CLT Update
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

TEAM launches ludicrous "petition drive"

The Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts is circulating a petition to drum up support for a one-year pause to the tax cut, which is expected to take $400 million out of state coffers this fiscal year. TEAM is arguing that that money is crucial to fund key priorities in the new economic reality.

The Boston Globe
Oct. 17, 2001
[See below]

The Losers of the Question 4 tax rollback battle -- the Gimme Lobby -- are crawling out from the shadows like cockroaches, unable or unwilling to admit their defeat, grubbing for any little crumb they can scavenge in the darkness.

Jimmy St. George apparently is circulating a meaningless petition -- one that has no standing under the constitution, no legal force, a worthless stack of paper -- in a foolish effort to overturn the statute passed by 59 percent of the voters last November.

You don't have to be a registered voter to sign his petition; you don't even have to be a citizen, a resident of the state, or old enough to vote. He faces no time limitations, no county distribution rule, and no city and town clerks certification. Thus his worthless signatures are not subject to a challenge similar to what the Gimme Lobby put us through, because his "petition" is a sham.

He can get a million signatures on his meaningless petition, ten million, and nobody will ever vote on it.

The Losers' idea of a petition drive: No rules, no vote.

Despite the overwhelming will of the voters, The Losers' haven't given up their lust for more of our hard-earned money. Demonstrating abject desperation and the despicable depths to which they'll plunge to get it, Steve Collins of the Human Services Coalition used terrorism as the latest convenience to overturn the Question 4 vote (in his letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, full text below).

"CLT is unwilling to declare even a short-term truce in its holy war on taxes," Collins charges in a ridiculous harangue of misinformation and demagoguery. "Commonwealth citizens have a price to pay for our recovery as a state and a nation from the Sept. 11 horrors," he decrees before demanding, "When will the sanctimonious CLT show a similar willingness to sacrifice for the greater good?"

The state budget has doubled in the last decade, but that's still not enough for them. When our phased-in rollback is fully implemented in 2003, The Losers will continue extracting 5 percent of our income. Even after full implementation, they will have to live with only .85 percent less than the pre-rollback "temporary" income tax rate.

We've heard it before, like the boy crying wolf: "The sky is falling!"

If The Losers want more money, they shouldn't have so vehemently opposed our Voluntary Tax Check-off solution, thereby proving they don't really need it unless they can take it from somebody else.

Wake up Stevie boy! 59 percent of the voters agreed with us, not with you and your $4 million opposition campaign. You lost, we won, it's now the law, and that's just the way it is. Get over it. It's called democracy.

That's a rule even The Losers cannot simply ignore -- which explains why they'd waste their time on a ludicrous "petition drive" that can never and will never go before the voters. Clearly, The Losers are comfortable attempting to subvert democracy when it's convenient, profitable, and they can shamelessly disguise it as a response to terrorism.

Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Friday, October 12, 2001
Letters to the Editor

Temporary tax was temporary

It comes as no surprise that Chip Ford and Citizens for Limited Taxation have a lock-stepped negative reaction to columnist Steve Bailey's well-reasoned call for a delay in the implementation of Question 4 ("Fooling with the tax rollback again," letter, Oct. 4).

However, it amazes me that during these difficult times for the state budget (made all the more horrendous by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks), CLT is unwilling to declare even a short-term truce in its holy war on taxes.

First, the "temporary" tax increase of the early '90s that so outrages CLT was indeed temporary. It was an increase to a 6.25 percent rate that has already been rolled back to the current 5.6 percent. Perhaps that's not the 5 percent holy grail sought by CLT, but it's more than a 50 percent reduction.

Second, in November 2000, all voters heard about was talk of billion-dollar state surpluses and promises from the now departed Governor Paul Cellucci that Question 4 could be implemented without any effect on state programs and services. If voters knew then what they know today, many would change their vote.

Third, because education, local aid, and now public safety are sacred cows that the Legislature is loath to touch, one of the few areas left to its discretion to cut is social and human services.

Commonwealth citizens have a price to pay for our recovery as a state and a nation from the Sept. 11 horrors. Here in the so-called tax-and-spend human services community, we are prepared to put on the table a discussion of possible cuts to accounts that do not directly pay for services for vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.

