By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – They felt the wrath of taxpayers, and deserved to.

But Thursday Senate President Terry Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo did the right thing, calling for repeal of the sales tax on software services that they pushed the Legislature to approve earlier this summer.

The two leaders were calm but clearly mortified, which speaks to their sincerity; both DeLeo and Murray have at times taken unpopular positions within their own party out of concern for our state’s fragile economic health. And in an understandable effort to preserve a shred of dignity, they both insisted that they simply didn’t hear negative feedback on the so-called tech tax until it was too late in the process to react.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Unfortunately, this is just not true.

The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation, a watchdog group whose economic analyses have been a fixture of Beacon Hill debates for years, issued a public warning against the tax in mid-March, well before the legislature’s budget was locked in. And Republican lawmakers in both branches spoke out against the tax early and often.

But they’re apparently easy to ignore. And when you aren’t making enough of an effort to reach out to your constituents for feedback before you lower a tax boom on them, you wind up legislating in a vacuum.

Except for the lobbyists, of course. As the chair of the House Taxation Committee put it Thursday, the software services industry was “not organized, they do not have lobbyists, they didn’t know how to be part of the public conversation about this.”

Now we know what it takes. And it didn’t help that Gov. Patrick, who originally proposed the new tax, was especially clueless about its impact.

At least DeLeo and Murray have admitted they goofed; the governor has not.

Too bad the Republicans can’t get their act together. Maybe the return of a two-party system would help Beacon Hill avoid embarrassing blunders like this in the future.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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