CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Friday, February 27, 2004

The endless quest for tax-and-spend tactical advantage


Calling it an attempt to undermine the state's property tax limit, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday vowed to veto a measure that would spare thousands of seniors from tax increases cleared by voters in cities and towns....

"I will veto anything which tinkers with Prop. 2, and what's on the table right now does more than tinker," Romney said. "It undermines in a serious way the intent and purpose of Prop. 2, and therefore I will fight it in every way that I possibly can."

Romney made the statement after meeting with Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. The group protested loudly when House lawmakers approved the bill last week, especially since the vote came during an "informal session" with many legislators absent. Anderson said the goal of the measure is to keep seniors at home on election day....

Speaking to the League of Women Voters earlier in the day, Representative John H. Rogers, the Norwood Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the exemption will help communities avoid the "civil war" that often erupts between older residents on fixed incomes who are wary of higher tax bills and younger families who are willing to pay to rebuild schools.

The Boston Globe
Friday, February 27, 2004
Romney vows to veto tax break
Says bill to aid elderly threatens Proposition 2


Members of the League of Women Voters from across the state went to the Hill today to lobby legislators on key public policy issues. Madhu Sridhar, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, reminded League members that "citizens are the guardians of democracy and without citizen participation, we have no democracy."...

The League of Women Voters will also focus on financial issues. Recognizing that there will be a further shortfall in revenues again this year due to reduced economic activity and lower tax collections, the League is concerned that essential services will be diminished.... League members are advocating for increasing state revenues through the state income tax and through broadening the sales tax base to include services.

The League of Women Voters
News Release - February 26, 2004


The Massachusetts Legislature has launched yet another stealth attack on Proposition 2, this time in the guise of a tax break for senior citizens. This fast-tracked ploy, intended to make it easier for city and town officials to get approval for special tax increases, must not succeed....

How cynical is the bill? The timing tells the tale. It was moved during an informal session during school-vacation week when many lawmakers, and many of their constituents, were off to sunnier or snowier climes....

The bill still must pass a vote of the full House and Senate and be signed by the governor before it becomes law. Lawmakers should reject the stealth move. Failing that, Gov. Mitt Romney should not hesitate to use his veto pen.

The Telegram & Gazette
Thursday, February 26, 2004 
A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Stealth tax: Bill would undermine Proposition 2


A proposal to exempt senior citizens from paying for Proposition 2 real estate tax increases could be the salvation of cash-strapped communities that need more teachers, new schools and other big-ticket items....

"The idea is to shift some of the property tax burden from those who can't pay to those who can," said state Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis, D-Danvers, whose district also includes Topsfield and West Peabody. "There's no question my towns would be more likely to pass an override if this becomes law. But more importantly, it addresses some of the inequities and regressiveness of our property tax." ...

Barbara Anderson, executive director of the political watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation, has promised to do everything she can to defeat the bill.

"This is not being done out of any concern for senior citizens or a desire to help them," said Anderson, who led the campaign to pass Proposition 2. "It's being done so they can get rid of a voting bloc that consistently opposes overrides." ...

State Rep. Bradford R. Hill, R-Ipswich ... agreed with Anderson that the proposal is not a true local-option bill because it allows the selectmen to decide whether to put it on the ballot.

The Salem News 
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Proposal to exempt seniors from Prop 2 hikes
divides lawmakers


The battle often gets nasty with charges and countercharges flying. Senior citizens argue that tax increases will force them out of their homes, while parents of school-age children accuse their elders of being selfish.

Under a bill wending its way through Beacon Hill, thousands of Massachusetts seniors would be spared from voter-approved property tax hikes.

The bill under consideration would allow cities and towns that approve Proposition 2 overrides to exempt certain seniors from the tax increase. There would be no escape clause for wealthy retired CEOs - the folks who live in oversized houses and spend the weekends at summer homes on the Cape or the Islands.

Instead the bill would protect hard-working retirees from increases that they just can't afford to pay. Under the bill, cities and towns could develop different eligibility criteria for the property tax exemption. The local option is a good provision.

Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says the measure makes sense. "This is a way of saying: 'We may need the override because we need to pay for basic town services.' But at the same time we recognize that there are limits, for some seniors ..."