When will the sanctimonious CLT show a similar willingness to sacrifice for the greater good?

Executive Director
Massachusetts Human Services Coalition

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Swift plans hiring freeze, spending cuts
By Rick Klein
Globe Staff

Acting Governor Jane Swift will impose a hiring freeze across state government, ban all nonessential out-of-state travel, and propose cuts in state programs to close a $1.1 billion budget shortfall, administration officials said yesterday.

Swift aides say state revenues, already $300 million behind last year's, will be dismal for the next three months. They say drastic cuts in spending could be necessary and blamed the mounting fiscal problems on the attacks of Sept. 11 and the regional economy, which was already sputtering before last month.

The hiring freeze will be the first since the state's fiscal crisis of the early 1990s. Swift will also ban noncontractual pay increases and could delay the signing of consulting contracts, said aides, who are familiar with the planning.

"We're well aware that we could be in for some very difficult times ahead," an aide said. "We want to have plans in place for that now."

Administration budget analysts are anticipating a short, deep recession with a significant bite in fiscal 2002, which began in July. The mounting fiscal problems could create political peril for Swift, as some Democrats push for a rethinking of the Republican administration's $1.2 billion income tax cut, which was approved by voters last fall.

The Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts is circulating a petition to drum up support for a one-year pause to the tax cut, which is expected to take $400 million out of state coffers this fiscal year. TEAM is arguing that that money is crucial to fund key priorities in the new economic reality.

But Swift opposes any change to the tax cut schedule, according to her press secretary, James Borghesani.

Swift plans to move quickly on the fronts where she can make policy by executive order, such as the hiring freeze, and she has not yet decided when she will make the orders official, aides said. She will likely announce them as part of a broader budget reduction plan, the aides said.

The hiring freeze will mean that agency heads will need approval by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance before hiring any state employee. The state will, however, proceed with plans to hire and train 150 new State Police troopers.

Travel for public safety-related purposes will be permitted, but all other out-of-state travel would be banned unless specific prior approval is granted, one aide said. "Conventions would be out," the aide said.

Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said those moves will probably save only a few million dollars a year. Far more dramatic cuts will be needed to make up a deficit on the order of $1.1 billion, he said.

"Those are important symbolic steps, and they save some money, but that's just putting the toe in the water," Widmer said. "More serious steps have to follow."

Swift aides acknowledge they have yet to formulate specific spending cuts and said the acting governor will discuss deeper reductions with legislative leaders, who are still negotiating this year's budget more than 100 days into the fiscal year. She will meet with House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham in the coming days to develop a bipartisan strategy to deal with the likely shortfall.

The legislative leaders had been discussing a $22.6 billion spending plan, but were already moving toward paring it further. The Swift administration says the state can only spend $21.5 billion. The Massachusetts Constitution requires the state to have a balanced budget.

With more bad budget news appearing weekly, many on Beacon Hill appear concerned that they not repeat the mistakes of the early 1990s when employees were laid off, taxes raised, and the state's bond rating plummeted.

Today, Finneran is organizing a meeting for House members to talk with former officials who were in charge during the fiscal crisis a decade ago. One goal is to prepare members for the pared-back budget that is likely to come out of the House-Senate conference committee, said Charles Rasmussen, a Finneran spokesman.

Swift, Birmingham, and Finneran appear unanimous in their desire to avoid cutting most education, health care, and public safety spending. All cuts will be made with an eye toward preserving the state's bond rating, Swift aides said.

Swift will also push to reduce the deficit by tapping hundreds of millions of dollars in state reserves this year. The state now has about $2.3 billion cash reserves in a pair of accounts that can be used with legislative approval.

While that money could more than cover this year's projected deficit, Widmer warned against such a move, because the economic slowdown could last several years. The state should spend no more than a third of its "rainy day" reserves in a single year, he said.

Administration officials said Swift will also prod the Legislature to spend more of the money coming to the state via its settlement with the big tobacco companies. That has been a major item of disagreement in the ongoing House-Senate budget negotiations.

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