BOSTON -- What a difference a weekend makes.
Three days after announcing her support for Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's plan to cut the state income tax to 5 percent, state Rep. Harriett L. Stanley voted against the idea.
The vote came yesterday during the first day of House budget deliberations. The tax proposal died 124-32, with nearly all House Democrats voting to kill the tax cut.
Following the vote, the West Newbury Democrat said she does support the three-year phased-in tax cut, but as the assistant vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, she could not vote for it.
"I'm a member of Ways and Means leadership," she said. "Voting for a tax cut is a whole different matter."
Rep. Stanley said the vote was a trade-off so she could vote present -- a neutral stand -- on a plan to weaken the state's special education law.
House leaders want to bring the state's special education standards in line with the rest of the country. Supporters say it will help control special education costs, but critics say it will force thousands of special needs students out of special education.
The change has the heavy backing of House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, D-Mattapan, who wields the power to appoint committee leadership slots such as the post Rep. Stanley holds.
"I think the special education stuff is not in the best interest of my district. You can only do that so many times during the budget," she said. "Here I am third in command on Ways and Means and I'm voting against the budget."
At a Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast last week, Rep. Stanley spoke in favor of Gov. Cellucci's proposal. Following the event she reiterated her stand to The Eagle-Tribune, saying: "I have always been in favor of the tax cut. To be anything but for a tax cut implies the state budget is lean and mean and it is neither of those."
She also called it a "credibility issue," referring to the state Legislature's promise in 1989 to drop the rate back down to 5 percent once the state's financial woes had to been handled. The tax rate reached a high of 6.25 percent, and has been dropped to 5.85 percent.
State Republican Party leaders were taken back by Rep. Stanley's vote, especially after reading her comments in the newspaper last week. State Republicans are backing the tax rollback with Citizens for Limited Taxation. Without House support, or backing in the Senate, the proposal will likely head to the ballot in November.
"She's the poster child for political hypocrisy," said John C. Brockelman, state GOP executive director. "In just a mere three days she went from valiant tax cutter to Dukakis tax hike defender. I've never seen a conversion happen so quickly."
State Sen. Bruce E. Tarr, R-Gloucester, who supports the cut and was at the breakfast, was just as surprised by Rep. Stanley's vote.
"Holy cow. How could she do that?" asked Sen. Tarr. "That's really weird. This is contortionist on her part."