Fuzzy Math from the Committee for Small Government

1220556118Perhaps it makes us lazy citizens, but when we received the Information for Voters guide from Secretary of State Bill Galvin, we tossed it directly into the recycling bin. With headline-friendly ballot questions like eliminating the income tax, repealing criminal penalties for carrying small amounts of pot, and banning greyhound racing, we already feel pretty informed.

Luckily for us, a Boston Daily tipster did read through the guide, and alerted us to an interesting statistic in Committee for Small Government chairperson Carla Howell’s argument in favor of Question 1.

“41% waste in Massachusetts state government,” reveals survey.

Wow. Sailors don’t waste that much of their paycheck on booze. Why hadn’t we heard this damning percentage before?

Perhaps because it’s more “truthy” than true.

The Committee for Small Government’s website (which also features this statistic on its banner) provides a link to the survey referenced in the Information for Voters guide.

In April of this year, the Citizens for Limited Taxation commissioned Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates to ask 500 Massachusetts voters how they feel about taxes. Here’s the question that gave the Committee for Small Government that 41 percent figure.

“How many CENTS out of every dollar you pay in state taxes would you say is WASTED by the state government?”

Respondents told the pollsters that they think state government wastes 41 cents of every dollar they pay in taxes. But Howell presents the figure as an economic fact, when it’s just Joe Six-Pack’s perception. An email asking Howell for comment went unreturned.

Let’s review: Yes, the Committee for Small Government did conduct a survey. Yes, 41 cents out of a dollar equals 41 percent. But this figure is not based on an analysis of the state budget, even if that’s what the anti-tax advocates want voters to believe.