in personal income:
Now, there’s a school of thought out there that every increase in income deserves a matching increase in taxes, but I don’t go to that school.
I don't think that many people believe that an increase in the state's total income calls for a corresponding increase in tax rates. But if Poftak is suggesting that tax payments shouldn't rise in tandem with higher salaries, then we're really talking about continual cuts in income and sales tax rates -- which means continual cuts in government services, assuming we pay government employees enough so they can continue to live in a state where most people have rising incomes.
Still, I doubt that any 50-state ranking is going to determine the outcome of Question One. As the State House News Service' s Jim O'Sullivan wrote (paid registration required to view article), people are more likely to be thinking of Big Dig overruns, generous public pensions, and "a probate registrar running for re-election with allegations that he’s treating the office copy machine like a piggy bank" (see Globe story) when they decide whether to repeal (at least symbolically) the state income tax:
...smart people with long memories and insight are discussing the prospect that enough voters, their sense of civic duty sated with voting for a new president and for an incumbent lawmaker, could press the “I’m-fed-up button” on Question One to build on the built-in base of anti-tax voters and push the thing over the top.