A Ballot Committee of
Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government
PO Box 408 * Peabody, MA 01960
Phone:(617) 248-0022 * E-Mail:
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*** Promise Update ***
Thursday, January 29, 1998

By Trevor Hughes

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 28, 1998. . . . Barbara Anderson, a long-time evangelist for tax cuts, may run for Secretary of State to preserve what she considers voters’ most important power: the ballot petition process.

Her life story has already been one of Beacon Hill’s most compelling; now, for the first time, she says the battle to keep her tax-cut initiative on the 1998 ballot may force her to become a candidate.

"I’d do it if I had to, to protect the one thing I really care about and that’s Article 48 of the constitution, the initiative petition process, that precious right," Anderson said.

Legislators don’t like being told what to do, which is the goal of an initiative petition, Anderson said. They have always tried to halt ballot initiatives because they don’t think voters can make intelligent decisions, Anderson said.

"We’re not going to let anything happen to this process. It’s the only thing the people have in this state. . . now there is no longer representative democracy in the House," she said. "All they’ve got is the initiative petition process, and we can’t allow it to be jeopardized by a Secretary of State who’s hostile."

In 1996, Secretary of State William Galvin wouldn’t give out petitions on a measure establishing term limits [sic - 1995 legislative pay raise repeal - Chip], Anderson said. The Supreme Judicial Court later ruled Galvin had acted properly.

"This was the first time we had ever run into a Secretary of State that wouldn’t give us our petition forms," Anderson said. "Suddenly, we all had something to worry about that we hadn’t worried about before.

Because Anderson is about to file suit against Galvin’s office, the Secretary of State cannot comment on Anderson’s claims, said Galvin’s chief of staff, Jack McCarthy.

Not all of Anderson’s words for Galvin were critical, however. "We’re keeping a very close eye on how Secretary Galvin’s office is handling our challenge, and so far they’ve done a great job," she said.

That challenge stems from a state Ballot Law Commission decision to disqualify Anderson’s tax-rollback petition from the November ballot. Anderson, who heads Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government, said she will file a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday to overturn the commission’s decision.

"As soon as we win in Superior Court, we expect that petition to be over in the Legislature and on its way to the ballot," Anderson said. "And if not, I’m keeping my options open on doing my very first political campaign. The problem is I really don’t want to run."

"Politicians are almost a different species, but not necessarily a (human) sub-species." Anderson said. "It’s like becoming a nun. If you don’t have a vocation, you don’t have a vocation."

Anderson said she has neither the vocation nor the desire to cross the line—she called it a chasm—between activist and politician. But she said the events of the past three years might leave her no choice but to make the leap.

In 17 years, Anderson has been both admired and despised on Beacon Hill. She called for the resignation of Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1980s. She has been labeled a "vile anti-tax demagogue" and an "enemy of the people." But last summer Anderson was accompanied by acting Gov. Paul Cellucci and Treasurer Joe Malone when she dropped off the CLT&G tax-cut petition in Galvin’s office.

Both the declared Democratic gubernatorial candidates, and the leaders of the House and Senate, have called for a tax cut, but Anderson says her biggest elected obstacle is House Speaker Thomas Finneran.

"In government, Tom Finneran is the biggest problem. And one of the reasons is because he is one of the only people left in government that you even have any reason to think about. Since he took over as speaker, there really isn’t anybody else in the House," Anderson said. "They allow him to control it. The House is allowing him to control them. It is the end of representative democracy. Everyone just follows the leader."

The initiative petition process, meant to prod reluctant legislators into action, is more important than ever if Finneran is blocking a tax cut, Anderson said.

"Finneran stands alone at the pass keeping out all kinds of ‘irrational behavior’ on the part of the people—the Legislature and governors—because all these barbarian hordes would be coming though the gate," Anderson said sarcastically. "He’s the one who talks fiscal responsibility while being the only one not to allow it."

Finneran disagreed with Anderson’s claim that the House is no longer a representative democracy, and said, "I don’t sit there and micromanage every committee."

"Because I haven’t rushed to embrace the totality of Barbara’s petition, which is not even on the ballot now, shouldn’t suggest to anybody that I’m opposed to cutting taxes substantially," Finneran said.

The initiative petition process allows Anderson—and anyone else who can gather 75,749 valid signatures of support—to bypass the Legislature and take binding questions to voters. This year, CLT&G petitioners gathered only 81 signatures more than necessary before the ballot commission removed 437 signatures and blocked it from the ballot.

This year, Anderson said many CLT&G petitioners spread out in support of four different measures: mandatory term limits, the income and unearned income tax rollback, and abolishing MassPike tolls. And with petitioners spread so thin, it is not surprising that the CLT&G petition initially qualified by such a narrow margin, Anderson said.

"It was just an odd combination of events," Anderson said. "Our people were torn. There were a bumper number of petitions on our side. This was the one time when our activists wanted four of them."

For the future, CLT&G will be working for school choice, Anderson said, but the income tax rollback remains the current priority. She predicted that more ballot initiatives will be challenged because, she claimed, opponents fear to let voters set policy.

"Opponents of ballot questions have realized that they have to keep them off the ballot in the first place," she said. "The system itself doesn’t like the initiative petition process. But the initiative process is part of the system."

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