CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Thursday, April 15, 2004

It's April 15th - Do you know where your tax money is?


The editorial "Tax distortions" (April 12) argues that since its state and local tax burden ranks 36th relative to personal income, "Massachusetts can easily afford to increase tax revenues," and recommends raising the state income tax "to a more sensible rate." ...

It's time to roll back the state income tax rate from its present 5.3 percent to its traditional 5 percent, as the voters mandated, which would still leave us paying far more for every man, woman, and child than most other Americans pay.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Letter to the editor by Barbara Anderson
Roll back state income tax rate


Governor Mitt Romney wants the state to refund as much as $275 million in capital-gains taxes, potentially punching a huge hole in the $22.5 billion fiscal 2005 budget that House Democrats presented yesterday, a plan that already taps more than $600 million from the state's reserves....

On April 6, the court ruled that the Legislature had unconstitutionally raised the capital-gains tax rate in 2002 by making the tax hike effective May 1, rather than at the beginning of the calendar year. The high court ordered one of its justices to determine whether the state should make the new rate effective January 2002, which would require some investors to pay more, or January 2003.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor favors the latter approach, because he "thinks it is un-American to tax people retroactively." ...

Romney made his announcement just hours before House leaders unveiled their long-awaited budget blueprint, upstaging the Democrats, who were eager to highlight spending increases in areas such as health care. Yesterday's back-and-forth between Romney and House leaders marked the official beginning of a budget debate that is expected to consume Beacon Hill through June.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Romney pushes capital gains refund


For what is shaping up to be the fourth of six lean years, the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday produced a water-treading $23 billion state budget. The Legislature and Governor Romney need to work harder to restore Massachusetts to its former leadership role in social progress....

This would leave just $500 million to $600 million in reserves for next year, which could prove insufficient if the economy fails to rebound. Still, the best way to ensure that rainy day funds do not run out is to bolster the tax base, not starve schools and hospitals.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004
A Boston Globe editorial
Choices on Beacon Hill


Don't underestimate the significance of the state balancing its books for the third year in a row without relying on a broad-based tax increase. Beacon Hill leaders withstanding special interest - and liberal media - pressure, again, isn't quite a trend but it's a very big deal....

Thankfully, the Legislature doesn't share the perverse view of that other major daily newspaper in town that improved tax burden rankings provides yet another argument to raise taxes....

Dare we hope that "no new taxes" budgets are now the norm, not the exception? Heck, next thing you know the sun might actually shine in April around here.

The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004
A Boston Herald editorial
Balanced budget, sunny days ahead


Gunning for the dearest perk of all, Democratic lawmakers want to sell off state cars controlled by Gov. Mitt Romney and grab the freed-up parking spots for themselves and their pals.

Deep in the House budget unveiled yesterday, House leaders ordered Republican Romney to sell all but 20 of his administration's cars and fork over the prime Beacon Hill parking spots.

The lucky recipients are the House, Senate, attorney general, inspector general, treasurer, auditor and secretary of state - all of whom happen to be Democrats.

The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Dems out to nab gov's parking spaces


The revived debate over the Hynes' future has one prominent local critic calling again for a sale of the taxpayer-subsidized, money-losing Back Bay hall.

The Pioneer Institute, long skeptical of public investment in the convention business, contends that the state should cut its losses and sell to a private convention business operator....

Adams' comments come after a startling assessment of the Hynes done for state Treasurer Tim Cahill that found it to be worth only $35 million, despite hundreds of millions spent in the 1980s to expand and renovate the center....

Still, Democratic power players on Beacon Hill, who have long favored keeping the Hynes publicly owned, showed no signs yesterday of relenting....

But Finneran acknowledged that the hall, for now, is off limits to any sale attempt. The hall, before the transfer vote, had been under the purview of Gov. Mitt Romney, who has championed a sale.

The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Selling Hynes would save public millions, critic chimes


Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the Massachusetts House redistricting process and have subpoenaed documents from the legislative committee that created the controversial plan that redrew district lines in 2001.