A Springfield Republican editorial
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Tax plan would defuse war between young, old


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

According to the Boston Globe, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman state Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood) said the assault on Proposition 2 "will help communities avoid the 'civil war' that often erupts between older residents on fixed incomes who are wary of higher tax bills and younger families who are willing to pay to rebuild schools."

According to  state Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis' (D-Danvers) statement in the Salem News, "The idea is to shift some of the property tax burden from those who can't pay to those who can. There's no question my towns would be more likely to pass an override if this becomes law."

"But more importantly," Speliotis adds in high-dudgeon self-righteousness, "it addresses some of the inequities and regressiveness of our property tax." But what could be more inequitable or regressive than "Representation without Taxation" -- encouraging one segment to vote to further burden their less-blessed neighbors with higher taxes from which they themselves are excluded, and for which their neighbors must also assume that exempt segment's fair share of the burden?

Tax-and-spenders never give up on cadging every advantage and tactic they can extort, and this latest slick attack on Prop 2 -- this transparent vote-buying scam -- is just one further means for taking more, more, more at any cost.

According to Ted Tripp, chairman of the North Andover Taxpayers Association, Prop 2 override advocates will use any tactic to win, especially fabricated fear and scare tactics. Ted, an experienced activist fighting and defeating overrides in North Andover, advised and assisted Alex Mavrakos win a stunning defeat of Winthrop's recent attempt. Had it passed, Winthrop homeowners would have been saddled with an annual property tax increase of between $1,000-$1,800.

Ted sent me the following news last night:

From: Ted Tripp, Chairman
North Andover Taxpayers Association
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Alex Mavrakos called me today to give me an update on the situation in Winthrop.

It seems that both the school department and the town have "found" additional revenue since the $6 million override was defeated, and this means:

a)  school sports will not have to be cancelled

b)  the senior center will not have to be closed

c)  and there will NOT have to be ANY layoffs!!!!

Can you believe all that? You don't think the town was using "scare" tactics in trying to get the override passed, do you?

Don't look for this "good" news in the Globe.

The only downside is that Alex says the town is definitely going after a trash fee to raise a little extra revenue. He has told the selectmen he would only support it going to a vote before the people to let them decide.

Isn't it amazing what local government can accomplish without extra money when they are forced to do so?

Won't it be interesting to see how this plays out -- if this successful retrenchment gets the full-court press coverage that Winthrop's "fiscal crisis" and its dire need for an override only a month ago received.

Will Winthrop School Superintendent Thomas Giancristiano follow through with his angry outburst and still "step down" at the end of the year? After all, upon announcing his resignation he said, "If the town wants to head in a direction where they don't value the community and their children, then I'm not the man for the job," and nothing's changed among the electorate ...  so obviously he remains "not the man for the job." We'll be watching to see ...

*                    *                    *

The "nonpartisan" League of Women Voters is "advocating for increasing state revenues through the state income tax and through broadening the sales tax base to include services."

The "nonpartisan" so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is supporting the attack on Proposition 2. Michael Widmer, its president, "says the measure makes sense," according to the Springfield Republican. '''This is a way of saying: "We may need the override because we need to pay for basic town services." But at the same time we recognize that there are limits, for some seniors ...'" There he goes again, giving another tax increase the cover of alleged legitimacy.

We at CLT don't ever even pretend to be "nonpartisan," never mind continually assert and insist that we are. We are pro-taxpayer and proud of it!

*                    *                    *

With the left-wing Springfield Republican already out front advocating for the attack on Prop 2, how far behind can the Boston Globe be?

I can't help but label the Springfield Republican "left-wing," along with the Boston Globe. Never mind President Bush -- more "compassionate" than "conservative" -- even Massachusetts Republicans if you can believe it are now being labeled "right-wing extremists" or "right-wing conservatives" by their opponents. It's time to start tossing that live grenade back over the battle line into the enemy's lap. We've got to restore the center before it no longer holds and everyone else is labeled "centric-extremist" moderates! (It's nice that at least nobody dares call us "taxpayer terrorists" any more these days.)

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Friday, February 27, 2004

Romney vows to veto tax break
Says bill to aid elderly threatens Proposition 2
By Scott S. Greenberger and Matthew Rodriguez
Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent


Calling it an attempt to undermine the state's property tax limit, Governor Mitt Romney yesterday vowed to veto a measure that would spare thousands of seniors from tax increases cleared by voters in cities and towns.

