CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, September 7, 2005

MTF wants to raise your taxes, again!


A Republican state lawmaker's call to temporarily waive the state's gasoline tax created a politically sticky situation yesterday for Governor Mitt Romney, who initially dismissed the idea, but later said he "would be hard-pressed to veto any tax reduction." ...

"While we understand the urge to act quickly, the problem cannot be addressed merely through reactionary proposals," said DiMasi's spokeswoman, Kimberly Haberlin.

The Boston Globe
Friday, September 2, 2005
Lawmaker proposes gas tax waiver
Romney is open to temporary break


With gas prices out of control even before Katrina damaged our refineries and pipelines and choked the nation's oil supply, it's hard to tell if it's price-gouging when prices go up 50 cents or more per gallon overnight....

With prices high and getting higher, Republican state lawmakers are floating a worthwhile plan to suspend the state's 21 cents-per-gallon gas tax until we can only hope the chaos from Katrina stabilizes.

With a $400 million projected surplus from fiscal 2005, the Bay State can afford to absorb the $175 million loss in highway funds if the gas tax is lifted between now and December, as proposed.

A Boston Herald editorial
Friday, September 2, 2005
Katrina fuels call for gas tax relief


But what about the commonwealth of Massachusetts? Talk about a racket those hacks took $685 million out of our pockets in 2004 with the 21-cent-a-gallon tax of gasoline and diesel fuel. And on top of that, the state grabs another 2.5 cents per gallon for some underground-storage tank fee, in addition to which, the feds impose a gas tax of 18.4 cents.

So stop yelling at the guy who owns the gas station. He's making half what the state and the feds are each grabbing....

"They try to frame the debate," Jones said. "If it's a bigger number, they say we can't afford it. If it's a smaller number, it's not worth it."

Yeah, but in this case, they're saying the bigger number is chump change, and the smaller number is something "we" can't afford to do without in the trough.

The Boston Herald
Friday, September 2, 2005
Tax cut prescription to relieve Bay State gas pains
By Howie Carr


Has Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue gone crazy?

We pose the question because on Thursday, asked if a temporary suspension of the gas tax in Massachusetts was a crazy idea, Gov. Mitt Romney answered "Yeah."

Now here comes Perdue with an announcement that he is lifting Georgia's gas tax - 7.5 cents a gallon, compared to the Bay State's whopping 21 cents - through the end of September.

A Boston Herald editorial
Saturday, September 3, 2005
Look south, Governor


A task force of municipal officials is reportedly ready to recommend that the state raise the auto excise tax rate from its current $25 per $1,000 of valuation, giving cash-starved municipalities a needed revenue boost.

But local lawmakers said Massachusetts drivers are already paying record high gasoline prices and the fifth highest auto insurance premiums of any state, and that hitting them with an additional tax is not fair....

The Municipal Finance Task Force, composed of local municipal officials and headed by Sovereign Bank Chairman John Hamill, plans to release a report in early September that details a set of recommendations for how to help cities and towns reach financial stability.

In July, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a survey of 32 cities and towns that showed their health insurance had increased 63 percent since 2001....

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a task force member, said the excise tax has remained the same since Proposition 2 was enacted in 1981.

He said it is "hardly a radical notion" to explore the idea of raising the tax to $35 of valuation, considering the rate was $66 per $1,000 in 1980.

"This is a more progressive tax, and it's not insignificant for cities and towns," Widmer said. "What's striking is that we're seeing enormous pressure on the property tax, and communities are going to have to either do more layoffs or turn to raising the property tax further."

Widmer pointed out the method in which vehicles are taxed in the subsequent years of ownership do not really reflect the true value.

MediaNews Group, Inc. and Nashoba Publications
Friday, September 2, 2005
Lawmakers oppose idea of raising the auto excise tax


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Michael Widmer, president of the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (tax the "unwashed masses" more, more, more so my fat-cat supporters win higher taxes then can loan the state more), again leads the charge -- giving it alleged "respectability" while calling as usual for tax hikes.

Some of our representatives in the Legislature are proposing to reduce the burden on us, Widmer's unwashed masses, in these trying times by temporarily lowering the gas tax.  You can bet if the Legislature does it'll be truly temporary -- as opposed to when they raise taxes "temporarily." This is occurring while CLT fights MTF's soon-to-be-proposed increase in the auto excise tax, reduced by our Proposition 2, under the guise again of the second "Hamill Commission." The so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is now pushing to jack up our cost to drive.

