Taxed Beyond Belief: Tracking One State Rep’s Stand on the Revenue Question

There’s going to be a debate on taxes very soon at the State House and things are getting lively. Representative Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) was having a little fun on Twitter this week with those who support higher taxes, pointing out that at a Tuesday hearing held by the Joint Committee on Revenue, no one from the public had testified in support of a bill that would amend the constitution to allow a progressive income tax. (The reason, of course, is that supporters of more revenue were hard at work advocating for a specific proposal that achieves a measure of progressivity under our present constitution.)

Representative Fattman himself is opposed to any tax increase, whether it’s the $500 million plan proposed by the Speaker and Senate President or proposals that would raise a lot more revenue, like the Governor’s bill. His party is committed to closing the deficit primarily through budget cuts. As Representative Fattman told the State House News Service, “Right now with the way the economy is, especially the people I represent, they can’t pay another cent. They’re taxed beyond belief.”

Opposition to tax increases is not the entirety of the Representative’s platform on revenues, however. He’s also the sponsor of a bill to eliminate the estate tax in Massachusetts. That tax is imposed only on estates worth more than one million dollars, and so, not surprisingly, only about 1000 estates owe any estate tax in a given year. The rates, which are tied to the size of the estate, range from 0.8 percent to 16 percent, which applies to estates of more than $10 million. (The supporting data from our MassBudget friends is here.)

To quote the noted socialist Warren Buffett, “a progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy.” That the threat of plutocracy is real is borne out by the amount of revenue produced by the estate tax. The tax generates well over $200 million dollars per year, even though it affects only 1000 estates annually and even though its highest rate is only 16 percent.

So if the Representative is serious about his proposal to bestow another $200 million on the 1000 wealthiest families in Massachusetts every year, he’ll need to defend that policy when his bill when it comes up for a hearing by the Revenue Committee, and he’ll need to go beyond what his party colleagues are advocating and propose $200 million more in cuts during the budget debate later this month. Otherwise, it would seem that what is being “taxed beyond belief” is the Representative’s credibility. We’ll stay tuned in.

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