CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION  &  GOVERNMENT
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Friday, May 10, 2002

"A harbinger of taxpayer revolt"


Memo to the Legislature: Take your stinking paws off Proposition 2....

It lets the electorate elect how much more they want to pay in taxes.

It lets the voters vote.

It lets the electorate elect how much more they want to pay in taxes.

In other words, it's democracy, and we can't allow that, not around here, not anymore. On Beacon Hill, under the thumb of the House Speaker, Tommy Taxes, nobody listens to the vox populi anymore. Not when they can listen to the unions and the welfare "advocates," the vox hacki you might say.

The Boston Herald
May 10, 2002
Cover your wallets, here they come again
by Howie Carr


Discontent over Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's leadership, which just five months ago threatened his power, has all but evaporated in the House, as Finneran has silenced his critics with unusually inclusive negotiations and a big political victory over taxes.

The Boston Globe
May 9, 2002
New style of leading bolsters Finneran


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

First the best news:  Barbara is expected to be released from the hospital today for her return home to further and complete recovery from her accident.

More good news: North Reading voters defeated Proposition 2 overrides, as reported by the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune yesterday:

Voters turned down a $2.15 million override 2,787 to 2,591, and also defeated for the fourth time a proposal to build a new elementary school in the Swan Pond area. The school, turned down by a 3,054 to 2,315 vote, would have cost $16 million.

A report today in the MetroWest Daily News ("Ashland vote a wake-up call: Framingham pro-override campaign driven to work harder to gain votes") notes:

Jaws dropped in Ashland Tuesday night when one-third of the town's voters cast ballots to narrowly defeat a $44 million school override by 30 votes.

In Framingham, supporters of a $7.1 million Proposition 21/2 override that will keep open an elementary school and preserve town services wondered if it was a harbinger of taxpayer revolt...

It's about time!

Framingham is state Rep. Deborah Blumer's district and political base. No wonder she's obsessed with gutting Prop. 2! She's running scared that the June 11 Framingham vote won't pass. As Howie Carr observed, "it's democracy, and we can't allow that, not around here, not anymore." Because there is "a harbinger of taxpayer revolt, of course.

Tax-and-spend advocates are especially concerned because, as the MetroWest Daily News goes on to point out:

In Ashland, there was no organized campaign fighting the debt exclusion that would pay for expansion and renovation of the high school. The same is true in Framingham where no group has stood up to actively oppose Citizens for a Strong Framingham.

My goodness, voters thinking for themselves, rejecting tax increases without even being urged -- this must be stopped!

The timing of Finneran's Gambit was poor for cities and towns proposing overrides, and has begun generating a predictable backlash. Overrides predicated on his "the sky is falling" threat of ten percent cuts in local aid have been neutralized now by his $1.4 billion state tax increases. The threat now is perceived as unnecessary double-taxation on the local level. Overrides are failing as a direct result of Finneran's Gambit. He and his sheep beneath him finally went too far.

Congratulations to taxpaying voters of North Reading and Ashland. Good luck to those in Framingham on June 11th, and to others facing overrides in the days and weeks ahead!

Enough is enough. It's past time for a "taxpayers revolt"!

Chip Ford


The Boston Herald
Friday, May 10, 2002

Cover your wallets, here they come again
by Howie Carr

Memo to the Legislature: Take your stinking paws off Proposition 2.

Still, it's easy enough to understand why the legislative leadership despises Prop 2 so much.

It lets the voters vote.

It lets the electorate elect how much more they want to pay in taxes.

In other words, it's democracy, and we can't allow that, not around here, not anymore. On Beacon Hill, under the thumb of the House Speaker, Tommy Taxes, nobody listens to the vox populi anymore. Not when they can listen to the unions and the welfare "advocates," the vox hacki you might say.

Over the last few years, this rubber-stamp Legislature has pretty much abolished the referendum process. Oh sure, you can still put a measure on the ballot, but if the hacks don't like it (and why else would you need to have a referendum?), they'll wreck it, even if the question passes in a landslide, with 1.5 million votes. Clean elections, the income-tax cut, charitable deductions - do you get the picture?

And now Prop 2 is on the chopping block, or was. A 60-year-old freshman from Framingham, Rep. Deborah Blumer, floated it out as a trial balloon. The morning the story appeared on the front page, Blumer got a good swift boot in the bloomers - a guy in her district stepped forward and announced his intention to run against her on stickers.