Under a bill the House approved on a voice vote last week, communities could exempt certain low-income seniors from tax increases resulting from overrides of Proposition 2. As a group, senior citizens are generally viewed as resistant to overrides. Property tax increases burden those who live on fixed incomes, and they are less likely to support money for new schools.

By effectively sidelining seniors, Romney said, the proposal would make it easier for cities and towns to override Proposition 2, forcing other property owners to pick up the slack.

"I will veto anything which tinkers with Prop. 2, and what's on the table right now does more than tinker," Romney said. "It undermines in a serious way the intent and purpose of Prop. 2, and therefore I will fight it in every way that I possibly can."

Romney made the statement after meeting with Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. The group protested loudly when House lawmakers approved the bill last week, especially since the vote came during an "informal session" with many legislators absent. Anderson said the goal of the measure is to keep seniors at home on election day.

Supporters of the measure, however, argue that seniors desperately need tax relief at a time when home values are rising rapidly and dozens of communities are resorting to Proposition 2 overrides to make up for cuts in state aid. Under Proposition 2, a community's total tax revenues cannot increase more than 2.5 percent from year to year, excluding new construction.

Speaking to the League of Women Voters earlier in the day, Representative John H. Rogers, the Norwood Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the exemption will help communities avoid the "civil war" that often erupts between older residents on fixed incomes who are wary of higher tax bills and younger families who are willing to pay to rebuild schools.

The measure the House approved would apply to seniors with annual incomes of less than $43,000 who own homes worth $500,000 or less. Many of these seniors now qualify for state income tax credits under the state's "circuit breaker" law, which is designed to cushion the impact of rising property taxes.

The Senate hasn't taken up the House measure. Nevertheless, the Legislature's Joint Taxation Committee approved a bill yesterday that would go further.

It would raise the home-value maximum for the "circuit breaker," and the proposed Proposition 2 override exemption, to $750,000; allow cities and towns to give certain low-income seniors a property tax exemption equal to 10 percent of the assessed value of an average home, independent of Proposition 2; and expand the existing hardship exemption for people who cannot pay their property taxes because of age, infirmity, and poverty.

Return to top


The League of Women Voters
News Release
February 26, 2004

Contact: Madhu Sridhar, 617-523-2999
Diane Jeffery, 617-523-2999

The League of Women Voters meet with Romney and Finneran
Citizen Lobbyists Tackle Thorny Public Policy Issues:
Civil Rights for Gays/Lesbians, Casino Gambling, and Budget Priorities


Members of the League of Women Voters from across the state went to the Hill today to lobby legislators on key public policy issues. Madhu Sridhar, president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, reminded League members that "citizens are the guardians of democracy and without citizen participation, we have no democracy."

Ms. Sridhar stated, "There is no dearth of paid lobbyists and special interests who aggressively try to seek legislators to influence public policy. However, state legislators are most responsible to their constituents. League members are credible messengers, because legislators are aware that the League of Women Voters acts, advocates, and lobbies on positions that have been established through study and consensus."

This year, one focus of the League is civil rights. The League is lobbying against an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would result in discrimination against same-sex couples by defining marriage as "only the union of one man and one woman." Another civil rights issue for the League is to end discrimination in insurance based on sex, race, color, religion, marital status, or national origin. The League is committed to the equality of opportunity for all citizens and will actively oppose any efforts that would create legal, economic, or administrative discrimination.

The League of Women Voters will also focus on financial issues. Recognizing that there will be a further shortfall in revenues again this year due to reduced economic activity and lower tax collections, the League is concerned that essential services will be diminished. Cuts to programs such as health care, transitional assistance, environmental protections, higher education, public transportation, and affordable housing are devastating to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Cities and towns are receiving less state aid, even as they must deal with escalating special education costs, increased health insurance premiums, and unfunded public safety responsibilities mandated by the Patriot Act. League members are advocating for increasing state revenues through the state income tax and through broadening the sales tax base to include services.

The League will also lobby against any attempts to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts. As a long time foe of casino gambling, the League believes that casino gambling is no substitute for reasonable tax policy. The League maintains that casino gambling's revenues are uncertain, and that casino gambling might threaten the revenues from the lottery, which are crucial to citizens and towns for local aid.

