To: Members of the General Court
June 19, 2007
Re: The Override/Underride - In support of
Almost everyone nowadays seems to agree on the
need for property tax relief.
As we await Governor Patrick’s promised plan (and we do not count
new local option taxes as property tax relief), we continue our
longstanding support for property taxpayers. More often than not,
Proposition 2˝ overrides are failing this year. Our bill, S.1702,
would prevent local taxpayers who vote "no" from being harassed (and
local officials from being pressured to harass them) with more than
one override a year on the town ballot. This also saves communities
the cost of multiple elections.
The second part of our proposal, similar to Rep. Paul Casey’s bill,
H.2869, gives local voters a chance to cut their property taxes with
an "underride". At present, selectmen can put an underride on their
local ballot; in most cities and some towns with an initiative
provision in their charter, citizens can do this themselves by
collecting signatures. These bills would expand this ability to
citizens of all communities should their property tax bills become
unbearable, or if they regret an override vote.
An example of regret would be voting for an override to make up for
lost local aid, only to have that local aid restored later in the
budget season. Another example might be voting for CPA taxes
thinking they would be used to preserve natural open space, only to
learn the money will be used to replace trees with artificial grass.
We do not support bills that exempt senior citizens from paying for
overrides; those who vote on a local ballot question should all have
a stake in its outcome. As an advocate of this exclusion admitted at
an earlier hearing, the intent is to keep seniors home on override
election day so that overrides will pass.
We do support proposals to assist communities with their pension and
health insurance costs by having them opt into the state system – as
a first step. Serious reform of these systems, bringing them in line
with benefits in the private sector, must be done as well if
property taxes are to be controlled, never mind relieved.