The grand jury subpoena was sent March 10 to the office of Representative Thomas M. Petrolati, the House chairman of the redistricting committee.

The redistricting plan was challenged in federal court by voting-rights groups that alleged that lawmakers marginalized minority voters' clout and protected white incumbents. During the trial late last year, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran testified that he was not involved in drawing the map, an assertion that the speaker's critics and a panel of three federal judges, in an unusual rebuke, described as not credible....

Two weeks later, Common Cause Massachusetts publicly asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Finneran committed perjury during the trial....

Pam Wilmot, Common Cause's executive director, said yesterday she volunteered to federal prosecutors a list of legislators who could provide evidence contradicting Finneran's testimony that he was not involved in the process.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004
US probes drawing of Mass. districts
Records sought for grand jury


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Yesterday the House released its proposed version of the FY2005 state budget that claims to total $22.5 billion and includes no new taxes.

Of course, we're actually talking about a budget proposal that amounts to $24.7 billion, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation as reported in today's Boston Globe, when "off-budget spending" is factored in. "Off-budget spending" is a recent and growing gimmick to make budgets appear smaller than they actually are.

To understand the shell game, go to CLT's "Truth in Budgeting: The hidden code to breaking state budget numbers" on our website.

*                    *                    *

The Boston Globe is at it again, redefining the unpalatable in its ceaseless crusade for higher taxes. Its latest entry in Orwellian Newspeak is "bolster the tax base." I'm surprised they used "tax base" and not "investment" or "revenue stream." Nobody's fooled by those shopworn clichs anyway, and if the tax-and-spend propagandists go any further over the edge, nobody will have a clue what they're talking about. But that's the point, I suppose.

See through "bolster the tax base" too. Let's watch how shamelessly creative they can become, keep them busy dreaming up another, and another, and another that'll all become just as ineffective.

Too bad the propagandists and advocates just can't comprehend that nobody wants higher taxes -- nobody but them and their elitist ilk. Of the 41 percent who voted against our tax rollback in 2000, only 624 taxpayers of those 1,055,181 voters  chose our voluntary tax check-off on their income tax return this year, so far contributing a mere $65,740 of additional revenue.

Memo to the Boston Globe:  Wake up; even your assumed base has turned against higher taxes!

As today's Boston Herald editorial stated: "Thankfully, the Legislature doesn't share the perverse view of that other major daily newspaper in town that improved tax burden rankings provides yet another argument to raise taxes." Beacon Hill pols can tell which way the wind is blowing and they are going with it.

*                    *                    *

That's not to say those same pols will cease playing the petty insider games for their own advantage. Their silly game to take away Romney administration parking spaces on Beacon Hill so they can grab them for themselves is just so typical of "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy."

And there's no way they're going to sell off the White Elephant called the Hynes Convention Center, today "worth only $35 million, despite hundreds of millions spent in the 1980s to expand and renovate the center." Nope, better to control it at any cost; it's been a great patronage haven for too long.

*                    *                    *

Finally today, Tax Filing Day, came news that a federal grand jury is investigating how the House redistricting plan was drafted and has already subpoenaed documents from Finneran's committee that created it. Apparently nobody bought Finneran's foolishness that he was -- for the first time in his speakership -- out of the loop, in fact didn't even know what district he represents.

Mistah Speaker may be about to learn that, unlike former senate president Billy Bulger, he is not above the law or immune from prosecution for perjury.

Congratulations to our often-ally, Common Cause and its director Pam Wilmot, for advocating and pursuing this federal investigation!



Anatomy of an inevitable taxpayer mugging


The Latest Installment

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004

What the convention is worth
By Jeff Jacoby
[Excerpts]

If there is one thing that Boston's politicians, journalists, and corporate eminentos seem to know for a fact, it is that the Democratic National Convention will more than pay for itself by showering the city's economy with $150 million in new economic activity....

