Repeal, but Don’t Forget the Tech Tax


computer_backThe Massachusetts Tech Tax is going to be repealed, and that’s a good thing.

But now that repeal appears certain, all this “let bygones be bygones” stuff is just a little nauseating.

Massachusetts is Democratic state – I assume we can all agree on that much. A state’s political leanings tend to be reflected within any of its sectors and that’s certainly true in the high-tech sector, which tends to skew young.

Tech professionals who support liberal Democratic values recognize the need for tax revenue to fund their agenda, including things like public transportation. But when faced with a Technology Tax that threatened to not just hurt their pocketbooks but to undermine their entire industry and send companies and jobs scurrying for cheaper pastures out of state, well that was a different matter.

It was clear from the earliest grumblings about the software services tax that many professionals in the tech industry found themselves caught between a rock and a hard drive, to coin a phrase. It was the Democratic Party, after all, that had promulgated the dastardly tax. Nearly every Democrat in the legislature had voted for the Tech Tax. Not a single Republican had. As opposition to the Tech Tax grew, it was the Republican minority leading the charge.

Bob Dylan (Bring it All Back Home Sessions)If they were going to reverse a tax that threatened their very livelihoods, for some in the tech industry it was going to make for some very strange bedfellows indeed.

But a wise man once said that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and soon Democrats on Beacon Hill began to detect a hurricane a-brewing.

bruce_tarrOne-by-one, they began to see the light. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr called it “the caucus of the epiphany.”

Enlightenment seemed to dawn first upon the Democratic candidates running for Ed Markey’s old 5th Congressional District seat.

“Thrilled to hear the Governor, the Senate President & Speaker are now on board to repeal the Tech Tax,” tweeted State Senator Karen Spilka, who had initially voted for the katherine_clark052713tech tax, as had her fellow Democratic candidate for Congress, Sen. Katherine Clark, who represents Wakefield.

By the time GOP legislative leaders met with technology professionals for a Tech Tax Roundtable at The Savings Bank a few weeks ago, the epiphany was well underway.

And now that repeal is on the horizon, it seems that all is forgiven.

“Not going to spike the football over tech tax repeal,” tweeted one tech exec last week, “just be glad we all agree it was a mistake.”

Another techie tweeted, “This was not a “D” or “R” issue. The tech tax was just dumb.”

Except that the “D” party passed the dumb tax over the opposition of the vastly outnumbered “R” party.

“Legislators courageous enough to correct their mistakes should not be pilloried for doing so,” tweeted another tolerant techie.

I wonder if such forbearance would be extended to members of the GOP if they reversed course on any issue after caving to public pressure.

That’s a rhetorical question.

Another wise man said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

With lopsided majorities in the both branches of the State Legislature, coupled with the governorship, one party may not hold absolute power in Massachusetts – but it’s pretty close.

You can decide whether that’s led to corruption. It has certainly led to bad decisions.

Like the Technology Tax.

Here’s hoping that the Technology Tax debacle has taught the Massachusetts electorate something about the damage that one-party rule can wreak on an economy and a state.

But I doubt it.

[This column originally appeared in the September 19, 2013 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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