Summer Schmaling Calls For Lower Taxes, More Education Funding In Debate

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Do politicians have to raise taxes to raise revenue?

It’s a disagreement the two candidates for state representative in the 12th Plymouth District had in a debate this week.

Republican Summer Schmaling of Halifax doesn’t think so, but state Representative Kathleen LaNatra (D-Kingston) does.

The debate moderator asked the candidates about their top three priorities. Schmaling said hers were lowering the tax burden, increasing funding for public schools, and workforce development. She noted that property taxes are high in Plympton ($17.62 per $1,000 in property value) and Halifax ($17.44 per $1,000 in property value) because there are not a ton of businesses in town generating revenue. The median rate in Massachusetts is $15.27, according to Patch, and is generally higher in western Massachusetts than in the eastern part of the state.

LaNatra challenged the premise of Schmaling’s ideas.

“Just to go back to property taxes, property taxes are set by the municipality, so it’s set by the town,” LaNatra said. “It has nothing to do with the state. The other thing, we do need school funding, absolutely need school funding, so you want more school funding, but how are you going to pay for that? Where’s that money going to come from? That’s just a question.”

Schmaling responded:  “So if we make Massachusetts more business-friendly we’ll have the opportunity to have workforce development here in Massachusetts, so it’s kind of a win-win. If you lower regulation, you increase the tax base so you have more people paying into it, therefore, we can maybe alleviate some of the local tax burden and not have to continually raise our property taxes to meet that gap in between where our property taxes are, and where we get funding from the state.”

In the 1970s, supply-side economist Arthur Laffer theorized that there is an optimal tax rate for a government to collect the most tax revenue it can but because going beyond it kills jobs and causes people to move, taxing people too much would result in a decline in revenue. That idea fueled the Laffer Curve. Laffer served as an economic adviser during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and to President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

As for LaNatra’s top three priorities, she said they are education, economic development, and improving mental health.

“We’re all struggling,” LaNatra said of mental health. “We’re all grieving in some way. We’ve all lost something. Our mental health has not gone away. Most people that would see their therapist face-to-face are now doing telehealth and they’re not really comfortable with that. Our addiction issues have really increased 30 percent and our death by suicide has increased 30 percent over this time here with COVID since March.”

LaNatra, who is in her first term as a state representative, is a former Kingston selectman. She had a zero percent rating from the American Conservative Union in 2019, her first year in the state Legislature, and she has a 60 percent rating from Progressive Massachusetts during the 2019-2020 legislative session; she is not a co-sponsor of the ROE Act, although she voted to provide $8 million in state funding to family planning clinics that provide abortion, according to her Progressive Massachusetts scorecard.

Schmaling, a pro-life Republican, has served on the Halifax Finance Committee, and as chairman of both the Halifax Elementary School Committee and the Republican Town Committee. This is her second run for state representative. She narrowly lost the Republican primary to Joseph Truschelli in 2018, 50.6 percent to 49.2 percent. Her opponent went on to lose a competitive general election against LaNatra 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

The debate, hosted by PACTV, a regional cable access station, aired on Wednesday, September 23.

The general election is set for Tuesday, November 3. 

The debate in its entirety can be viewed below: