Thousands of Massachusetts teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other municipal employees would have to be laid off, property taxes would rise, and students at the University of Massachusetts, state colleges, and community colleges would see higher charges, if a proposal to cut the state's sales tax passes, according to a new analysis by a respected budget watchdog group.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the resulting massive spending cuts would eliminate or erode a wide range of services -- from education and public safety to health care and human services -- that for decades the citizens of Massachusetts have counted on the government to provide," said the report by the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
Question 3, which will go before voters on the Nov. 2 ballot, would reduce the state sales tax rate, which stands at 6.25 percent, to 3 percent as of Jan. 1. Proponents say it would curb overspending by the state, create jobs, and give each taxpayer nearly $700 annually, while opponents say it would force catastrophic cuts in services.
The MTF, in its report, "Question 3: Heading Over the Cliff," said that cutting the tax would create a $2.5 billion deficit, in addition to a $2 billion deficit that is already expected due to lagging revenues in the tough economy.
With half of the state's $32 billion budget legally required, the $4.5 billion in reductions would have to be spread over $16.9 billion in discretionary spending. That would mean across-the-board cuts of 28.4 percent, the foundation said.
The foundation said in its statement that the cuts would "seriously compromise the core services provided by local government – education and public safety" and would fall most severely on cities and poorer communities.
Carla Howell of the Alliance to Roll Back Taxes, which is advocating for the cut, said in a statement that the report was a "comedy" that ignored "tens of billions of dollars in government waste, pork, patronage, overspending and sweetheart deals" in the state budget.
She said the foundation, which she described as a "business lobby group," had shown its "contempt for the everyday taxpayers who have had to cut family budgets by 20% and more while politicians lavishly grew state spending."
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