When will the media finally see through Michael Widmer, former Dukakis administration spokesman, and his Trojan Horse organization and reveal what he and it honestly are and who they truly represent?

The barbarians are inside the gate.  They have been there for too long.

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Friday, September 2, 2005

Lawmaker proposes gas tax waiver
Romney is open to temporary break
By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff


A Republican state lawmaker's call to temporarily waive the state's gasoline tax created a politically sticky situation yesterday for Governor Mitt Romney, who initially dismissed the idea, but later said he "would be hard-pressed to veto any tax reduction."

Asked by a reporter at a morning news conference whether giving motorists a "holiday" from the state's 21 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax was "crazy," Romney said it was. The governor called the idea "an additional incentive to use gasoline and energy."

Later, however, Romney called a Globe reporter to clarify his comment, saying he meant that the proposal made no sense as a long-term solution. The House minority leader, Bradley H. Jones Jr., a Republican, would waive the tax only until Dec. 31.

The episode played out as politicians on Beacon Hill began responding to the spike in gasoline prices: The average price of regular unleaded gas in the Bay State rose to $2.79 yesterday, up 17 cents since Monday, according to the American Automobile Association of Southern New England. Romney said his administration is working on proposals to encourage energy efficiency. Leading Democrats said they were readying their own energy proposals, though a spokeswoman for House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi cautioned against sudden changes in policy.

"While we understand the urge to act quickly, the problem cannot be addressed merely through reactionary proposals," said DiMasi's spokeswoman, Kimberly Haberlin.

Jones said he knows his proposal won't provide long-term relief to Massachusetts motorists, but he contends that it would help them gradually adjust their spending habits to reflect an unfortunate new reality. Jones said waiving the gas tax would cost the state $175 million. Under his plan, the state would plug that hole with other money.

"Drive by a gas station and look at the board and see what the price is, and drive by a day later and see what the price is, and that's your argument for it," Jones said. "It's something we can do to take the edge off as people try to acclimate to the idea that we are probably facing a permanently higher price for gas."

Jones said his gas-tax break is one of several energy proposals he will put forward once the Legislature returns to work after Labor Day. He also will propose the elimination of the excise tax on clean-fuel or hybrid vehicles, a tax credit on the purchase of clean-fuel vehicles, and a sales-tax holiday for energy-efficient appliances.

Gas prices and energy policy were hot topics at the State House yesterday. After introducing the new commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Romney launched into a wide-ranging discourse on the nation's energy challenges. Romney joked about a cardigan-clad President Carter exhorting Americans to turn down their thermostats during the energy crisis of the 1970s. But then Romney issued his own call for conservation, saying "we're going to have to rethink how we use energy in our society."

"We as individual families and as citizens need to find ways to conserve energy, to utilize it more efficiently," he said. "It's an amazing fact. You've seen that almost everything in America has gotten more efficient over the decade -- except the fuel economy of the vehicles we drive, that's become more inefficient."

Romney, whose auto-executive father invented the term "compact car," appeared to be departing from the conservative Republican position that the best way to reduce the price of oil is to find more of it. But later in the day, the possible presidential candidate emphasized that he did not necessarily support tougher fuel-efficiency standards.

Romney declined to comment on the Bush administration's plan, unveiled earlier this month, to stiffen those standards. Democrats and environmental groups have criticized the proposed changes as insufficient.

Instead, Romney predicted that simple economics will curb the popularity of sport utility vehicles and other gas-guzzlers.

"I actually believe that by virtue of the rise in gasoline prices, which I believe is a long-term phenomenon, that you will see a reversal of that trend," he said.

Romney and his wife own a 1985 BMW, a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, a 2005 Cadillac SRX, and a new Ford Mustang. The governor said that he doesn't plan to trade in any of those vehicles right away but that "there's no question that the next time I purchase an automobile for Ann and me, fuel efficiency will weigh more heavily than it did last time."

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The Boston Herald
Friday, September 2, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
Katrina fuels call for gas tax relief


With gas prices out of control even before Katrina damaged our refineries and pipelines and choked the nation's oil supply, it's hard to tell if it's price-gouging when prices go up 50 cents or more per gallon overnight.

