Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
January 2001 #2

Thanks Andy Card, and be careful out there
by Barbara Anderson

I once pledged to die for Andy Card, should he ever need someone to step between him and terrible danger.

Chief-of-staff to the President of the United States isn't a terribly dangerous job, is it?

At the time I said it, he was just the state representative from Holbrook. And I was the taxpayer activist who had just led the statewide property tax limit Proposition 2 to victory on the 1980 ballot.

I had been the office secretary while Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) collected signatures for Prop 2. When my boss left I took over as executive director because CLT had little money and I was willing to work cheap; but I knew very little about politics or tax policy. Nevertheless, I was a taxpayer who did know that we in Taxachusetts were paying too much in total taxes in general and property taxes in particular. This qualified me to work for and vote for Prop 2. However, it did not necessarily prepare me to debate it with experienced politicians and other opponents.

I somehow got through the fall campaign, which as it turned out was the easy part. As soon as Prop 2 became law, its opponents stepped up the rhetoric against it -- rather like opponents of George W. Bush are presently fighting his presidency hoping to repeal it or something. So I continued the campaign, lobbying against killer amendments, doing campaign follow-up interviews, and participating in forums about the new law's implementation.

The first few years of the new law required roughly half the commonwealth's communities to actually cut their property taxes, while the rest were limited in the amount they could grow. Andy Card was part of a group of legislators who were urging the state to give more "local" aid to the cities and towns. I had only the vaguest notion of what "local aid" was, but it sounded good so I confidently repeated the demand whenever someone asked how mayors and selectmen were going to cope.

Then, during a forum on a local television station, my opponent from the Massachusetts Teachers Association insisted that I explain exactly how this local aid thing would work, what formula would be used, what the time frame would be. I gave it my best shot, which from the expression on the faces of the audience, made no sense at all.

Fortunately, one of the people in that audience was Andy Card, who leapt to his feet and said I was absolutely right, but perhaps he could rephrase my explanation in a way that was easier to understand. So Andy went to a microphone and outlined the whole thing, while I nodded in agreement, or whatever, all the while thinking, I would die for that man.....

And now he is the chief-of-staff to the President of the United States, which isn't a really dangerous job, is it? But if ever President Bush has trouble explaining some complicated national issue, all he has to do is let Andy rephrase his position and everything will work out fine.

Representative Card did help lead the fight to get more state funding for the cities and towns, initially making up over half the lost revenue from the initial property tax cuts. Eventually Proposition 2 settled into the fairly simple limit on property tax growth that is still with us today, with local aid that increases almost every year.

Having played his role in fighting Taxachusetts, Andy turned his attention to legislative reform. He was the most knowledgeable Republican on House rules, able to outmaneuver the Democrat leadership on more than one occasion. A persuasive speaker, he was ever the gentleman, respected and liked by members from both parties.

In 1982 he left the legislature with a 94% CLT Taxpayer Rating, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor in the Republican primary. Years later he went to work at the George Bush White House.

Now he stands at the right hand of the new President Bush and is one of the most powerful people in America. One very trite phrase applies: it couldn't have happened to a nicer man.

He is so nice that no one is ever likely to take a swing at him, so maybe I can honor my debt by just writing this admiring column. Thanks, Andy, for the support twenty years ago, and for helping run the country now.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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