There's just one thing wrong with this lucrative convention dividend. It's pie in the sky. According to an analysis released this week by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, the convention's net impact on Boston's economy won't be a gain of $150 million but a loss of $12.8 million....

None of this is meant as an argument against hosting political conventions. It's an argument against forcing taxpayers to subsidize political conventions and then telling them lies about what they're getting for their money.

[Full Column]

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Letter to the editor
Roll back state income tax rate


The editorial "Tax distortions" (April 12) argues that since its state and local tax burden ranks 36th relative to personal income, "Massachusetts can easily afford to increase tax revenues," and recommends raising the state income tax "to a more sensible rate."

The editorial dismisses the Tax Foundation's other ranking of fourth-highest when federal taxes are included -- though the same taxpayers have to come up with this total tax burden, making increased state taxes less "affordable." The argument that our cost of living is higher here does not make a case for higher taxes but for more disposable income so our taxpayers can afford housing and the other higher costs. Yet another ranking by the Tax Foundation puts us third in state and local tax burden per capita, which means that we pay more for services to cover our population than people in 47 other states.

It's time to roll back the state income tax rate from its present 5.3 percent to its traditional 5 percent, as the voters mandated, which would still leave us paying far more for every man, woman, and child than most other Americans pay.

Barbara Anderson
Executive Director
Citizens for Limited Taxation

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The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Romney pushes capital gains refund
By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff


Governor Mitt Romney wants the state to refund as much as $275 million in capital-gains taxes, potentially punching a huge hole in the $22.5 billion fiscal 2005 budget that House Democrats presented yesterday, a plan that already taps more than $600 million from the state's reserves.

At Romney's behest, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly will urge the Supreme Judicial Court to make a capital-gains tax increase effective at a later date, resulting in a refund for as many as 145,000 taxpayers. On April 6, the court ruled that the Legislature had unconstitutionally raised the capital-gains tax rate in 2002 by making the tax hike effective May 1, rather than at the beginning of the calendar year. The high court ordered one of its justices to determine whether the state should make the new rate effective January 2002, which would require some investors to pay more, or January 2003.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor favors the latter approach, because he "thinks it is un-American to tax people retroactively."

Under Romney's approach, as many as 145,000 taxpayers would get refunds totaling between $225 million and $275 million. If the court makes the new rate effective January 2002, as many as 120,000 investors would owe a total of $102 million in additional taxes.

Romney made his announcement just hours before House leaders unveiled their long-awaited budget blueprint, upstaging the Democrats, who were eager to highlight spending increases in areas such as health care. Yesterday's back-and-forth between Romney and House leaders marked the official beginning of a budget debate that is expected to consume Beacon Hill through June.

Representative John H. Rogers, a Democrat from Norwood who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, described the House budget as "fair, responsible, and responsive" to the needs of Massachusetts residents.

An analysis by Michael J. Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded nonprofit group, showed that state spending totals about $24.65 billion in the House plan, compared with Romney's $24.51 billion, when off-budget items such as pension fund payments are factored in.

"Our recommendation upholds the multiyear strategy inaugurated three years ago, at the start of the fiscal crisis, to restore fiscal stability to the state budget," Rogers wrote in a letter to his colleagues that accompanied the plan.

At an afternoon press conference at the State House, Rogers emphasized the areas in which the budget boosts spending. The House plan matches Romney's proposal by raising overall spending on K-12 education by about 2.2 percent, to $3.19 billion. Both the House and the governor would maintain lottery aid and so-called additional assistance to cities and towns, which helps pay for police, fire, and public works, at current levels. Neither plan includes a broad-based tax increase, which Romney has vowed to veto. But both close tax loopholes to bring in an additional $70 million.

The House proposal calls on the state to shoulder a greater share of special education and regional school transportation costs than Romney's proposal: House leaders want to raise special education spending from $121 million to $201 million, or 66 percent, and increase state spending on regional school transportation from $26.4 million to 38 million, or 44 percent. Romney would not increase spending in either area.