Attorney General Tom Reilly's office is monitoring complaints about profiteering, but for now it appears the price of gas here reflects current market conditions dismal as they might be.

With prices high and getting higher, Republican state lawmakers are floating a worthwhile plan to suspend the state's 21 cents-per-gallon gas tax until we can only hope the chaos from Katrina stabilizes.

With a $400 million projected surplus from fiscal 2005, the Bay State can afford to absorb the $175 million loss in highway funds if the gas tax is lifted between now and December, as proposed.

In the meantime, the tax break will have provided critical relief to school bus companies, delivery businesses and all of us who rely on a car to get around.

A good-faith effort to conserve gas couldn't hurt either (hey, the MBTA could use the business).

And when December comes, we'll still be dealing with high gas prices given the pre-Katrina forces already driving them skyward.

But this is an innovative proposal that deserved consideration long before Katrina hit and even more so now.

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The Boston Herald
Friday, September 2, 2005

Tax cut prescription to relieve Bay State gas pains
By Howie Carr


What do you call it in these post-Katrina days when the price of gas goes up 20 cents a gallon overnight?

You call it a good day.

OK, the oil companies are "gouging" us. They're reaping "windfall profits."

But what about the commonwealth of Massachusetts? Talk about a racket those hacks took $685 million out of our pockets in 2004 with the 21-cent-a-gallon tax of gasoline and diesel fuel. And on top of that, the state grabs another 2.5 cents per gallon for some underground-storage tank fee, in addition to which, the feds impose a gas tax of 18.4 cents.

So stop yelling at the guy who owns the gas station. He's making half what the state and the feds are each grabbing. The guy on the corner is only getting 9 or 10 cents a gallon, and don't forget the credit card companies grab 3 percent of anything that's charged, which these days is most everything.

Say what you will about Big Oil, at least they give you a gallon of gas for the $3.50. (Correction: That was last night. It's $3.85 this morning.)

What exactly does the state provide for its 21 cents and if you want to answer "the roads," please address your remarks to my shock absorbers, or what's left of them. Also, let me show you my canceled checks for the auto excise tax I pay, which the solons want to raise, and don't even get me started on the tolls.

So why don't we suspend the state gasoline tax?

"It's almost usurious that we're still grabbing this money," said Rep. Brad Jones, the Republican leader of the House. "The majority party is going to keep the capital-gains tax, and they say we can't 'afford' to cut the income tax back to 5 percent. We ran a surplus in the last fiscal year. Revenue in July was ahead of projections. So let's do something for the average guy."

Yeah, right. They didn't go into politics to give money back.

"Even mentioning giving money back around here," Jones said, "is like touching the third rail."

I have only one problem with Jones' proposal. Forget the "sunset" provision. Let's abolish the gas tax permanently. But the so-called advocates will soon be out after the long weekend, of course bleating about how we can't afford it. When you ask the hacks to cut the state income tax back to the 5 percent level they promised in 1989, they always say, "Well, if you make $50,000, cutting the tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5 percent would 'only' mean $150 a year."

But if you use, say, 40 gallons a week, a three-month hit by the gas tax costs $104.

And that's way, way too much. What about those who fall through the safety net? What about ... the children?

"They try to frame the debate," Jones said. "If it's a bigger number, they say we can't afford it. If it's a smaller number, it's not worth it."

Yeah, but in this case, they're saying the bigger number is chump change, and the smaller number is something "we" can't afford to do without in the trough.

So Mitt Romney says last night that a gas-tax reduction "is not going to resolve the problem."

No kidding, Mitt. But if it saves me $6 when I fill up my SUV, that's a pizza. A cheese pizza, but hey, we all have to tighten our belts.

"If it crosses my desk," Mitt said, "I'm surely not going to veto a tax cut."

But of course, what are the odds it'll ever reach his desk?

A guy told me last night, "I'm a courier. I drive 250, 300 miles a day. One-third of my income is going to gas right now. Gets much higher, I'll be doing better on unemployment than working."

I filled up Wednesday night at a Mobil station in Newton. Regular cost 2.79 a gallon. Twelve hours later, I drove by the same station. Regular was 2.99. It was a good day.

