CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Is it time yet for the state income tax cut we were promised
... in 1989?"


Is it time yet for the state income tax cut we were promised ... in 1989?

The Democrats at the State House always have an excuse, of course, as to why they can't "afford" to keep the promise they made in the last century. Earlier this year, the hacks claimed the state couldn't keep its word because tax revenues were supposedly way down.

They weren't.

Their next excuse was, well, the crackpot judges on the SJC are going to rule that the state has to pay billions more to the greedy teachers' unions - er, the children in the under-performing school districts.

They didn't.

So it must be time now for that tax cut, right?

The Boston Herald
Friday, February 18, 2005
It's about time we got that state tax cut - isn't it?
By Howie Carr


 It appears the $30 billion in additional state funds spent on schools in Massachusetts since 1993 was enough to put cities and towns on the road to providing all students with reasonable access to a good education....

The decision means choices about state spending on education will remain where they belong with the governor and the Legislature as they haggle over the budget each year. 

It also means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The looming decision had frozen the Legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney into inaction on education as they waited to see what they would be ordered to do. Had the SJC accepted Botsford's recommendations, it would have meant less money for public safety, social services and other programs the state budget subsidizes.

A Salem News editorial
Thursday, February 17, 2005l
Education isn't only about money


For more than a decade, education reform has been a top priority for governors and the Legislature. More than $30 billion has poured into the schools, according to formulas that are criticized by both city and suburban school districts....

The court decision should help shape a dialogue on education that goes beyond more-money-equals-good-schools. While education remains a priority, the state has other needs as well, and a budget shortfall.

A Patriot Ledger editorial
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Wise decision on school spending


Representative Robert Correia, a 29-year veteran of the Massachusetts Legislature, is no fan of the chief justice of the state's Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret H. Marshall. He opposed her ruling legalizing gay marriage, and when she and her colleagues ordered the Legislature to publicly finance campaigns, he groused....

Correia is among the state lawmakers and court watchers who have been buzzing about the case, Julie Hancock v. the Commissioner of Education. They see the ruling as an about-face for a court that has, over the years, boldly trod into the Legislature's territory, telling lawmakers how to set policy on marriage, taxes, elections, and other issues.

The Boston Globe
Monday, February 21, 2005
Legislators praise ruling on poor districts


Former University of Massachusetts president William M. Bulger, who demanded upon retirement that his housing allowance count toward his state pension, had his retirement check slashed by an appeals board ruling yesterday.

The Boston Globe
Friday, February 18, 2005
Board reduces Bulger pension
voids claim based on housing payment


Finally, a state agency has ruled in favor of the taxpayers and against an attempt by a former public employee to pad his pension....

The result, according to State Treasurer Timothy Cahill: "It ... sends a message to the taxpayers that we are not here to give benefits to people who don't deserve them or who don't pay into the system." Even someone as powerful as Bulger.

It's about time.

A Salem news editorial
Monday, February 21, 2005
Bulger decision a win for taxpayers


A field of five Democrats debated last night in the race to succeed former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, with Dorchester lawyer Eric Donovan trying to break out by portraying himself as a social conservative in a crowd of largely liberal rivals....

All said they support restoring the state tax rate to 5.95 percent from the current 5.3 percent -- Governor Mitt Romney has proposed cutting it to 5 percent -- though Donovan said, "It's the last option for me."

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Democrats vie to succeed Finneran


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

"Is it time yet for the state income tax cut we were promised ... in 1989?"

Of course it is -- it's far past due -- but you'd never know that up in the thin air of Bacon Hill.

It's MINE now (More Is Never Enough) and they won't part with our money without a fight -- even another fight. And one after that.

But, of course, the majority of the electorate reelected our opponents despite, this time, having an alternative. So perhaps the regardless of the will of the voters in 200o -- their mandate! -- instead some are still talking about another tax increase.

The hogs at the trough aren't done with us yet. The teachers unions aren't going away and remains one of the most powerful lobbying interests on Bacon Hill. Former Senate president Billy Bulger hasn't thrown in the towel yet; he's next expected to challenge this ruling in superior court.

The question remains, in his retirement how much control does he still have? Actually, none any more. For once, Billy Bulger screwed up by leading with his greed. But, he'll still pocket $166,664 a year thanks to us generous taxpayers who'll count on Social Security for our retirement.

"Is it time yet for the state income tax cut we were promised ... in 1989?" -- when Billy Bulger was still the senate president.

