Thursday, June 14, 2001
Voluntary Tax fumbled by Senate Republican hands
The state House of Representatives adopted our voluntary tax
check-off in its budget on April 30. We needed the Senate to do the same this week for it to become law.
On Monday, CLT ran a $10,000 radio ad campaign supporting
our voluntary tax check-off, which had been filed as an amendment for the Senate budget debate that started on Tuesday,
and its Republican sponsors.
Yesterday, Wednesday, in morning phone calls, we were given
assurances of preparation and readiness from our Republican allies in the state Senate. This would be at least a good
The amendments were taken up in order. We watched as Sen.
Hedlund's Amendment #422 was called and he rose for debate in favor of incentives for hybrid cars. His amendment was
Next it was finally our turn! At about 4:10 pm our amendment was called by the presiding Senate
"Amendment 423, Voluntary Optional Tax Endowment. The
question comes on adoption of the amendment ..."
This was when our spear-carrier, Sen. Bob Hedlund, was to
again rise and speak for his/our amendment! We'd been watching and waiting for two entire days for this moment! The VCR was
fired up and recording!
But not a single senator rose to speak.
" ... All those in favor say aye, those opposed no, the nos
have it, the amendment is not adopted."
We sat in stunned silence ... a silence just as complete as
our sponsors, the Senate Republicans, had been.
The entire Republican Senate caucus -- primary sponsor Sen.
Hedlund and co-sponsors of our voluntary tax amendment, Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow), Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), Bruce
Tarr (R-Gloucester), Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield) and JoAnn Sprague (R-Walpole) -- had sat on their hands
and bit their collective tongues.
Upon recovery, calls of shock were made to their offices by
us and others; callers were told by staffers that the Republican minority leader, Sen Brian Lees, had told Hedlund
not to speak on his/our amendment.
In subsequent phone calls from Sens. Hedlund and Tarr,
Barbara and I were further informed that it all happened in an instant. Just before Sen. Hedlund was about to rise for our
amendment, Sen. Lees told him don't. He didn't, because, he told us later, he thought his leader had some grande strategy.
He now regrets it. He should.
The reason/excuse on their part, we've been told, is that
"the votes weren't there" for passage, that "the vote would have been 34-6 with all Democrats voting against the
amendment." They feel this would have hurt the voluntary tax more in conference committee with the House than no recorded
If an amendment passes one branch only, House or Senate, a
conference committee made up of three members of each branch must decide if it will be in the final budget or not. We're
having a little trouble understanding why the conferees would be more impressed with an amendment that no one even bothered
to debate - thereby presuming perhaps an unanimous No vote including the Republicans (after all, nobody
spoke for it) -- than with an amendment that at least had SOME enthusiastic
support in the Senate. But we'll see.
We will be watching and we will see.
They did pledge the Senate Republican caucus to striving in
conference committee to insure that the House version -- with the voluntary tax -- is in the final budget product. The
Republican Senate conference committee designee, Sen. Michael R. Knapik (R-Westfield) we were told, will lead the charge, if
there really is to be one. We expect the House Republican conferee will be supportive.
In the end, budget conferences are historically finalized by
House Speaker Tom Finneran and Senate President Tom Birmingham (remember the State House balcony scenes of past years). The
lone Senate Republican has little power or influence, but that's no reason for Republicans to not make a serious effort.
We at CLT believe that yesterday was the day for the voluntary tax ... and nothing happened. Not a thing.
But, we'll watch and we'll see.
If you want to weigh in with your support for our Voluntary
Tax Check-Off, Sen. Knapik is now the go-to guy. His contact information is below:
State Sen. Michael R. Knapik (R)
District: 2nd Hampden and Hampshire
District Office: 57 North Elm Street, Westfield, MA 01085
District Telephone: (413) 562-6454
Staff: Peter J. Miller, Helene A. Florio, Megan E. Tierney,
Timothy G. Trull, Legislative Aides
State House, Room 309, Boston, MA 02133
State House Telephone: (617) 722-1415
As I told Sens. Hedlund and Tarr, we will pass on the
word, and I'm trying very hard to be fair ... but we will be watching.
Closely, as always.
In the end, we have to depend on our allies to keep their
commitment to fight for an issue. So far on this one, we have been very disappointed.
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