TEAM finds a less taxing name
Formed in 1987 as a liberal counterweight to Citizens for Limited Taxation, the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts has made the case for public spending and progressive taxation with the same zeal its foes have brought to their anti-tax crusades. But after 15 years in the tax-battle mosh pit, TEAM is getting a makeover. Shedding its name–and well-known acronym–for a wonkier moniker, the organization-formerly-known-as-TEAM has recast itself as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.
Leaders of the group say the name change simply brings the title in line with the work. “Over the last several years we’ve expanded to work on far more issues than just taxes or just tax equity,” says executive director James St. George. The organization’s recent research reports include an examination of growing income disparities between the state’s top and bottom wage earners and an analysis of state budget growth in the 1990s.
The new Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center is part of a network of liberal-leaning groups in 23 states receiving funding from the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to produce budget and tax analyses with a particular focus on low-income and other vulnerable groups. (TEAM will still exist, on paper at least, handling more direct political and lobbying work, but is not expected to consume much of the four-person staff’s time.)
The organization’s leaders say it’s more because the battleground has changed. Now that the anti-tax fervor of a decade ago has cooled–and CLT’s star has dimmed–they felt the time was right to take a step back from the pitched battles of the past.
“When we first started TEAM we were very much in a political mode,” says co-founder Susan Shaer. The focus now, she says, is on “the long-term need for long-term thinking. People are looking for information that goes beyond this year’s ballot.”The new tack is a far cry from the hurly-burly of a dozen years ago, when Anderson and Jim Braude, TEAM’s first director, turned the battle over a 1990 tax-rollback ballot question into a high-profile road show, carpooling together to debates across the state where they went at each other with a fervor that seems to have vanished from the political landscape.
Which is not to say the group plans to just ruminate from the sidelines. “I certainly hope that no one will believe we have moved away from being staunch defenders of valuable public investments and public services,” says St. George. With an eye toward the state’s continuing grim budget picture, he says, “In the near-term future, closing a variety of tax loopholes and [levying] additional tax increases are far preferable to continued cuts in education, health care, and other services important to Massachusetts and her citizens.” Thus, the policy-speak from the new Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center still has a strong echo of the old TEAM spirit.