OK, let's start here: Charlie Baker is absolutely correct that Deval Patrick has refused to talk seriously about how he'll deal with the looming FY2012 budget gap, likely to be in the range of $2 billion. And Patrick deserves to be called out for that.
And, if Patrick's going to leave that question unanswered, it's political fair game for Baker to lob speculative grenades to scare voters about what Patrick might do.
Baker's been warning all year that Patrick's solution will include tax increases. That apparently hasn't been enough to scare voters. So, now he's decided to up the ante by putting specific figures to it -- specifically, that in order to bridge the $2 billion gap, Patrick would have to raise the state income tax to 7% and the sales tax to 9%.
(Side note: Baker, as you probably know, touts his "5-5-5" plan to set the income, sales, and capital-gains taxes all at 5%. If this state was any fun at all, that should have prompted somebody to launch a Satanic gubernatorial campaign with a "6-6-6" plan.)
Baker tried to lob that grenade Monday night, at the debate -- and in his press availability after the debate -- but for some reason it didn't take. I had expected it to get some play; I guess maybe in all the focus on the Big Dig memo, nobody noticed that the tax rhetoric -- which we've heard a zillion times, and maybe don't listen to very carefully any more -- had changed.
It took a couple of days, but Baker has finally gotten the press to notice. But I can't say anybody seems to be paying much attention to it.
Frankly, I think most people have resigned themselves to the idea that Patrick would probably raise taxes in some fashion, along with cutting some programs. I think electorally that's already baked into the cake, as they say; people have already factored that into their decision about who to vote for.
Of course, you want them to get enthused about voting, so perhaps putting a number of the alleged tax increase helps energize Baker voters. Maybe.
Another thing that motivates them is rallies, so both candidates will be rolling across the state in busses this weekend holding rallies. Baker will have Scott Brown tagging along, natch.
If you want to attend, you'll have to check your hometown newspaper I suppose, because for the life of me I can't find any hint of how the public would find that information on the Charlie Baker campaign web site. Of course, there's also just three posts in the past month on the campaign blog, and no new "conversations with Charlie" video posted since early August.