League members will hear from Governor Romney, House Speaker Finneran, Senate Ways & Means Chairperson, Therese Murray, and House Ways & Means Chairperson, John Rogers, at their annual Day on the Hill. League lobbyists will then fan out in the Statehouse for meetings with their legislators to explain League positions.

"The lobbying process is an extension of the right to be heard and an exercise in democracy," according to Ms. Sridhar, "It reflects the heart of our American system."

Return to top


The Telegram & Gazette
Thursday, February 26, 2004 

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Stealth tax: Bill would undermine Proposition 2


The Massachusetts Legislature has launched yet another stealth attack on Proposition 2, this time in the guise of a tax break for senior citizens. This fast-tracked ploy, intended to make it easier for city and town officials to get approval for special tax increases, must not succeed.

House 4519 would exempt eligible seniors from property tax increases imposed to cover Proposition 2 overrides.

The political calculation goes this way: Seniors tend to vote in disproportionately large numbers. However, they also may be less likely to vote for schools and other special projects that would boost their taxes.

The tax-and-spenders' solution? Soften seniors' skepticism of Proposition 2 overrides by exempting them from the resulting tax hikes.

Picking up the seniors' share would be families with children, mortgages, college-loan payments and other expenses (but who don't qualify for existing property-tax exemptions seniors in Worcester and many other communities already enjoy).

How cynical is the bill? The timing tells the tale. It was moved during an informal session during school-vacation week when many lawmakers, and many of their constituents, were off to sunnier or snowier climes.

Because it was advanced on a voice vote, senators and representatives who happened to be on hand were spared the inconvenience of going on record as favoring an unfair shift of the tax burden onto the working families to whom many lawmakers give incessant lip service.

Proposition 2 as written offers local officials ample opportunity to go to the people to exclude specific projects from the property tax calculation or to use overrides to adjust department budgets to conform to changing needs. When a credible case for higher spending has been made in Worcester and many other communities, the people have responded favorably.

The bill still must pass a vote of the full House and Senate and be signed by the governor before it becomes law. Lawmakers should reject the stealth move. Failing that, Gov. Mitt Romney should not hesitate to use his veto pen.

Return to top


The Salem News 
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Proposal to exempt seniors from Prop 2 hikes
divides lawmakers
By Shawn Regan, Staff writer


A proposal to exempt senior citizens from paying for Proposition 2 real estate tax increases could be the salvation of cash-strapped communities that need more teachers, new schools and other big-ticket items.

But critics of the legislation say it's nothing more than a poorly disguised attempt to take an uncooperative voting bloc out of the mix when local officials try to pass tax overrides at the ballot box.

Proposition 2, passed in 1980, caps at 2 percent plus annual real estate growth the amount cities and towns can increase their taxes from one year to the next. The law allows communities to override the cap with the approval of a majority of voters, either to increase the budget or for a major expenditure such as a new school.

The tax-exemption bill, which is backed by high-ranking Democrats in both the House and Senate, would give selectmen or city councils the ability, by a majority vote, to ask voters to exempt seniors from the tax hike anytime there is an override vote. The exemption would apply to those age 65 and older who own homes assessed for $500,000 or less.

The House gave preliminary approval to the bill last week by a controversial voice vote, while the majority of members were away from the Statehouse during an unofficial break. The legislation awaits consideration in the Senate, and it is expected to be debated and voted upon by both chambers by the end of the session this summer.

"The idea is to shift some of the property tax burden from those who can't pay to those who can," said state Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis, D-Danvers, whose district also includes Topsfield and West Peabody. "There's no question my towns would be more likely to pass an override if this becomes law. But more importantly, it addresses some of the inequities and regressiveness of our property tax."

Not everyone sees the bill as a panacea to local budget woes or as a measure to help senior citizens.

"It sounds like generational warfare," said Danvers Assistant Town Manager Diane Norris. "It's an inappropriate and unfair response. What about a single-mother who lost her job? Why would she be any less deserving of this exemption than a senior? I also don't think (being able to exempt seniors) would affect the decision-making of voters on overrides."

Danvers is among a handful of Massachusetts communities that has never passed a Proposition 2 override, Norris said. Voters most recently defeated a proposed override last year for money to renovate the middle school.