Chip Ford


The Boston Herald
Friday, February 18, 2005

It's about time we got that state tax cut - isn't it?
By Howie Carr


Is it time yet for the state income tax cut we were promised ... in 1989?

The Democrats at the State House always have an excuse, of course, as to why they can't "afford" to keep the promise they made in the last century. Earlier this year, the hacks claimed the state couldn't keep its word because tax revenues were supposedly way down.

They weren't.

Their next excuse was, well, the crackpot judges on the SJC are going to rule that the state has to pay billions more to the greedy teachers' unions - er, the children in the under-performing school districts.

They didn't.

So it must be time now for that tax cut, right?

Take your time, solons. If you get it done by Patriots Day, that'll be fine. And while you're at it, make the cuts retroactive to Jan. 1, just the way you always make the tax increases retroactive.

Remember when the state income tax was 5 percent? It was 1989 when the Legislature jacked it up to 6.25. The Democrats had to, they whined, to pay for what Dukakis had wrought - welfare for illegal aliens, hair transplants for gangsters, sex-change operations for New Hampshire residents in Montreal, etc. etc.

But as soon as the "emergency" ended, the solons swore up and down, the rate would go back down to 5 percent.

Sixteen years later, we're still waiting.

Five years ago, the voters got fed up and, by a 59-41 percent margin, cut the rate themselves in a statewide referendum. The legislators, though, stopped the cutting, at 5.3 percent.

So, with the SJC decision now in, what will their next excuse be?

Actually, they'll probably dust off a fallback position they've used before. They'll say, if you make $50,000 a year and we reduce your income taxes to the rate we promised in 1989, you'll "only" be getting an extra $150 a year.

Call it the "only" argument. Oddly, though, the same people who argue that you're "only" going to get an extra $3 a week also have the option on the state tax forms to pay their Mass. income taxes at the old 5.85 percent rate.

Of the 607,000 Mass. taxpayers who have filed so far this year, "only" 238 have decided to pay at the older, higher rate. What makes the stinginess of the liberals even more perplexing is that so far, those 238 people who've opted to pay at the higher rate have "only" chipped in an extra $22,100.

That works out to "only" $92 extra per person.

Apparently, the liberals want your $150, but if you try to pry that extra $92 out of their wallets, be prepared to use the Jaws of Life.

We have so many unmet needs here in the commonwealth. Why, it's been three or four days since the last ex-state rep got a public job, as the new superintendent of Essex Aggie. It was a nationwide search, and don't even ask if he has a teacher's license. He's taking the test next month, so lay off him, OK?

Consider all the proud liberals out there who still won't peel the Kerry bumper stickers off their Lexuses. There must be at least 50,000 of those spoiled trust-fund types who supported the gigolo so strongly that they refuse to Move On.

So I've got an idea. If all you Kerry supporters would finally agree to put your money where your mouth is, by voluntarily paying the higher taxes you wanted to impose on those of us who don't have trust funds, maybe the working people of Massachusetts could finally get our tax cut.

If you want to talk the talk, liberals, then you'd better learn to walk the walk. After all, it's "only" money.

Howie Carr's radio show can be heard weekday afternoons on WRKO-AM 680, WHYN-AM 560, WGAN-AM 560, WEIM-AM 1280, and WXTK 95.1 FM.

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The Salem News
Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Salem News editorial
Education isn't only about money


It appears the $30 billion in additional state funds spent on schools in Massachusetts since 1993 was enough to put cities and towns on the road to providing all students with reasonable access to a good education.

That was the commendable finding of the Supreme Judicial Court this week in rejecting a recommendation that the state be required to spend even more money on schools in lower-income communities. The judges, by a 5-2 margin in the so-called Hancock case, determined that the state indeed is currently meeting its constitutional duty to provide a decent public education to all students. 

Students in 19 poorer communities, including Lynn and Lowell, brought the lawsuit charging that the state was shortchanging them. Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford had agreed and recommended the SJC order additional funding.

But Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, writing for the high court's majority, noted that while there are still some inequities in education across Massachusetts, the state is moving to address them. She's right.

The decision means choices about state spending on education will remain where they belong with the governor and the Legislature as they haggle over the budget each year. 

It also means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The looming decision had frozen the Legislature and Gov. Mitt Romney into inaction on education as they waited to see what they would be ordered to do. Had the SJC accepted Botsford's recommendations, it would have meant less money for public safety, social services and other programs the state budget subsidizes.

Romney's budget for the coming year which must still be acted on by the House and Senate provides Chapter 70 education aid increases only for the poorer urban areas. The more affluent communities were expecting only level funding. Perhaps now that the Hancock decision has passed, the governor and Legislature can find a way to provide modest increases to more districts in both urban and suburban areas.