Eeeck, an opponent! She and her husband Irwin might actually have to spend the summer in Framingham. And what if she somehow, gulp, lost, which would require her to go out and ... get a job, a real job.

Instantaneously, she backpedaled, and her proposal to gut 2 became a call for a study by a "blue-ribbon commission."

Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I called Rep. Blumer to ask her if she could remember when there was no 2, and the hacks could raise property taxes whenever they needed to put a few more of their nephews and nieces on the town payroll.

She did not call back, which is too bad, because I wanted to remind her of those wonderful days when the average property tax bill went up 12 percent a year, when the auto-excise tax was $66 per $1,000, not $25. Senior citizens on fixed incomes could no longer pay their taxes, and were forced to unload their property and move into nursing homes.

It was good, compassionate liberalism at work. Squeeze them dry with high taxes, force them onto Medicaid, and then jack up the taxes again, on their kids, to pay for the old-folks' homes they're warehoused in.

If it is set up, what exactly will this latest Pabst Blue Ribbon Commission study?

Democracy - you're either for it or ag'in it. Who should make the call on higher taxes - the tapped-out people who work for a living, or the townie pols controlled by teachers unions flush with cash from their mandatory dues?

Who could possibly be against a free people exercising their franchise? Who indeed, except for Tommy Taxes and his thugs.

Let's go to the numbers. The City of Newton had an override vote - and the people who didn't want to pay higher taxes lost, thanks to a dirty trick involving the U.S. Mail. Still, 13,521 voters, 49 percent, voted to hold taxes down.

Down in Stoughton, the electorate used Prop 2 to keep a lid on property taxes. The vote was 4,161 to 1,648.

So just in those two (of 351) cities and towns in the state, 17,382 people voted in recent days against increasing their property taxes, and 15,920 cast ballots for higher property taxes.

Meanwhile, the House speaker, Tommy Taxes, who could kill 2 in the wink of an eye, won his current term with 8,172 votes.

What is wrong with this picture? A guy who was elected by 8,172 people can summarily strip more than 6 million residents of the commonwealth of their franchise.

Tommy Taxes' legbreaker, er, floor leader, is one Sal DiMasi, whose picture amazingly appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal yesterday. There was, alas, no mention of the fact that Sal's phone number was once found in the address book of a Mafia monster named Vinny "the Animal" Ferrara, or that he thinks the plural of "you" is "youse."

Anyway, like his boss Tommy Taxes, Sal runs unopposed in a rotten borough in the city of Boston. Last time, he got 9,349 votes.

These are the strong-arms who wrecked the referendum process. Now they're coming after 2, if not this week, then soon enough. I ask the 158 other members of the House, are you men, or are you sheep? And don't everyone say Baaaahh at once.

Howie Carr's radio show can be heard every weekday afternoon on WRKO-AM 680, WHYN-AM 560, WGAN-AM 560, WEIM-AM 1280, WXTK 95.1 FM or online at howiecarr.org.

Return to top


The Boston Globe
Thursday, May 9, 2002

New style of leading bolsters Finneran
By Rick Klein and Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

Discontent over Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's leadership, which just five months ago threatened his power, has all but evaporated in the House, as Finneran has silenced his critics with unusually inclusive negotiations and a big political victory over taxes.

House members are cautious, as they begin what is expected to be a contentious budget debate this week. But even those who led the effort to overthrow Finneran now seem content with their leader.

"At the moment, there's no reason fairly to complain," said Representative Michael E. Festa, a Melrose Democrat who was among the leaders of last year's revolt. "Now that things are going well, would I say, 'Let's still go after his head'? No, I wouldn't."

In December, Finneran's grip on power appeared more precarious than at any other point in his six years as speaker. Dozens of restless House members were talking publicly about trying to topple him, and even when that movement lost steam, agreement began to coalesce around rules changes that would empower rank-and-file members. Some Finneran critics talked of recruiting legislative candidates who would commit to anti-Finneran platforms.

All that has quieted, and as last week's 131-to-24 House vote in favor of a $1.06 billion tax package demonstrated, Finneran is, in many ways, in a stronger position than ever.

It didn't happen overnight. Finneran carefully launched a statewide campaign, starting in January, to lay the groundwork for the tax vote, and to give members political cover if they backed tax hikes.

And the speaker, who had surrounded himself with veteran, male House loyalists who critics say play to his worst instinct for the politics of punishment and revenge, quietly assembled a small team of savvy strategists, some of whom have counseled presidential candidates, senators, and governors around the country.

