and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation



Monday, February 23, 2003

Raising property taxes on working families,
the unemployed, mid-income seniors

The following memo is being delivered to every member of the House and Senate
and released to the media statewide.

To:  Members of the Massachusetts Senate
Cc.   Members of the Massachusetts House

We were surprised and disappointed to see the House pass a major bill during an informal session in vacation week, with no one raising on objection. Having no roll call, we are forced to give all House members a zero on our rating for this assault on Proposition 2˝ . We hope when it emerges in the Senate it will be fairly debated as a violation of Proposition 2˝ and a potential property tax increase for most of your constituents.

House 4519 exempts low-income seniors from paying for Proposition 2˝ overrides. The intent of this bill is to keep seniors from voting against overrides. Without their help, other taxpayers could lose their battles against higher property taxes, and then would have to pay the seniors’ share of the higher burden too. Young families with mortgages and college loan repayments, saving for their children’s college costs, their own retirement; lower-income taxpayers who are not yet seniors; unemployed homeowners; people with high medical costs or who are caring for elderly parents; everyone else in town – would have to pay more if the overrides pass, and pick up the share of low-income seniors as well.

If you must pass this bill, don’t stop with seniors. Many overrides are “for the children,” i.e., teacher pay raises. If seniors are to be exempt from overrides, then other homeowners who are struggling to pay their existing taxes, water & sewer bills, heating bills, etc. – and everyone who doesn’t have children in the schools – should also be exempt from paying for these overrides.

We recognize that property taxes hurt low-income seniors. However, they hurt a lot of people, who would suffer even more if this bill passes. Even with Prop 2˝, this regressive tax is still too high. When we created it, we tried to be fair to all by including the override provision, should a majority of voters want to tax and spend more than the levy limit allows. But it is not fair to encourage overrides by excluding one group, whose share will have to be paid by their neighbors.

We hope you will vote “No” on H.4519.

– See the Eagle-Tribune editorial on back –

– backside of memo

The Eagle Tribune
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Don't push seniors out of override equation 


Massachusetts legislators may have been on vacation last week but that didn't stop them from trying to extract more taxes from hard-working citizens.

The House in an informal session moved ahead a bill that would exempt certain low-income senior citizens from the effects of local Proposition 2˝ overrides. The bill still must pass a vote of the full House and Senate and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

While it sounds like an effort to protect seniors on fixed incomes from tax increases, the bill, in fact, would make raising taxes on the rest of us much easier.

An override allows a community to raise property taxes beyond the limit set by Proposition 2˝. But the override requires a majority vote to pass. This has made passing overrides difficult, frustrating the desire of community leaders to spend ever more on schools, roads, police and firefighting.

Seniors, given that they often live on fixed incomes, are usually resistant to tax increases of any kind. Seniors tend to vote in large numbers against Proposition 2˝ overrides.

So the tax-and-spenders have come up with this bill as a solution to their problems. Give some seniors -- the low-income ones -- no reason to bother to vote on a Proposition 2˝ override and, presto, obstacle removed. In fact, these seniors then could even be generous with other people's money. Want overrides for bigger teacher contracts or raises for town workers? Sure, no problem -- it won't cost us anything.

It is, to twist a phrase, representation without taxation.

Low-income seniors already have a way to get a break on their property taxes. It's known as the "circuit breaker" law. Those with incomes of less than $43,000 whose homes are worth less than $432,000 can qualify for a state tax credit of up to $810.

Some in the Legislature, like Ways and Means Chairman John H. Rogers, D-Norwood, paint the bill as a way to alleviate tensions between seniors and young families with children. But it would do nothing of the sort. Not all young families with children favor annual tax increases. Some are struggling just to get by as it is. Taking seniors out of the process makes it more likely their taxes will increase -- and by a greater amount as they will have to pay the share of their exempted elders.

Overriding Proposition 2˝ should be a community decision. That's the way the law was designed. There are mechanisms in place by which communities can spend as much as they'd like -- as long as it is the will of the majority.

We shouldn't be discouraging one segment of the population from voting on issues important to all.

The Legislature should let this bill die, or failing that, Gov. Mitt Romney should veto it.

– 30 –

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