Friday, March 8, 2013
Governor Patrick's figures don't add up
Our governor is on a statewide campaign to drum up support for his investment (aka taxation) plan that will beef up our transportation infrastructure and education services. The goal? Raise an additional $1.9 billion a year with about half going to each of the above.
He’s pushing legislators to cozy up to his plan by sending us maps of our districts and how much of the $1.9 billion we’ll get each year. There’s no calculation of what it will cost, of course, but I put my pencil to paper and did some of my own calculating.
To arrive at a figure for my district’s cost of the proposed 19% income tax increase, I averaged 258 income tax returns I prepared for people who live in the 5th Barnstable District in 2011 and adjusted the number to coincide with average household income here. The result? Roughly $11 million in new income taxes. (Keep in mind that this is only personal income tax hikes; the governor's proposal also includes $230 million of corporate income tax increases statewide.)
Then I had to figure how much we’d save by having a 4.5% sales tax. This one’s tougher to calculate because a good chunk of that sales tax is paid by out-of-district tourists and second homeowners. (Actually, this is a very strong reason not to reduce sales tax in favor of a higher income tax.) I came up with $4 million for my district.
Netting the two (and this ignores the governor’s plan to index the gas tax and other fees), you get a 5th Barnstable District cost of about $7 million.
And what do we get back for this $7 million annual investment? According to the governor’s charts, $7 million ($5.5 million in education spending and $1.5 million in transportation spending). Pretty even exchange, right? Not so fast.
It turns out that the governor includes all of the school aid increases for the four towns that I represent. Other than the six precincts in Sandwich, I only represent one of fifteen precincts in Plymouth, two of thirteen precincts in Barnstable, and three of seven precincts in Bourne.
Plymouth's increase is $3.2 million, for example. If you look at Rep. deMacedo's chart, it also shows $3.2 million for Plymouth. And if you pull up Rep. Calter's chart? Yep. Again, $3.2 million for Plymouth. I've heard of double-counting things in a budget, but triple-counting is really pushing it. The same thing happens in Barnstable for Rep. Mannal, Rep. Turner and me, as well as in Bourne for Rep. Vieira and me.
So what's the real increase in education funding promised by the governor to the 5th Barnstable District? Paring down the governor's numbers by allocating by number of precincts in each town, he is promising us $664,000. Not $5.5 million. That's a pretty big overstatement. For transportation funding, the governor's unadjusted number is $1.5 million, whereas the real number is $613,000.
Let me summarize the governor's plan. We send $7+ million more a year to Beacon Hill and we get back $1.3 million. I don’t know about you, but if someone came knocking on my door to sell this investment plan, I’d shut it.
(Click on the charts below for a larger image. See all the charts at http://www.mass.gov/governor/agenda/choose-growth.html.)