Columnist Lindsay Sabadosa: From failure, success will follow

  • This Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 photo shows the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. AP

Published: 10/17/2019 10:00:18 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 10:00:07 PM

One of the most important bits of advice I have ever received is that we learn more from our failures than our successes.

Of course, we relish the joy of success and of a job well-done, but when we think about the long-game, a stumble here and there is good for the soul, even if it is hard to convince someone of that at the time.

As I look around at the people who are closest to me, I see people who have all been through some very hard things in life. That gives them perspective, focus, and, often, a good sense of humor.

A good sense of humor is a must in politics, because things happen on a daily basis that tend to illicit a “wait, what?” when you share stories from inside the Massachusetts State House.

This week in the State House was no exception. Although the education bill remains at the forefront of our minds, we took up the supplemental budget this week. A supplemental budget is an additional budget that allows the state to meet obligations that were not included in the annual budget.

The governor had submitted his budget to the House, and on Tuesday morning, an amended version was released from Ways and Means. We were given the option to submit amendments to this supplemental budget between the hours of 11:50 a.m. and 5 p.m. that same day. This, as you might imagine, does not necessarily allow members time to read the entire supplemental budget as amended, investigate the various line items and submit amendments about potential items of concern.

This supplemental budget included many items of note, including a large corporate tax break, and a group of us filed an amendment to eliminate it. The particular provision in the supplemental budget would allow Massachusetts to “decouple” (or not follow) federal law, which established a cap on business interest deductions for businesses with over $25 million in gross receipts. In effect, it gave very large corporations a $37 million tax break in a state where we already have one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country.

Worse, the cap was put in place on the federal level to help prevent inter-company earnings stripping, a technique by which a corporation borrows from U.S.-affiliated companies outside of their unitary combined group or from a foreign subsidiary in order to reduce their taxable income. In other words, it was done to help close another corporate tax loophole.

Our amendment would have changed that because, at a time when we are discussing making massive investments in our schools, it is unconscionable to offer large, multimillion dollar corporations tax cuts. Nevermind the fact that the arguments in support amounted to little more than trickle-down economics, an idea that safely belongs in our past.

This issue was so important that a decision was made to hold the amendment and have a roll call vote on it. Oftentimes, amendments are withdrawn or voted on by a voice vote, but I believe constituents deserve to know how we vote. When the first representative from our group, Rep. Robinson, rose to speak on the amendment, however, she was immediately interrupted by another representative who asked her to yield the floor for a question.

Yielding the floor means that you give up your time to speak and so the request was declined with an offer to answer questions after. This procedural maneuver to shutdown debate in favor of the amendment having failed, two representatives were allowed to speak against the amendment, and all other representatives who wished to speak, who had asked to speak ahead of time, and who were standing, yelling, asking to be recognized, were ignored. All of the representatives who were ignored were in favor of the amendment, and I was one of them.

In politics, we can disagree. We can vote differently. We can use different political tactics. What we shouldn’t do, however, is try to silence those who disagree with us. Every single member of the General Court has the same number of constituents and their voices matter. We need to treat each other with respect and professionalism for the benefit of our constituents, and, frankly, for democracy to work.

The amendment was defeated and Massachusetts will be giving our largest companies the gift of a tax break. I may not have been able to speak on the floor of the House about this amendment and why I supported it; however, that will not stop me from speaking about it publicly and speaking about why we must change House culture to be more open and transparent.

In all likelihood, the amendment would not have passed had the representatives who wished to speak in its favor had spoken. So why shut down debate? Why not let people have their say? Those are the questions that I am going to continue to ask and ones that I hope you will ask with me. From this failure, success will follow.

Lindsay Sabadosa is a Northampton resident and the state representative for the 1st Hampshire District. She can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.


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