Wenham resident Amy McGowan, who recently placed her children in private school because of public school spending decreases, said she doesn't like the idea of a senior exemption, either.

"Whether or not it helps pass an override, we should not be segregating the population like that," she said. "We shouldn't let anyone wiggle off the tax hook. If a town wants to increase taxes for something they believe in, it should involve and include everyone."

Barbara Anderson, executive director of the political watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation, has promised to do everything she can to defeat the bill.

"This is not being done out of any concern for senior citizens or a desire to help them," said Anderson, who led the campaign to pass Proposition 2. "It's being done so they can get rid of a voting bloc that consistently opposes overrides."

Anderson's group, which rates lawmakers on how they vote on tax issues, gave them all zeros for last week's "assault on Proposition 2."

Hamilton Selectman Jim Bryant said voters there recently rejected a local proposal to exempt seniors from the impact of Proposition 2 overrides. Instead, he said, voters passed a bylaw that would exclude residents from tax overrides based upon income. The town's so-called home-rule petition must be approved by the Legislature before it can go into effect, however.

Adoption of their bylaw - which would exempt from tax overrides those residents who make less than $57,600 per year - would have likely changed the outcome of two tax overrides defeated by voters last year, Bryant said. There are about 700 families whose incomes fall under the threshold, he said.

"I'd be against giving seniors the exemption because we have a lot of seniors who can afford to pay," Bryant said. "And given how badly it was defeated here, I don't think it would have much of an impact on passing overrides. Passing an income exemption, however, I think would make a big difference."

State Rep. Bradford R. Hill, R-Ipswich, who filed the Hamilton home-rule petition, said he does not support the senior citizen exemption.

"I like the concept because I'm usually for anything that helps the elderly with their real estate taxes," Hill said. "But I don't like the idea that a young couple who is just starting out, and that also needs a break too, would have to pay more. I'd support it if it was based on income but not on age. I don't like the idea of setting up class warfare."

Hill agreed with Anderson that the proposal is not a true local-option bill because it allows the selectmen to decide whether to put it on the ballot.

"I'd rather have it debated and decided by the people at town meeting," Hill said.

Return to top


The Springfield Republican
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

A Springfield Republican editorial
Tax plan would defuse war between young, old


Cities and towns considering Proposition 2 overrides to shore up dwindling public school budgets are apt to stir up a war between the generations.

The battle usually shapes up like this: Elderly residents, especially those living on fixed incomes, oppose hikes in property taxes, and are pitted against younger neighbors who are willing to pay the extra freight to improve their children's schools.

The battle often gets nasty with charges and countercharges flying. Senior citizens argue that tax increases will force them out of their homes, while parents of school-age children accuse their elders of being selfish.

It's an unfortunate, but all-too-familiar scenario as voters across the commonwealth are asked to consider the distasteful notion of raising property taxes to make up for state budget shortfalls. Under Proposition 2, a community's total revenues from property taxes cannot increase more than 2.5 percent from year to year - unless voters approve an override. Scheduling an override vote is a difficult and divisive decision.

Enter Massachusetts lawmakers, with a plan that could defuse what House Ways and Means Committee Chairman John J. Rogers, D-Norwood, calls "a civil war between older citizens and younger citizens with children in the schools."

Under a bill wending its way through Beacon Hill, thousands of Massachusetts seniors would be spared from voter-approved property tax hikes.

The bill under consideration would allow cities and towns that approve Proposition 2 overrides to exempt certain seniors from the tax increase. There would be no escape clause for wealthy retired CEOs - the folks who live in oversized houses and spend the weekends at summer homes on the Cape or the Islands.

Instead the bill would protect hard-working retirees from increases that they just can't afford to pay. Under the bill, cities and towns could develop different eligibility criteria for the property tax exemption. The local option is a good provision.

Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, says the measure makes sense. "This is a way of saying: 'We may need the override because we need to pay for basic town services.' But at the same time we recognize that there are limits, for some seniors ..."

We agree. The bill must win a House vote before it goes to the Senate, and Gov. W. Mitt Romney has not tipped his hand on the measure. We think it deserves consideration.

Return to top


NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


Return to CLT Updates page

Return to CLT home page