Several health programs, which have absorbed especially deep cuts during the state's fiscal crisis, would fare better under the House plan than under Romney's proposal: House Democrats want to spend $12 million more on smoking prevention programs, $6 million more on school health services, $4.5 million more on substance abuse services, and $1 million more on prostate cancer prevention.

Romney wants to cut $70 million from what the state reimburses hospitals for caring for the uninsured; the House plan rejects that cut. And the House would increase spending on Prescription Advantage, the discount drug program for seniors, from $96 million to $110 million. Romney wants to continue to spend $96 million.

John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All, described the House plan as a "significant improvement" over Romney's proposal, with the "glaring" exception of MassHealth Essential, the Medicaid program for the long-term unemployed. The governor would spend $160 million on it, while the House would spend only $110 million.

Rogers acknowledged that the House plan contains bad news, as well. It cuts between 300 and 350 state jobs and would cut spending for colleges, environmental agencies, and some homeless and HIV programs.

At a press conference, Romney's budget chief, Eric Kriss, described the House plan as "a cynical, irresponsible, and intellectually dishonest budget at a very fragile economic moment."

"This is a depressing step backwards, and it reflects entrenched special interests and panders to a union monopoly that is over our civic life," Kriss said. "The budget does not include a single reform."

Specifically, Kriss knocked the House plan for ignoring Romney's idea to merge the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Department; consolidate the Boston Municipal Court; and enact changes in public construction and pension rules. He also noted that it fails to fund Romney's so-called Legacy of Learning program, which would funnel about $40 million to struggling schools.

Rogers said that granting the capital-gains refund would create a huge fiscal problem for the state, but Romney's aides say it would create less of a problem under the governor's plan, because it relies on $190 million in savings from the Turnpike-Highway Department merger and $150 million from refinancing the school-building assistance program. House Democrats say both proposals are fiscally irresponsible.

Globe correspondent Matthew Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Boston Globe editorial
Choices on Beacon Hill


For what is shaping up to be the fourth of six lean years, the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday produced a water-treading $23 billion state budget. The Legislature and Governor Romney need to work harder to restore Massachusetts to its former leadership role in social progress.

The proposal is more generous than recent budgets have been to hospitals and schools. Hospital administrators will be particularly relieved that the spending plan restores Medicaid cuts called for in the budget Governor Romney unveiled in January.

Romney's budget, which would have cut already inadequate Medicaid payments to hospitals by $70 million, might have had the unintended effect of provoking a crisis out of which new solutions for caring for the poor and uninsured might emerge. Ron Preston, secretary of health and human services, hopes to present a reform plan to the governor soon.

As higher premiums make private insurance less affordable and swell the ranks of the uninsured, such a plan is needed more than ever. Cuts of the magnitude called for by Romney could threaten the survival of some of the state's fiscally shaky acute care hospitals.

In transportation, another area in which the Romney administration has long been promising a master plan for priority projects, the Ways and Means chairman, John Rogers, is proposing a Massachusetts Transportation Coordination Council. This group would bring together the Turnpike Authority, the MBTA, Massport, the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, regional transit authorities, and (if it chose to participate) the Coast Guard to integrate decision-making by these legendarily independent organizations. Rogers's council, or something like it, is overdue.

Rogers's budget addresses the needs of the state's often neglected rural communities in two ways. It calls for $10 million for towns with big state parks or forests that yield no property tax revenues, and it substantially increases payments made to regional school districts with heavy transportation costs.

Unfortunately, the budget offers little to ease the state's housing shortage and unwisely subjects higher education to more cuts. The University of Massachusetts and the four-year colleges would be down 2 percent; the two-year colleges 1 percent. But the budget manages, in addition to funding Medicaid adequately, to keep Lottery local aid at its current level, increase Chapter 70 school assistance by $75 million, and increase special-education funding. It does this in part by using more than $600 million in reserve funds.

