On the subject of fees and taxes a pre-The Note Rick Klein reported
in 2003: “A survey of states grappling with spending crises has found that Massachusetts imposed more fee hikes than any other state in the nation this year – at least $500 million. Governor Mitt Romney and the Legislature, faced with a multibillion dollar shortfall, made it more expensive to get a marriage license or a divorce, file a court case, buy a house, renew a driver’s license, or tap into a host of other state services. The governor points out that he helped avoid a broad-based tax increase and says the targeted fee increases for specific services. But taxpayers still feel the bite, even if it’s not in the form of taxes. ‘I’m not surprised we’re number one,’said state Representative Paul C. Casey, a Winchester Democrat and chairman of the House taxation committee. ‘Our approach was to hit every fee in sight.'” Taxpayers didn’t buy the distinction between taxes and fees according to the report: “But fiscal watchdog groups say the avoidance of taxes in Massachusetts was driven by political considerations and didn’t take into account the best way to pay for essential state services. Many of the fee hikes enacted this year raise money for general state operations, not a particular service, leading an outside budget analyst to complain that their broad impact means they’re essentially taxes disguised under less offensive names. ‘These are just indiscriminate, broad-based fee increases because of a reluctance to raise taxes,’ said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. ‘It’s been disingenuous to say there’s no new taxes, in the sense that there’s very little connection to the fee increases and the cost of services that the fees are supposed to represent.'” Groups like Citizens for Limited Taxation
at the time were similarly suspicion about the distinction. Maybe at the next debate in NH the moderator can ask for a show of hands on a “No Tax –or Fee” pledge.