The Education Reform Act of 1993 that opened the money spigot for education in Massachusetts was the result of an earlier court order. Yet for all that spending, gains in academic achievement statewide have been modest at best. 

This suggests that the amount of money spent is not the only factor determining the quality of education provided our children. In rejecting the recommendation that it order further spending increases, the Supreme Judicial Court has shown it recognizes that principle.

Among the reforms implemented over the past decade was the creation of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System which helped schools focus their curricula on skills deemed most important to those they were educating, and also brought some accountability to the system. Clearly, those MCAS scores show that some school systems still need to improve the quality of education they are providing. 

As this week's SJC decision acknowledged, however, such improvements are a matter not only of money, but of leadership and commitment on the part of school administrators, teachers and parents.

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The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Patriot Ledger editorial
Wise decision on school spending


Heading into the case decided by the state Supreme Judicial Court this week, it seemed unlikely the state would be found negligent in funding public schools.

For more than a decade, education reform has been a top priority for governors and the Legislature. More than $30 billion has poured into the schools, according to formulas that are criticized by both city and suburban school districts.

The heart of the Hancock case was the allegation that poorer communities were being shortchanged. And education activists were confident another court mandate was about to drop.

But the court was sensible. It cited those billions in increased state spending and noted that the four school systems cited by plaintiffs had had "striking increases" in school spending. Those communities are Springfield, Brockton, Lowell and Winchendon.

The court acknowledged that while discrepancies between poor and wealthy cities and towns persist, the state is diligently addressing the quality of education provided in public schools.

It is painfully clear that money alone will not make better students. The formula for good schools is more than simple math with a dollar sign.

MCAS scores demonstrate, among other things, the difference a good teacher makes. Look at test scores for three classrooms in one grade in the same school and the results may be far from close. The key variable is the teacher.

Involved parents beget better students. Parents who make sure their children are doing their homework, and help them with it, are telling their children that school is important. They expect pupils to do well.

Where those expectations and oversight are lacking, poor performance results.

Gov. Romney proposes to spend an additional $100 million on schools in the next fiscal year. He favors more after-school programs and a longer school day - both ideas worth pursuing. And the Legislature last year approved a new early childhood education program.

The court decision should help shape a dialogue on education that goes beyond more-money-equals-good-schools. While education remains a priority, the state has other needs as well, and a budget shortfall. Meeting those needs would have been far more difficult if the court had issued a mandate where none was needed.

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The Boston Globe
Monday, February 21, 2005

Legislators praise ruling on poor districts
By Michael Levenson and Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff


Representative Robert Correia, a 29-year veteran of the Massachusetts Legislature, is no fan of the chief justice of the state's Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret H. Marshall. He opposed her ruling legalizing gay marriage, and when she and her colleagues ordered the Legislature to publicly finance campaigns, he groused.

But last week, Marshall wrote a decision that turned Correia's grumbling to muted praise. Siding with the 5-to-2 majority, Marshall rejected a lawsuit by families seeking millions in additional funding for school districts in poor communities. In her opinion, Marshall lauded the Legislature for making schools "a fiscal priority . . .  even amidst one of the worst budget crises in decades."

Correia could hardly believe the ruling. "Perhaps I should find it and frame it," the Fall River Democrat said yesterday. "That's significant. She's been butting heads with the Legislature and, finally, she says, 'Wow' -- at least we're not completely worthless in her eyes."

Correia is among the state lawmakers and court watchers who have been buzzing about the case, Julie Hancock v. the Commissioner of Education. They see the ruling as an about-face for a court that has, over the years, boldly trod into the Legislature's territory, telling lawmakers how to set policy on marriage, taxes, elections, and other issues.

David L. Yas, publisher and editor-in-chief of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, said Marshall's opinion has the state's tightknit legal and political communities trying to read between the lines.

"Can anyone put their finger on it and say for sure there is some political wrangling going on here? No," Yas said. "But there certainly are whispers and theories and chatter that there might be exactly something like that going on -- that somewhere in the analysis of this decision, some of the SJC justices thought it might not be the wisest thing to start another ... standoff with the Legislature."

Jeffrey M. Berry, professor of political science at Tufts University, said studies have clearly indicated that powerful courts that shape public policy, such as the US Supreme Court and the SJC, are affected by public opinion.

"We do know that, believe it or not, justices are influenced by matters other than law and precedent," he said. "So it's plausible that that happened in this case."