This would leave just $500 million to $600 million in reserves for next year, which could prove insufficient if the economy fails to rebound. Still, the best way to ensure that rainy day funds do not run out is to bolster the tax base, not starve schools and hospitals.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Boston Herald editorial
Balanced budget, sunny days ahead


Don't underestimate the significance of the state balancing its books for the third year in a row without relying on a broad-based tax increase. Beacon Hill leaders withstanding special interest - and liberal media - pressure, again, isn't quite a trend but it's a very big deal.

The fiscal 2005 budget is far from a done deal. But the fact that Gov. Mitt Romney and House Speaker Tom Finneran are supporting budget blueprints which don't increase taxes (aside from closing a tax loophole or two, that is), it's a pretty sure bet that the coming budget debate will focus on moving money to different priorities, rather than increasing the size of the revenue pie.

The strong sentiment against raising taxes in the Legislature, House Speaker Tom Finneran told Herald editors and reporters is because members are "afraid we'll unduly burden an economic recovery."

Thankfully, the Legislature doesn't share the perverse view of that other major daily newspaper in town that improved tax burden rankings provides yet another argument to raise taxes.

We'd prefer more reform and less reliance on reserves - the House uses $673 million in reserves compared to Romney's $140 million - even if his savings are not always what they're cracked up to be. There's merit in simply making government more efficient.

But tapping reserves, which are meant to help the state through rainy days, is far preferable than relying on gimmicks. And the House plan seems virtually gimmick free.

It's disappointing the House didn't embrace the merger of the Turnpike with the state Highway Department. There's no reason that step couldn't be taken in concert with House Ways and Means Chairman John Rogers' (D-Norwood) idea to form a transportation coordinating council.

The council's creation is one of some 100 so-called outside sections - legislation glommed onto an appropriations bill - which is a vast improvement over Romney's 419 such abuses.

There's a modest amount of belt-tightening in the House plan, too. The governor should welcome the chance to impose further fiscal discipline on his own agencies. A budget cudgel is the best way to wring further creativity out of administration leaders who lose their reform zeal as time goes on.

Dare we hope that "no new taxes" budgets are now the norm, not the exception? Heck, next thing you know the sun might actually shine in April around here.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Dems out to nab gov's parking spaces
By Elisabeth J. Beardsley


Gunning for the dearest perk of all, Democratic lawmakers want to sell off state cars controlled by Gov. Mitt Romney and grab the freed-up parking spots for themselves and their pals.

Deep in the House budget unveiled yesterday, House leaders ordered Republican Romney to sell all but 20 of his administration's cars and fork over the prime Beacon Hill parking spots.

The lucky recipients are the House, Senate, attorney general, inspector general, treasurer, auditor and secretary of state - all of whom happen to be Democrats.

"They are literally driving away from reform," exclaimed a shocked Romney press spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman.

Lawmakers are facing a big parking crunch after losing spots when the old Saltonstall office building was sold and renovated.

House leaders say the 80 cars assigned to Romney are "excessive," and claim the state could raise $400,000 at auction.

But fleet overseers say they've only got 53 cars total and 33 available to sell.

The no-frills 1997 Dodge Neons have been fetching about $800 at auction, which would only raise $26,400.

Dollars aside, the fact of choice political parking remains, with one major drawback - the spots are located at the Hurley Building, which means a long schlep uphill to the State House.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Selling Hynes would save public millions, critic chimes
By Scott Van Voorhis


The revived debate over the Hynes' future has one prominent local critic calling again for a sale of the taxpayer-subsidized, money-losing Back Bay hall.

The Pioneer Institute, long skeptical of public investment in the convention business, contends that the state should cut its losses and sell to a private convention business operator.

"It would save taxpayers millions every year and provide a viable economic (alternative) for that building," said Pioneer chief Stephen Adams.

Adams' comments come after a startling assessment of the Hynes done for state Treasurer Tim Cahill that found it to be worth only $35 million, despite hundreds of millions spent in the 1980s to expand and renovate the center.

