The Boston Herald
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Pols float unhappy ending for Film Office
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley
Senate leaders are proposing to blow up the Massachusetts
Film Office - a move critics charge is payback for the agency's cooperation in a federal probe of indicted Teamsters chief
The Senate budget proposal, released yesterday, wipes out
the Film Office's entire $600,000 budget - at a time when three major motion-picture producers are considering
shooting in the Bay State.
Hollywood executives are slated to make site decisions in
late summer for three films Bay State officials have been courting - "Mona Lisa Smiles," with Julia Roberts; "The Cat in
the Hat," with Mike Myers; and "Mystic River," directed by Clint Eastwood.
Together, the three movies could pump $30 million into the
local economy, said Film Office Director Robin Dawson.
"Without a film office, there's no way they will choose
Massachusetts," Dawson said. "This is a really poor decision."
Swift administration officials pointed the finger at Senate
President Thomas F. Birmingham, accusing him of exacting retribution against Dawson, who cooperated in a racketeering
probe of Cashman.
Cashman's union is accused of shaking down filmmakers.
"There's suspicion that it's exactly that - Birmingham's
close relationship with labor and possible retaliation to Robin Dawson for playing a role in the federal investigation of
Cashman and the Teamsters," said one Swift official.
Birmingham aides denied the accusation, and said something
had to be sacrificed to protect priorities like education and health care.
"That assessment of the film office budget cut comes from
someone who has seen too many movies," said Birmingham aide Alison Franklin.
The film office cut is just one tiny fraction of the $900
million in cuts Senate leaders levied across state government to cope with a deficit pegged at $2 billion and growing.
The Senate's $23.2 billion spending plan, which will be
debated next week, also delays a $55 million "circuit breaker" aimed at mitigating skyrocketing special education costs for
cities and towns.
Special education advocates were disappointed; the Senate
had championed the measure in 2000 to make a sweeping package of reforms more palatable.
"Although in my heart I don't believe it, hopefully we can
do better over the next year," said Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairman Frederick Berry (D-Peabody).
The Senate also slashed $30 million from the courts, $4
million from zoos, $10 million from road and bridge projects, $128 million from state workers' pensions and $130 million from
administrative accounts. It failed to include any funding for the clean elections law, which
provides taxpayer dollars to candidates who abide by fund-raising guidelines.
The Senate budget includes a $1.2 billion tax-hike package
that largely mirrors the House plan - prompting Senate Republicans to promise a floor fight over other revenue options
like casino gaming.
"The only thought they had was tax increases," fumed Senate
Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow). "I just never thought anyone would be so blatant and gross."
But there's a move afoot to go further on the tax-hike
front. At the budget release, Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-New Bedford) pushed for hiking the income tax to 5.6 percent, rather
than freezing it at 5.3 percent.
"It's going to be an issue we're going to have to deal
with," he said. "We may be about the business of cutting more in the future."
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State House News Service
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Religious leaders say tax hikes help, but not enough
A coalition of religious leaders on Thursday said $1 billion-plus
tax hikes advancing in the Legislature will prevent many painful cuts to programs that serve the poor and needy, but
suggested that more revenues are needed just to maintain state services.
"We are still concerned about revenues," said Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish
Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. "They still fall short of what we believe is
Religious leaders said youth programs, services to the mentally
ill and home care assistance for the elderly still face substantial funding cuts in the state budgets proposed for the
fiscal year that starts July 1. The coalition, which also includes Catholic Charities, the
Massachusetts Council on Churches, the Black Ministerial Alliance and a representative of
a Boston mosque, did not recommend specific additional tax hikes or revenue options. Rev.
Richard Richardson of the Black Ministerial Alliance said budget cuts are putting pressure on
charitable services provided by religious organizations. "Our safety net is starting to become
very weak," Richardson said. "The holes are starting to appear."
A state senator who has sought to raise the income tax rate to
5.6 percent, rather than freeze it at 5.3 percent, said disappointing May tax collections have caused some in the Senate
to rethink the 5.6 percent proposal. During a caucus in April, senators determined they lacked
the two thirds majority that would be needed to override a promised veto of the income tax
hike. Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) said there have been discussions lately about steering
some funds from the tax hike to the rainy day fund as a way of making the proposal
politically viable. "I think there's still some talk about do we raise to 5.6
and are there ways to revisit that issue," said Creem. Creem said tax talks in the Senate are very fluid.
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Thursday, June 6, 2002
Highlights from the state budget plan:
Source: Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means
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The Boston Globe
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Senate eyes $1.2b in new fees, taxes
Medicaid, schools would get boost
By Rick Klein
Senate leaders are backing more than $1.2 billion in new
taxes and fees in the state budget, including raising charges on speeding tickets, court filings, and other areas, as they
plan a $300 million expansion in state spending next year - $200 million more than the House
proposed last month.
The tax and fee increases are part of the $23.2 billion
spending plan for the next fiscal year unveiled yesterday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. While most advocates for
health care, education, and human service programs were pleased with the proposal, antitax
forces were livid that Senate leaders were seeking to spend even more taxpayer dollars.