But what makes drawing such conclusions difficult in the Hancock case, Berry said, is the fact that school funding is well-traveled territory in the state and US courts, leaving little room for even an activist court to maneuver.

"The confounding element is that there is already so much law in this area that it is really hard to claim that this is a move dictated by public opinion," he said. "You have to analyze this against the backdrop of the constraints of what they can do and how far they can deviate from existing law."

Some legislators say the court appears chastened by its critics and willing, at least for the moment, to allow lawmakers to set policy.

"I'm very happy that the court is doing what it should be doing constitutionally and not overstepping its bounds," Correia said. "In fact, if they keep this up, they'll get to the point where I can actually praise the court. I'm not there yet."

Correia has been among the Beacon Hill lawmakers who take to the floor to denounce the SJC as activist. Their criticism heightened in the 2002 battle over publicly financed campaigns, when the court ordered lawmakers to either fund or repeal the Clean Elections Law. And it reached fever pitch when the court legalized gay marriage last year.

Representative Emile J. Goguen, Democrat of Fitchburg, filed a bill to remove Marshall after the gay marriage ruling. Yesterday, Goguen said the ruling in the Hancock case reflected a pleasing "shift," adding, "I'm sure the entire Legislature is happy about it."

The case involved Julie Hancock, a Brockton High School junior, who contended that poor districts needed additional funds to match affluent districts in the quality of their libraries, classroom computers, and opportunities for early childhood education. She and other plaintiffs sued the state commissioner of education.

In her opinion, Marshall noted that "serious inadequacies in public education remain." Yet she found "the Commonwealth is moving systemically to address those deficiencies and continues to make education reform a fiscal priority." Marshall called the billions spent on schools over the last decade "significant."

Representative Philip Travis, Democrat of Rehoboth, said the court's opinion made him think there were other forces at work behind the ruling besides argument and case law. "The decision was so distinctly written," Travis said. "I thought there might be that twist in there, that they had gone a bit too far in the past and that they were coming back into the fold. And I commend them for that."

The House minority leader, Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr., a frequent SJC critic, said the facts of the case were strong. But Jones, Republican of North Reading, said he believes the gay marriage backlash might have influenced the justices' decision.

"They're human," Jones said. "They're sensitive to how the judiciary is perceived both in the public and within the legislative and executive branches."

Ralph Ranalli of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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The Boston Globe
Friday, February 18, 2005

Board reduces Bulger pension
voids claim based on housing payment
By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff


Former University of Massachusetts president William M. Bulger, who demanded upon retirement that his housing allowance count toward his state pension, had his retirement check slashed by an appeals board ruling yesterday.

The 2-to-1 decision of the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board not only dashed Bulger's hopes of counting toward his annual pension nearly $50,000 in housing allowance and annuity payments, but it also found that his $309,000 annual salary when he retired in August 2003 was inflated by merit payments and bonuses that should not count as part of his pension.

"We view it as a bonus because it is a payment contingent upon meeting certain performance criteria," said Assistant Attorney General Richard C. Heidlage, a member of the board who wrote the decision. "That is the classic definition of a bonus."

In addition, the board found that Bulger should not have been allowed to claim his car, driver, and a parking space as compensation, costs that were probably negligible in calculating his pension, but that should be corrected on principle, Heidlage said.

As a result of the ruling, Bulger's $179,148 annual pension could be trimmed to $166,664, the State Retirement Board estimated. The added payments he had requested would have boosted his pension to $208,356 a year.

The 71-year-old former state Senate president is expected to appeal the ruling to Superior Court. His lawyer, Thomas R. Kiley, said last night he had not yet read the ruling and could not comment.

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The Salem News
Monday, February 21, 2005

A Salem news editorial
Bulger decision a win for taxpayers


Finally, a state agency has ruled in favor of the taxpayers and against an attempt by a former public employee to pad his pension.

Of course, unlike many, this one was unlikely to get by without some public notice. It involved the former president of the University of Massachusetts and, before that, the Massachusetts Senate, one William Bulger.

He was making in excess of $300,000 when he left his UMass post in the fall of 2003 and had enough years in the system to entitle him to an annual pension of $166,664. But this apparently wasn't enough.

Bulger claimed the money he received from the state for housing and, believe it or not, the cost of the annuity he took out to supplement his pension, ought to be used in calculating his state retirement benefit. That would have given him an additional $30,000 a year.