Meanwhile, a prominent national critic of publicly subsidized convention halls said the Hynes' valuation backs up his critique.

"In general, the economic impact of convention centers has been seriously oversold and overhyped," University of Texas professor Heywood Sanders said.

Still, Democratic power players on Beacon Hill, who have long favored keeping the Hynes publicly owned, showed no signs yesterday of relenting.

Cahill cited the low assessment to reject the state Legislature's attempt to transfer the Hynes and a parking garage to the state's pension board.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D-Mattapan) would not commit yesterday to either forcing Cahill to take the Hynes or taking action to rescind last year's vote.

But Finneran acknowledged that the hall, for now, is off limits to any sale attempt. The hall, before the transfer vote, had been under the purview of Gov. Mitt Romney, who has championed a sale.

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The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 15, 2004

US probes drawing of Mass. districts
Records sought for grand jury
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff


Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the Massachusetts House redistricting process and have subpoenaed documents from the legislative committee that created the controversial plan that redrew district lines in 2001.

The grand jury subpoena was sent March 10 to the office of Representative Thomas M. Petrolati, the House chairman of the redistricting committee.

The redistricting plan was challenged in federal court by voting-rights groups that alleged that lawmakers marginalized minority voters' clout and protected white incumbents. During the trial late last year, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran testified that he was not involved in drawing the map, an assertion that the speaker's critics and a panel of three federal judges, in an unusual rebuke, described as not credible.

According to a senior legislative source who has seen the subpoena, prosecutors are seeking committee documents that would contradict statements made during the trial. The subpoena does not specifically name Finneran, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Finneran did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking comment yesterday. Attorney Lawrence DiCara, a Finneran adviser and consultant to the redistricting committee, told the Globe yesterday that he was aware of the federal investigation. "I heard they were looking for documents," DiCara said. He declined to elaborate.

Petrolati, a Democrat from Ludlow, said he had no knowledge of the subpoenas or the investigation. "That's news to me," he said in a brief interview at the State House.

Committee documents were delivered to the grand jury within days after the subpoena was received, the senior legislative source said.

In February, the panel of three judges ordered the House to redraw its district map, ruling that the lawmakers sacrificed "racial fairness" in their desire to protect incumbents. Regarding Finneran's testimony that he was not involved in the shaping of the districts, one of the most important political matters the Legislature decides, the judges said: "Although Speaker Finneran denied any involvement in the redistricting process, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the opposite conclusion."

The judges noted that the speaker had handpicked the committee and its chairman, Petrolati; ensured that the panel hire his boyhood friend, DiCara; and that Finneran's counsel at the time, John Stefanini, had the software used in the process installed on his office computer. The map would have reshaped Finneran's Mattapan-based district to shed minority neighborhoods and add white areas in Milton.

Two weeks later, Common Cause Massachusetts publicly asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether Finneran committed perjury during the trial. The US attorney's office had no comment at the time.

Pam Wilmot, Common Cause's executive director, said yesterday she volunteered to federal prosecutors a list of legislators who could provide evidence contradicting Finneran's testimony that he was not involved in the process. "I just passed the information that was given to me," Wilmot said. Samantha Martin, a spokeswomanfor US Attorney Michael Sullivan's office, said yesterday that federal law prohibits the office from confirming or denying the existence of an investigation. However, a person who has been involved with the case said that Assistant Attorney John T. McNeil is conducting the investigation.

Common Cause called for the investigation March 9. The next day, the subpoena arrived at Petrolati's office, though it is not clear whether the federal prosecutors were reacting to the request. The senior legislative source said it was more likely that the probe was triggered by the judges' comments in their ruling.

The controversy surrounding the redistricting plan and the lack of resolution more than a month after the judges' ruling has created confusion about upcoming legislative races, especially in the Boston area.

The judges will hold a hearing tomorrow to consider six plans that have been drawn up by both the plaintiffs and the House leadership. A bill that would extend the filing deadlines from April 27 to May 11 for candidates in the affected district is making its way through the Legislature.

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