Despite a budget gap that's promising to top $2 billion in
fiscal 2003, which begins next month, Senate leaders are looking to increase overall state spending by $332 million, or
1.5 percent. Most of the additional spending would go toward Medicaid and K-12 education.
The Senate would pay for some of those priorities by
spending about $110 million more than the House from the state's settlement with the big tobacco companies. Senate Ways
and Means chairman Mark C. Montigny said Senate leaders are proposing a "blended approach"
to balancing the budget, using tax and fee increases in concert with reserves and cuts to
preserve the most important government functions.
"We made very, very tough choices to protect some of the
long-term core services," said Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat. "But anyone who was looking for a balanced bottom
line and a blended approach that didn't gouge taxpayers or decimate core services should be
at least relieved, and I hope some people would even be pleased."
Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, who is running for
governor and earlier touted the increases in health and education spending, did not appear for the announcement of
additional tax increases and spending cuts.
The Ways and Means budget would trim $130 million from
administrative accounts, slash $57 million from spending on the judiciary, and eliminate funding for zoos, the Massachusetts
Film Office, and the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Board. Layoffs would be
unavoidable in some departments, though managers would have wide discretion in how to
cope with most cuts, Montigny said.
Republicans charged that legislative leaders are piling on
new taxes and aren't seeking enough other spending cuts and revenue options. Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees said
he will propose cuts and alternate revenue sources, including establishing casino gambling
and spending more tobacco settlement money, when the budget is debated next week.
"They feel that this is a year that if you're going to raise
taxes, just gouge the public," said Lees, an East Longmeadow Republican. "Not looking at other areas to cut I just think is
wrong. And to continually go back and say to the taxpayer in a year like this, 'We just want
to take more and more money,' is the wrong way to look at things."
After the full Senate debates and approves the budget, House
and Senate negotiators will iron out their differences and send the document to Acting Governor Jane Swift. Fiscal 2003
begins July 1, but - as in previous years - the state is highly unlikely to finish the budget on
The Senate Ways and Means proposal endorses the entire tax
package passed by the House last month: freezing the state income tax at 5.3 percent, raising the tax on cigarettes by
75 cents per pack, eliminating the state tax deduction for charitable contributions, taxing
long-term capital gains like regular income, and reducing the amount of income that isn't
subject to taxes by 25 percent, to $3,300 per taxpayer.
Birmingham has said that the package of taxes has the
support of two-thirds of senators, meaning both the House and the Senate have enough votes to override the veto that's been
promised by Swift.
Senate leaders differed from the House on taxes in one key
point. While the House plan would tax all capital gains at 5.3 percent regardless of how long the assets are held, the
Senate would continue to tax short-term capital gains - income on assets held for less than a
year - at the current rate of 12 percent. Maintaining the higher rate for short-term investors
would generate between $40 million and $50 million next year.
"It doesn't seem necessary, and it does allow us some
revenue gains," Birmingham said, describing the House move to cut the short-term capital gains tax as a "tax break for day
While Senate leaders did not go along with a House proposal
to increase driver's license and car registration fees, they did pursue other fee increases. By updating the entire schedule
of judiciary fees - from the charge for a case filing to the fee to request a restraining order - the
state would generate about $10 million, Montigny said.
The Senate plan also includes a House-backed move to
increase the state surcharge on speeding tickets by $5, to $30, and to hike bar examination fees. The Senate Ways and
Means budget also directs the Department of Environmental Protection to increase fees for
permitting, testing, and regulation compliance, to generate about $2 million, Montigny said.
Both the House and Senate are backing a move to charge
nursing home residents who aren't on Medicaid $3,300 each per year to boost state funding for nursing homes.
The Senate Ways and Means budget provides about $110 million
more than the House for K-12 education, including a 2 percent increase in basic aid to school districts. But Senate
leaders chose not to fund the special education "circuit breaker," a new program that helps
districts provide services for special education students. The House voted to direct $55
million to the program.
The Senate budget would reverse a House-approved move to
eliminate Medicaid coverage for 30,000 long-term unemployed residents. Medicaid would increase by $370 million, or 7
percent, in the Senate plan.
Advocates of court funding warned that the proposed cuts of
nearly 10 percent to judiciary accounts could devastate courts where resources are already spread thin.
The Senate Ways and Means budget is silent on the Clean
Elections Law, meaning that the $24 million put aside in previous years to fund political candidacies would still be
inaccessible to the candidates who are owed money. Montigny said the committee chose to let the
volatile issue be discussed and debated by all members on the Senate floor.
Clean Elections advocates called the omission "disheartening" and asked the Senate to at
least appropriate $9.5 million for Clean Elections candidates - enough to cover
all of those who have qualified for public financing this year. The House voted to spend Clean Elections
money on long-delayed pay raises for employees of state colleges, and state Senator
Michael W. Morrissey, a North Quincy Democrat, indicated yesterday that senators may be
interested in doing the same.
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