Massachusetts finds itself on the horns of a rather tricky dilemma. Last September, the legislature voted to earmark $25 million to help house, feed, and take care of Hurricane Katrina refugees. It was a great gesture, showing that the Commonwealth can, occasionally, do the right thing.
But now they’ve found themselves in a slightly embarassing position. The refugees are pretty much all gone (I suspect that New Orleaners weren’t capable of handling a New England winter on top of everything else), and the state finds itself having only spent about $6 million on their care. What should they do with the remaining $19 million?
Some lawmakers think that the money should be spent on housing, but this time on the state’s own homeless populace. Others say that since flooding was the cause of the disaster, it ought to go towards flooding problems in the western part of the state.
Governor Mitt Romney, as is all too common in the Commonwealth, is providing the sole voice of sanity. Romney says that since the money was taken from taxpayers for a very specific purpose, and most of it was not needed for that cause, it should be returned to those taxpayers.
I give it about a 5% chance of that happening. One simply does not give money to lawmakers — particularly Massachusetts lawmakers, overwhelmingly Democratic — and expect them to ever give it back, under any circumstances.
Here in Oregon, we have had, in several years where the state ran a budget surplus, a “kicker”, which is a check from the government based on how much state income tax you’ve paid. Of course, liberals howl louder than Teddy Kennedy’s liver on a three-day weekend every time this happens. I say, you think schools are underfunded, fine, then donate your kicker check to your local school district. I always wonder how many of them actually do.
Romney says that since the money was taken from taxpayers for a very specific purpose, and most of it was not needed for that cause, it should be returned to those taxpayers.
Unless I’m reading a different article, Romney did not say that the funds should go back to the taxpayers, but to the state coffers, i.e., the general fund used to pay all the other budgeted items.
Keep in mind also that an “earmark” is not the same as a one-time tax for a specific purpose. The legislature didn’t go out and dunn the taxpayers an extra 5 cents for Katrina relief. They just sliced out a portion of the budgetary pie specifically for Katrina relief, which was an incredibly stupid thing for a state like Mass. to do to begin with.
You are right, however, that returning the funds to the general fund is the “sane” thing to do here.
I understand the confusion, however, as it’s easy to confuse “coffers” with “coughers” (as in those who cough up the tax money). 🙂
5% JayTea? My God, you are the eternal optimist. If there was such a thing as less than zero, that would be my guess.
Kevin, the less than zero could be that instead of giving the money back, they take more money.
Which is probably what will happen anyway.