The Lawrence Eagle Tribune
Saturday, April 17, 1999
Keep the heat on Beacon Hill
Pressure is building on Beacon Hill lawmakers to roll state
income taxes back to 5 percent.
Good news. They must be forced to keep their promise.
Good news: Beacon Hill politicians are feeling the heat to keep their
promise. On Thursday, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran unveiled a plan to trim the state
income tax from 5.95 to 5.75 percent. That doesn't take the state back to 5 percent, but
it's a start.
Nine years ago, when lawmakers hiked taxes, they promised to reduce
them to 5 percent as soon as the state's financial crisis was over. The crisis ended long
ago, and Massachusetts government is swimming in surplus revenue, yet -- surprise,
surprise -- the politicians won't give the public its money back.
Enter Gov. A. Paul Cellucci.
Gov. Cellucci, a Republican, threatened to put the question of
rolling back taxes on the ballot next year. It does not take Nostradamus to predict how
the voters would react if they got such a chance.
So Speaker Finneran, a Democrat, decided to give the taxpayers at
least something back.
Unfortunately, Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, another
Democrat, is still balking.
The echoes of Speaker Finneran's press conference had barely subsided
when Sen. Birmingham announced the Senate will not cut taxes this year.
Sen. Birmingham said he hears no public support for what he calls an
"irresponsible" tax cut.
"I hear about education. I hear about work force training. I
hear about health care. I hear about public safety," Sen. Birmingham said.
He may not have spoken to struggling families in the Merrimack
Valley, but we have. We would be happy to convey their message: Keep your promise and roll
back the taxes.
Politicians are forever demanding more money. But heavy tax burdens
do not automatically translate to quality schools, health care and public safety.
States with lower taxes, in fact, are the ones attracting new
business, fueling their economies and dramatically increasing tax revenue. Massachusetts
itself was able to enjoy the benefits of the booming '90s by reducing its tax burden. To
keep the economy humming, and revenues flowing, it is crucial that Massachusetts position
itself as a place where people can live without being taxed to death.
It is important, too, that politicians keep their word.
Gov. Cellucci is vowing to make that happen. When he heard what Sen.
Birmingham had to say, he promised to lead the charge for a ballot question.
"I'm not in a negotiating mood," he said.
To which, we say: Good!
The Boston Herald
Saturday, April 17, 1999
A Boston Herald editorial
Yes, we do want tax cuts
Tax cuts? asks Tom Birmingham. What tax cuts? He says he hears no
demands for tax cuts, but plenty of demands for government programs.
The governor's goal of a $1.4 billion income tax cut through a
multiyear rollback of the rate to 5 percent, said the Massachusetts Senate president in
restating his opposition to any major tax cut, is "fiscally the same" in an
economic downturn as building that much spending into the budget.
What nonsense. There's a world of political difference.
Our lawmakers have shown over and over that they can and will raise
taxes much more readily than they will ever cut spending.
House Speaker Tom Finneran, though he does not accept the proposition
that raising the income tax rate to 5.95 percent was supposed to be temporary and does not
support Gov. Paul Cellucci's complete rollback, fully realizes the virtues of tax cuts,
not the least of which is forcing the state to be frugal. So he would cut the rate to 5.75
percent and leave open the possiblity of future reductions.
We're with the governor on this one, but between the speaker and the
Senate president we line up behind Finneran. He knows whose money he's spending.
Birmingham appears to think it belongs to the political establishment on Beacon Hill.