Voters: Tax rollback top issue in petitions at the
By Nicole LeTourneau
BOSTON -- Efforts to let voters decide a myriad of issues have moved a step closer
to the November 2000 ballot, including a cut in the state income tax, a break for
motorists on the Massachusetts Turnpike, a new universal health care system and proposals
to change the state's drug laws, among others.
Attorney General Thomas Reilly yesterday certified 28 initiative petitions
proposing new laws or constitutional amendments on 13 different topics. Multiple versions
of several of the petitions were submitted. Five other petitions filed in early August did
not pass constitutional muster.
Proponents have until Dec. 1 to collect 57,100 signatures to send the measures to
the state Legislature. If lawmakers do not act on the proposals by May 3, another 9,517
signatures collected by July 5 would place the measures on the Nov. 7 election ballot.
The highest-profile petition is a tax rollback being spearheaded by Gov. A. Paul
Cellucci. He wants to cut the state's personal income tax from the current 5.95 percent to
5 percent by 2003.
Cellucci expressed confidence yesterday that voters will support the tax cut,
which he said was promised by the Legislature 10 years ago when it raised the income tax
during a fiscal crisis.
"A promise was made and a promise should be kept, but more importantly this
will help families by putting money back in their pockets," Cellucci said.
The tax rate would decline over three years from the current 5.95 percent to 5.6
percent in 2001, 5.3 percent in 2002 and 5 percent in 2003.
Tax cuts are a sticking point in negotiations over the state's fiscal year 2000
budget, which is two months late. The two legislative branches are at odds over $177
million in Senate-sponsored tax cuts versus the House's $450 million relief package. But
neither reaches the level of Cellucci's $1.4 billion tax cut.
Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for
Limited Taxation, supported a similar measure last year. It did not pass. She expects it
will be a more high-profile issue this year.
"The governor is leading this campaign,"
Another tax relief question that may appear on the ballot would create a
dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit for motorists who pay tolls on the Massachusetts
Turnpike and tunnels on the state's highways. The $500 million-a-year proposal would also
allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit equal to the amount paid on excise taxes.
A state income tax credit and a tax deduction for charitable contributions is also
being proposed. ...
State House News Service
Wednesday, September 1, 1999
Tax Cut, Health Care, Marijuana Initiative Drives
to Hit Streets
SEPT. 1, 1999 ... TH ... Statewide voters in 2000 may make decisions
about issues ranging from an income tax cut to legalization of marijuana to universal
health care after Attorney General Thomas Reilly today advanced ballot questions about
those and nine other public policy issues.
As attorney general, Reilly must rule on whether proposed ballot laws
Reilly also certified a constitutional amendment to strengthen
parents' rights. It has a shot at appearing on the 2002 ballot. He rejected four
petitions, including ones allowing public aid to private and parochial schools, and
repealing adoption reforms passed by the Legislature this spring. The state constitution
prohibits efforts tinkering with either the courts or religion.
Gov. Paul Cellucci said he plans to use both his GOP campaign
organization and Barbara Anderson's Citizens for Limited
Taxation to gather the necessary signatures to put his $1.4 billion
income-tax rollback question on the ballot. Irritated by the Legislature's outright
rejection of his calls to roll the income tax rate back to 5 percent from 5.95 percent
over three years starting in January, the state's chief executive is turning to the public
"The people in the Legislature aren't listening. They're not
doing what's right for our families and right for our economy," Cellucci said this
afternoon after officially filing his petition with Secretary of State William Galvin.
"Despite 28 tax cuts ... we are still the fifth-most taxed state in the county. This
is very important for the economic future of our state."
Before any of the approved 13 measures appear on the ballot for
popular review, sponsors face weeks of canvassing neighborhoods and shopping centers to
collect 57,100 signatures of support from voters. Then if the Legislature doesn't act by
May 3, sponsors must collect an additional 9,517 signatures by July 5, 2000 to put the
questions on the November ballot. Galvin must print forms that the petition organizers
will use to gather signatures; the forms will be ready Sept. 15.
Cellucci said that leaves enough time for legislative leaders to
commit to lowering the income tax to 5.75 percent for next year. House Speaker Thomas
Finneran and Senate President Thomas Birmingham are currently negotiating the 61-day-late
state budget, which includes a House provision to lower the tax rate to 5.75 percent. The
Senate has proposed leaving the income tax rate untouched and instead offering new tax
breaks to the elderly and the working poor.
"You might as well go to 5.75 because it's going to happen next
November anyway," Cellucci told Finneran and Birmingham through reporters.
"Maybe that will help the current budget impasse. If they want to compromise between
the House version and the Senate version by adopting what we've recommended, that would be