and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
September 2002 #2

Why this independent voter
is picking up a Democratic ballot Tuesday

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, September12, 2002

It's time for that Independent, unenrolled decision again: Which ballot to take on primary election day?

There are no contests in the Libertarian primary Tuesday, so I must choose either a Democrat or Republican ballot.

I would like to vote for Dan Graubaskas, who has done such a good job at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The last time I went to get my license renewed it happened so fast that I'm wearing my overcoat in my license photo!

But if I vote for Dan for Treasurer, I'll have to choose between, in alphabetic order, Kerry Healey and Jim Rappaport for lieutenant governor. This is difficult because they have both taken the "no new taxes" pledge.

Despite Healey's accusation, Jim's proposal for tolls at the New Hampshire border is not a tax proposal. Tolls may or may not be a good idea, depending on what the alternative would be, but tolls are not taxes.

And despite Jim's accusation, Healey's support for the Community Preservation tax is not a violation of the pledge because the tax is subject to a local referendum vote.

The Romney/Healey proposed auto excise break for fuel efficient cars is a bad idea, since it would shift the tax burden to drivers whose first priority is not environmentalism. Families who can afford only one car might want it to be big and heavy, not only for safety but for carpooling and hauling gear, and they shouldn't be penalized. But unless the shift results in more total money taken from taxpayers in general, it is not a violation of the pledge because "revenue neutral" tax policy changes are allowed.

I, meanwhile, am plain old "neutral" when two equally viable candidates are running for the same office, so I'm not going to choose. Two rich guys or one rich guy and one rich woman, it makes no difference to me; just don't make me poorer by raising my taxes and I'm happy.

So I guess I'll go vote in the Democratic primary against Tom Birmingham and John Slattery, both of whom want to raise my taxes again next year. I figure that all the Democratic candidates will raise my taxes if they get a chance, but at least they're not all so excited about the prospect that they're advocating it during their campaign.

Slattery thinks it makes him seem "courageous."

If stealing money is courageous, why aren't common thieves and Enron executives getting medals instead of going to jail?

But I know I have to vote "for" someone, not just "against" the worst of the lot. Chris Gabrieli has added to the quality of debate in the commonwealth with his support for Mass Inc. and its quarterly magazine, and to some genuine improvement in education with his support for charter schools. Guess I'll vote for him, though not for his running mate.

O'Brien should have learned from her predecessor that a state treasurer should be paying attention to his or her job, not running for the next office. Someone should be keeping an eye on the Lottery.

But I don't blame her for losing money in state pension fund investments; my pension fund isn't looking so hot either. And it's ridiculous that Birmingham and the Legislature mandated that the treasurer's office has to get a return of over 8 percent on its investments, thus encouraging risky decisions.

I remember when O'Brien was in the Legislature, voting to raise our taxes, which gave us less to invest in our own retirement. So I'm not voting for her either.

Robert Reich? Save us from the academics and intellectuals who wouldn't know the real world if they found it in their soup.

If anyone had told me a few years ago, when liberal Warren Tolman was Senate Taxation Committee chairman, that I'd someday vote for him for governor in a primary, I'd have said "who else is running, Mike Dukakis?" But now Warren is the only candidate who consistently supports the will of the voters on ballot questions -- be they the income tax rollback which he originally opposed, or "Clean Elections" which he originally supported. I'll settle in my primary vote for a little respect for the electorate.

Besides, I like to pretend that my share of this year's tax increase is going directly to Tolman to pay for ads attacking Tom Finneran, who engineered that hike. As they say on Beacon Hill, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Then if it's Romney vs. Tolman vs. Carla Howell in November, I can vote for the one who pledges not to raise my taxes again.

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

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