The economy is at the front of pretty much everyone’s mind of late. Tonight at 7:30, the Brookline Chapter of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts is sponsoring a forum entitled State Revenue Lost and Found : A Forum on Solving the Fiscal Crisis. Featuring three panelists, Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budge and Policy Center, Peter Enrich, Professor of Law at Northeastern University and Chair of the Progressive Democrats Chapter and Rep. Jay Kaufman (15th Middlesex), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue, the forum focuses on the state’s current financial health and budget process as well as long and short term solutions. This includes discussion of the Act to Invest in Our Communities (SB 1416/HB2553).

The forum is open to the public and will be held in the Selectman’s Hearing room on the 6th floor of Town Hall on 333 Washington St.

Each speaker will address a specific topic during the forum, with Professor Enrich focusing upon the legislative bill. In particular, he will explain the bill’s contents, how it can improve the state’s fiscal health and how citizens can help support its passage.

Professor Enrich explained the state faces two issues; our current tax system does not generate enough revenue to cover critical services and is structured unfairly. Massachusetts currently takes in less revenue than it has historically, and lower income groups are bearing the brunt of it.

The Act to Invest in Our Communities raises the income tax to 5.95% for wealthier tax payers and lessens the burden on middle to low income tax payers by restoring the higher tax rate on unearned income. This would include income such as capital gains and dividends. Enrich noted that retirees and the disabled, who also rely upon unearned revenue sources, will be exempted. The Bill would only impact those in the best position to bear the cost. These changes would raise $1.3 billion, enabling the state to fund critical services such as schools, police, etc. Even with this proposed change, it should be noted that Massachusetts tax burden is lower than many other states.

While the concept of any tax increase is never swallowed easily, Professor Enrich noted that the Bill actually corrects the state’s system so each the tax burden is distributed more equitably across Massachusetts tax payers.

Taxation is a politically risky topic, no matter how you look at it. It is Professor’s Enrich’s belief, however that a groundswell of popular support for the Bill will help build support for it when it comes before the legislature.  To this end, the forum will also explore ways for tax payers to get involved in support of the Bill from setting up group meetings with State Legislators to letter writting.

The Bill is pending in the State Legislature and is expected to come up during the budget debate. It is possible it could be voted on next year.

Catie Hayes, Editor