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Widmer Reminds Us Who Pays His Bills

Whenever there is a question about taxes in Massachussetts, Michael Widmer is never far from a microphone. He is a fixture in press releases and news articles.

He’s particularly popular when there is talk about the personal income tax: he predicts doom and gloom if the voter-enacted income tax decrease to 5% is ever implemented. His quotes provide cover for every legislator who is unable to make hard choices in government spending. He advocates highway tolls. He likes local option taxes – the ones paid by individuals, anyway. You can find his quotes attached to everything from healthcare to transit projects.

He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and the press is entitled to quote him. The only thing that drives me crazy is when the press pretends that he’s an independant voice. His organization is called the “Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.” But which taxpayers exactly does he represent? Boston.com:

Michael Widmer, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, was scathingly critical of Patrick’s plan.

“The proposal provides limited property tax relief at a high cost to the Massachusetts economy,” said Widmer, adding that it would be economically destructive to ask corporations to take another $500 million hit on top of the $400 million they had to pay after the Romney administration closed other so-called loopholes and a $600 million increase in unemployment insurance taxes in 2004.

“Cumulatively, you’re talking about $1.5 billion annually in additional taxes at a time when our economy is weak, 150,000 jobs below where we were in 2001,” said Widmer, whom the Legislature often turns to for budget analysis. “This adds significantly to the competitiveness disadvantage facing Massachusetts businesses.”

Please, never mistake Widmer as an “independant” voice. His bills are paid by the businesses that pay state taxes. Consider him through that lens. When he says something, he’s saying it so that his constituency will have a lower tax bill. When he advocates higher personal income tax, he does so because it makes it easier to keep corporate taxes low. When he advocates local option taxes, he’s doing it to protect his bosses. And when he wants to keep the tolls? It’s because that’s a revenue source that doesn’t hurt his benefactors.