Bulger and his attorney convinced the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals of the logic of their argument; but they did not fare as well with the Contributory Retirement Board, which found last week that not only was Bulger wrong in claiming the value of his annuity and housing allowance, but that his basic pension had been mistakenly inflated by counting certain merit increases he had received.

The result? What began as a $179,148-a-year pension, and which Bulger had sought to have increased to $208,356, was cut back to $166,664.

The result, according to State Treasurer Timothy Cahill: "It ... sends a message to the taxpayers that we are not here to give benefits to people who don't deserve them or who don't pay into the system." Even someone as powerful as Bulger.

It's about time.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Democrats vie to succeed Finneran
Debate death penalty, gay marriage, elections
By David Abel, Globe Staff


A field of five Democrats debated last night in the race to succeed former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, with Dorchester lawyer Eric Donovan trying to break out by portraying himself as a social conservative in a crowd of largely liberal rivals.

The 34-year-old spoke vigorously against same-sex marriage, public financing of state elections, and same-day voter registration and spoke in favor of the death penalty.

By contrast, all but one of the other four candidates spoke in support of same-sex marriage or avoided the issue, and all the others came out strongly against the death penalty and for same-day voter registration.

When asked to compare their positions to those of the former speaker, they all found kind words to say about the conservative Democrat whose shadow hung over much of the two-hour debate.

"I'm most similar to him on the gay marriage issue," Donovan said. "He had the courage of his convictions. He took the heat for the whole House, because he was the captain of the ship.... I'm going to be just as straightforward."

About 200 people filled nearly every seat in an auditorium at the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, where the five candidates sat on stage for the first of two debates sponsored by MassVOTE, a nonpartisan voting rights group. With no Republican challenger, the primary on March 15 will decide who succeeds Finneran, who last September announced his retirement after years of dominating state politics. Voters from the 12th Suffolk House district first elected him in 1978.

Three of the five candidates are Haitian Americans, in a district where about 70 percent of more than 38,000 residents are members of minority groups. The district includes parts of Milton, Mattapan, and Dorchester.

In a special election, where most of the candidates maintain little difference in their positions and turnout may not be heavy, the candidates sought to distinguish themselves by citing their experience.

Kerby Roberson, 47, a lawyer from Milton who said he has spent years serving the public as a science teacher and as counsel to the Department of Social Services, was loudly applauded when he agreed with Donovan about banning same-sex marriage and disagreed with him on the death penalty. "I'm a Christian, and I stand on principle," he said about his position against same-sex marriage.

On the death penalty, he said: "We need to abolish it, period. As a black man, there's no way.... Mark my words, I would never support the death penalty.

All the candidates said they support bolstering the state's low-income mortgage assistance program, reining in the district's lenders of subprime loans, improving access to a new park in Neponset Circle, and attracting new business to the community.

All said they support restoring the state tax rate to 5.95 percent from the current 5.3 percent -- Governor Mitt Romney has proposed cutting it to 5 percent -- though Donovan said, "It's the last option for me."

Linda Dorcena Forry, 31, an aide to city housing chief Charlotte Richie who recently received endorsements from Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral and state Representative Marie P. St. Fleur, described herself as a "public servant."

"I'm about helping people, and my campaign is about a new partnership ... about everyone coming together for affordable housing, education, health care, and public safety," she said, adding that she also supports public financing of elections but thinks there must be "minimum thresholds" for candidates.

Touting her experience in promoting affordable housing, she said, "I think it's important that all cities and towns are required to meet the [requirement] of 10 percent affordable housing."

Emmanuel A. Bellegarde, a 28-year-old Mattapan resident who served as an aide to state Senator Jack Hart, said voters should elect him because he "knows the issues personally," having had guns and knives pulled on him, gone without health care, and moved years ago because his family couldn't afford a Boston mortgage.

"When it comes to quality of life issues, they will not be compromised," he said.

Asked about the effort to build a safe passage to the park in Neponset Circle, he said: "There doesn't need to be any other study.... When people complain, I'm going to return their calls. We don't need political advisers; we need to fix our problems."

Stacey Monahan of Dorchester, a 32-year-old aide to US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, said she wanted to expand on her work with several neighborhood civic associations. "I will be the kind of state rep who you can call and say my kid needs a summer job or my [relative] needs substance abuse treatment," she said.

When asked about restoring the tax cuts, she agreed, saying: "I'm a Democrat. I believe that government is here to help people."

And when asked to compare herself to Finneran, she said: "One thing I share with him is that you always know where he stood. That's something I really respect.... But from day one, I have been in favor of gay marriage, unequivocally."

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