A well-respected anti-tax organization that fought successfully last year for the largest
income tax cut in the state's history, is, for now, not taking a stand on a new, more sweeping tax cut
Barbara Anderson, director of Citizens for Limited
Taxation, said her organization has not yet staked a position on a new
ballot initiative backed by libertarian activists to completely eliminate Massachusetts' income tax.
Supporters say the cut would cost $9 billion a year.
For democracy's sake, Anderson said she supports the activists' efforts to get the question
on the ballot, but she needs to hear more debate before taking a position on the
"On the one hand, we're aware it's an awful lot of money,"
she said Wednesday. "We're not talking a tax cut, we're talking about a revolution from big government to smaller
Anderson said the CLT board may at some point vote on the
plan. "We're revolutionaries, too, and we'd like to see the whole system changed," she said. "We'll ask our members what
position they want us to take."
State House News Service
Friday, August 3, 2001
Frustration with courts and Legislature
fuels new ballot campaigns
By Michael C. Levenson
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 2, 2001 ... A lawsuit by seven gay
couples seeking the right to marry and a lack of legislative action at the State House has led activists to the ballot
in their fight to preserve marriage for heterosexuals only.
"People are tired of the courts not fairly representing
their views and now the courts will have to take notice of the people," says Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage Chairman
Bryan Rudnick. "The overwhelming majority of Massachusetts voters believe protecting marriage
means one man and one woman."
That assertion will be tested if the question reaches the
voters, in 2004 at the earliest.
In turning to the ballot, activists campaigning on a smorgasbord of issues this year seem to
share a common bond: frustration with the courts or the Legislature.
Seventeen different questions have been filed with the state
Attorney General, from measures to eradicate bilingual education to other proposals to eliminate the state income tax
and guarantee health coverage for all. Massachusetts is one of 24 states that allows citizens to
make laws by ballot initiative.
Activists are boldly stating their displeasure with the
Legislature by pushing another question to take away lawmakers' health care benefits unless they enact universal health care
To place a question on the ballot, the Attorney General must
approve the language first. Then, supporters must gather 57,100 signatures. For constitutional amendments, the question
must also be approved by a one-quarter vote in successive Legislatures.
Libertarians hoping to eliminate the state income tax say
lawmakers will never support the idea, so it's time to go the voters. "[The Legislature's] only interest is increasing
revenues to the state," said Carla Howell, a former Libertarian US Senate candidate. "We have a
chance," she said. "We know that a tax cut this bold is a long shot, but long shots can and
Ron Unz, a California businessman who has successfully
financed ballot campaigns to scrap bilingual education in his home state and Arizona, is now focused on Massachusetts, where,
he says, "numerous attempts over decades by several governors and uncounted legislators at
reforming or modifying that failure have left it absolutely unscratched." So Unz, like many
of the activists this year, is heading to the ballot, where, he predicts in one of his frequent email
alerts, "this whole massive system is likely to vanish without a trace within just
Unz has battled charges that his campaigns are anti-immigrant, but if test scores are any
measure, he has come out on top. Test results from former bilingual education
students in California indicate they fare better in English-only classes, a finding that brought vindication
for Unz and confounded skeptics.
But critics still have their doubts. Rep. Jarret Barrios
(D-Cambridge) has filed a rival ballot initiative, he said, "to give parents, children and schools real choices in bilingual
education." Barrios, a bilingual education supporter, said, "One size fits all, as Mr. Unz sees it or as the
current law describes, is not what's best for our children."
Paid family leave, a union priority, has circulated for
years in the Legislature, with limited success. Now, the AFL-CIO, backed by US Sen. Edward Kennedy is aiming for the
"We have a back-up plan," says Sarah Nathan, a union spokeswoman. "We're going to take
it to the voters." Their proposal would require businesses to pay $20 per worker, and
then take advantage of various tax credits, to fund up to 12 weeks of paid time off for parents of
a new baby or adoptee.
Activists also use the ballot to pry loose stuck legislation. A citizens' coalition from Freetown
has launched a campaign to ban the dumping of coal ash into unlined landfills.
Local backers say ash dumped in Freetown is leeching arsenic into the water supply, and they fear their bill
is being blocked at the State House.
"The only reason we filed our petition is to keep our
options open if the bill doesn't get admitted," said John McNabb Jr., an advocate working on the campaign.
Frustration with traditional channels of legislative action
is also driving activists trying to lower local speed limits. "I spent a year trying to address this with MassHighway and
town officials," says David Kapturowski, a West Newbury engineer who is spearheading the
Activists campaigning against a planned runway at Logan
Airport are hoping to make the Massachusetts Port Authority Board an elected, not appointed body. That change, they say,
may shift the board's adamant support for the runway.
Another proposal being advocated this year is a ban on
slaughtering horses for food. Although the meat may repulse many Americans, backers say foreign demand for American
horsemeat is growing, especially in Europe, where mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease
have devastated livestock.
History shows not every proposed question will make it on
the ballot. In 2000, only six of 33 petitions filed made it, and only two of 26 in 1998, according to the Attorney General's
office. In addition to legal disqualifications, some questions are laid aside when campaign
leaders aren't able to collect enough signatures.