The state’s tax agency says taxpayers overpaid in the last fiscal year and are owed a $3 billion rebate under a 1986 voter-approved law that caps tax revenues. The next step is for the state auditor to double-check the math and then taxpayers will receive a $250 rebate, on average.
The Department of Revenue completed its work before its statutory deadline, and the state auditor should do the same. While Chapter 62F gives the auditor a Sept. 20 deadline, she can give her thumbs up earlier.
There are two big reasons to expedite the rebates. First, taxpayers struggling with inflation on everything from groceries to gasoline could use a hand. Second, the sooner the money is returned to the taxpayers, the sooner we remove the temptation by the Legislature to change the law and redirect the money to their pet projects.
These tax dollars are your hard-earned money and belong in your bank account. But without checks and balances in our state government the majority party on Beacon Hill may have conveniently overlooked Chapter 62F and hoped no one noticed.
In late July, Gov. Charlie Baker reminded lawmakers that Chapter 62F could kick in due to a huge revenue surplus. Legislative leaders acted surprised even though the state law is no secret. House Speaker Ron Mariano raised the specter of changing the 62F rebate law, and he put the brakes on approving a $4.4 billion economic development bill — even though state government has enough surplus to pay for both the 62F rebate and the massive spending package.
This is why checks and balances are critical, and it’s why as a candidate for state auditor, I am using this bully pulpit to urge the auditor to act expeditiously and not succumb to any pressure to reduce or block the tax rebate. I have assembled a coalition of 24 taxpayers who, under state law, may take the Legislature and state auditor to court, if necessary, to enforce Chapter 62F and compel the rebate.
Looking at the Legislature’s recent economic development bill, it’s clear this money should be in the hands of the taxpayers. The massive spending bill includes $5 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute to pay down debt; $750,000 for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for a “digital infrastructure program;” $3 million in a giveaway to corporate movie theater chains; and scores of questionable earmarks. If the Legislature plans to spend $4.4 billion on pork like this, what would they do with an additional $3 billion if it’s not rebated?
If not for a two party system of checks and balances, my hunch is Chapter 62F would have been overlooked, and legislators would be gladly spending the rebate money on pet projects. That’s why I’m running to be an independent auditor, to be a watchdog loyal to the people of Massachusetts, and to bring checks and balances to Beacon Hill. Now it’s up to the auditor to resist pressure from her own party and approve the rebate. If she does not, my message is simple: “We will see you in court.”
Anthony Amore is a Winchester resident and Republican candidate for Massachusetts state auditor.