The group began quietly meeting with Finneran for lunches in his office late last year. They include: John Sasso, one of the nation's leading Democratic strategists, who resurrected Michael Dukakis in 1982, ran his presidential campaign, and now advises state and national Democrats; Joseph Ricca, a former top Dukakis presidential campaign aide who was senior staff member in Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign; Mary Ann Marsh, a former aide and current political adviser to US Senator John F. Kerry who works with Ricca at the political strategy firm Dewey Square Group; Andrew J. Calamare Jr., former state banking commissioner and State House strategist who heads the Boston office of the Life Insurance Association of America; and Cheryl Cronin, a lawyer who represents political figures on ethics issues. A Democrat, Cronin has provided legal representation and political advice to such diverse figures as Finneran and Acting Governor Jane Swift.

None of the group would comment about the advice they've offered Finneran - or what advice he has taken.

"This guy does not need a political tutorial from us," Ricca said.

But one source familiar with the talks said the group has helped the speaker reach out, beyond Beacon Hill, and influence public opinion more broadly.

Finneran spent countless hours talking to newspaper editorial boards, and business and opinion leaders in members' districts all over the state. He also reached out to his members, including relatively obscure rank-and-file representatives. He included members in working groups on major budget areas and polled them repeatedly about their views on tax options.

"This is the way that legislation is supposed to happen," said Representative Daniel E. Bosley, a North Adams Democrat who was the insurgents' choice to replace Finneran late last year in a short-lived campaign to oust the speaker. "We have had a say in what goes on. He opened the budget up and reached a consensus on taxes."

Representative Douglas W. Petersen, a member of Finneran's leadership team who has grown increasingly critical of him in recent years, said: "The speaker made an effort to go around to various groups and explain the situation. It was a participatory and open process. Members have been clamoring for this for some time, and this time we got it."

It was a far cry from last year's budget process, when many rank-and-file lawmakers complained that they had been completely shut out. The final version of that budget was five months late, and contained program cuts that were secretly negotiated by Finneran, his top lieutenants, and Senate leaders. Some House members had to log in to the Legislature's Web site in the middle of a November night just to find out what they'd be voting on hours later. Some members said they were misled by Finneran and unknowingly voted to approve budget cuts that they later had to defend to their constituents.

This year, not only did the process involve more rank-and-file members, but the final package of tax hikes struck most House members as basically fair, with rich and poor being required to chip in together to help the state out of a $2 billion hole next year. Finneran was able to shepherd through the first major tax bill in a dozen years, with the only major dissent coming from some of the House's vastly outnumbered Republicans, who accused him of rushing to raise taxes.

The speaker's harshest critics from the left of his party wound up withdrawing their own package of taxes in favor of Finneran's. They were left admiring his handiwork, even while disagreeing with him on some specifics.

"It certainly was a remarkable lovefest last week," said Representative Jay R. Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat who clashes frequently with Finneran. "It shows a really deft mind and deft hand. Tom Finneran is capable of brilliant leadership. We saw that last week, and I wish we had seen it all along."

House Taxation Committee Chairman Paul C. Casey, who helped Finneran develop the tax package, said the speaker knew from the start that taxes are too explosive an issue to dictate policy on from the top down. With most lawmakers facing their first tough tax votes ever, Finneran knew that he had to proceed slowly, with consultation from members and interest groups, he said.

"Because it was so new, so novel, I think it needed airing out, and it needed maturation," said Casey, a Winchester Democrat. "It allowed unprecedented participation. It takes away the argument that you're steamrolling, or you're not letting us be heard. I'm thrilled that people weren't saying that it was a ram job."

Casey predicted that Finneran will replicate the process in future issues of wide impact and interest to members, perhaps starting with casino gambling, which has gained currency on Beacon Hill in recent months.

For now, at least, Finneran's new friends from the progressive wing of his party say they're cautiously optimistic about the future. Several privately say they'd still like a new speaker, and Bosley said he still wants the job, but they say Finneran will have plenty of chances - starting with this week's budget debate - to show whether he really intends to be a different leader.

"I would certainly hope that on future issues, there would be that kind of inclusion and open discussion," said Representative Ruth B. Balser, a Newton Democrat. "But if at any point there isn't, many of the members will be vigilant."

Return to top


NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


Return to CLT Updates page

Return to CLT home page