and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
November 2002 #2

Election results provide mandate
for those opposed to new taxes

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, November 8, 2002

Antiques Roadshow was in Boston. Eric was facing heart surgery on 7th Heaven. But I was watching President George Bush on Fox, because ... recently I was part of a panel on NECN's NewsNight. One of the subjects was Mitt Romney's television ad about his courtship of his wife; the other was Iraq.

My favorite new TV show is Friday night's "Firefly." A group of rebels drive their salvaged spaceship around the known universe playing Robin Hood who, by the way, was the leader of the first taxpayer group, not a socialist.

As I voted last Tuesday, expecting the worst, I fantasized about joining them and getting way, way out of Massachusetts.

Then the results came in and I was too fascinated with what might happen now to think of leaving. It's going to be an interesting next two years.

Voters chose a governor who has pledged not to raise taxes, and they came fairly close to repealing the state income tax with a statewide ballot question. At the same time they re-elected most of the legislators who voted this year for the largest tax increase in our history in violation of an earlier ballot question. Go figure.

Dan Grabauskas, arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for state treasurer, lost because his name didn't start with "T" which sounds good when you put it with "for treasurer." Instead of spending all that time making the Registry of Motor Vehicles user-friendly, Dan should have been in court changing his name to Tom.

In four years, someone named Gary will run for governor, so he can run on the slogan, "Gary for Governor."

See, kids, voting is easy: A is for Aaron the Alligator and Auditor. And Anderson! Maybe in 2006 I'll run myself to audit the patronage we are going to be getting in Tim Cahill's treasury.

Never mind; democracy doesn't have to make sense, it just has to give us all a chance.

Some local taxpayers fought back. We are still researching statewide the results of the various Proposition 2 1/2 overrides. But we know of several that lost, and in my town, voters rejected the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

Proponents' signs declared, "Keep Marblehead Special." Opponents countered with, "Keep Marblehead Affordable" -- at least for those of us who moved here when property was still reasonable and who still aren't rich.

Hamilton voters also spared homeowners a long-term CPA tax increase; Newburyport's did not.

At least they might be spared another state tax hike. When Mitt Romney refused to sign Citizens for Limited Taxation's "no new taxes" pledge, we told him that the Massachusetts media and voters are accustomed to Republican candidates taking it and would interpret his resistance as a willingness to raise taxes. After months of being repeatedly asked if he would do so, Romney finally took the pledge, albeit verbally, in the last debate: "I will not raise taxes next year."

If we can get through next year without new state taxes, we will have forced the government restructuring that all candidates talked about, and won't need a tax increase in the next three years of Romney's administration. Massachusetts will have survived this fiscal crisis and it will be time to roll the income tax rate down to 5 percent as the voters demanded just two years ago.

The Legislature killed that rollback earlier this year. This week a near majority of voters responded with a new message: "You didn't like our reasonable, three-year phase-down of the income tax rate to 5 percent? Then how about repealing the income tax altogether?" Take that.

But voters took their swing on Question 1, then didn't follow through with the knock-out punch of removing incumbents from office. Only two incumbents lost: Ruth Provost, D-Sandwich, and Jose Santiago, D-Lawrence. She because she had a tough challenger in Republican Jeff Perry, and he because of a longstanding local feud with his unenrolled opponent, William Lentigua.

Fortunately, enough Republicans won open seats to allow the minority party to still get roll calls in the House, though Senate roll calls will depend upon the good will of the Senate president because Republicans have only six senators and seven are required for a publicly recorded vote.

It isn't fair to say, as some pundits are, that the opposition parties did not field good candidates. Some of them were excellent, and a few of those won open seats.

I admit I will never understand the appeal of the entrenched incumbent, and have no idea how to encourage more sacrificial lambs to run with the wolves two years from now.

Shannon O'Brien can take comfort in the fact the voters heeded her concern for alleged "working families." However, they astutely defined "working families" as "taxpayers" and saw clearly what her refusal to answer the tax questions in the last debate meant.

Massachusetts working families may not be as determined as those in New Hampshire to resist the income tax and sales tax, but they know when things have gone too far. And I suspect they really do not want that potential tax on services that Shannon didn't want to discuss.

Governor Mitt Romney will help, but he can't sustain a veto, so we may yet get higher taxes.

I hope that "Firefly" won't be canceled. I may still need my fantasy escape after all.

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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