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The Boston Herald
Saturday, September 3, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
Look south, Governor


Has Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue gone crazy?

We pose the question because on Thursday, asked if a temporary suspension of the gas tax in Massachusetts was a crazy idea, Gov. Mitt Romney answered "Yeah."

Now here comes Perdue with an announcement that he is lifting Georgia's gas tax - 7.5 cents a gallon, compared to the Bay State's whopping 21 cents - through the end of September.

The move, Perdue said, will help drivers cope with skyrocketing gas prices driven by the damage Hurricane Katrina caused to refineries and pipelines.

And for good measure, Perdue is suspending the 4 percent sales tax on gas in Georgia, too.

With gas prices exceeding $3 a gallon, Romney at first focused on long-term changes in energy policy to help free up supply and bring down prices. Cutting the gas tax would simply encourage more consumption, he theorized, a befuddling response from a chief executive who never met a tax cut he didn't like.

But the Republican governor quickly saw the error of his ways - calling the Boston Globe later Thursday to insist he would be hard-pressed to veto any tax cut that landed on his desk. Guess the idea isn't so crazy after all.

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MediaNews Group, Inc. and Nashoba Publications
Friday, September 2, 2005

Lawmakers oppose idea of raising the auto excise tax
By Erik Arvidson, Statehouse Bureau


Fitchburg-area lawmakers appear dead-set against a proposal to raise the excise tax on automobiles to help cities and towns pay for the soaring cost of employee health insurance.

A task force of municipal officials is reportedly ready to recommend that the state raise the auto excise tax rate from its current $25 per $1,000 of valuation, giving cash-starved municipalities a needed revenue boost.

But local lawmakers said Massachusetts drivers are already paying record high gasoline prices and the fifth highest auto insurance premiums of any state, and that hitting them with an additional tax is not fair.

"I think that's a lousy idea," said state Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, D-Leominster. "It's a regressive tax. There is going to be little or no appetite in the Legislature to do this, and I don't see it happening. This is a real hit on people, and it's not based on income, it's based on the kind of car you have."

Antonioni said he would rather focus on trying to boost state aid to cities and towns, particularly through removing a limit on how much state lottery aid is distributed to cities and towns.

State Rep. James Eldridge, D-Acton, questioned whether an increase in the excise tax will help smaller towns.

State Rep. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, said she would be interested to see how the additional excise tax revenue would be spent.

"A lot of people in my district are feeling the crunch from gas prices," Flanagan said. "To add another tax would concern me."

Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said, "I don't know how much more people can afford. People's insurance is going up. I don't know how we can think we can ask people to pay that. At some point, you're just forcing trucking companies and individuals to register their vehicles in New Hampshire."

The Municipal Finance Task Force, composed of local municipal officials and headed by Sovereign Bank Chairman John Hamill, plans to release a report in early September that details a set of recommendations for how to help cities and towns reach financial stability.

In July, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a survey of 32 cities and towns that showed their health insurance had increased 63 percent since 2001.

Among the recommendations the task force will make, according to the Boston Globe, are that the excise tax rate be increased and that the "depreciation schedule" -- covers how a vehicle is taxed in each year of ownership -- be changed.

The task force wants vehicles to be taxed more in line with what their actual value is, which would give municipalities a significant revenue boost above the $600 million now collected in excise tax revenue.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a task force member, said the excise tax has remained the same since Proposition 2 was enacted in 1981.

He said it is "hardly a radical notion" to explore the idea of raising the tax to $35 of valuation, considering the rate was $66 per $1,000 in 1980.

"This is a more progressive tax, and it's not insignificant for cities and towns," Widmer said. "What's striking is that we're seeing enormous pressure on the property tax, and communities are going to have to either do more layoffs or turn to raising the property tax further."

Widmer pointed out the method in which vehicles are taxed in the subsequent years of ownership do not really reflect the true value.

If a person purchases a 2005 model vehicle during the 2006 model year, the vehicle is taxed at a rate that is 50 percent of the manufacturer's list price.

In year two of ownership, the vehicle is taxed at 60 percent of its value, then 40 percent in year three, 25 percent in year four and 10 percent in the fifth and succeeding years.

Widmer said legislators "are really feeling the heat, and as a result more unpopular ideas are going to start to become more palatable."

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