CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Friday, June 24, 2005

Highest court repeals citizens' property rights


The Supreme Court yesterday granted cities and towns the right to force the sale of private property to make way for economic development projects, ending a closely watched battle between homeowners and the City of New London, Conn., over a plan for a sprawling waterfront complex of private housing, stores, restaurants, and businesses....

In a 5-to-4 decision that cut mostly along the court's liberal-conservative fault line, with moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with the four most liberal justices, the court expanded the power of cities to order the taking of homes or businesses.

It declared that economic development is a reasonable use of a city's power of eminent domain....

But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in a sharply written dissent, declared that the decision will "wash out" any distinction between public and private uses of property, leaving homeowners vulnerable to the whims of unelected planning agencies.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," wrote O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

The Boston Globe
Friday, June 24, 2005
High court backs seizure of land for development


Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is promising that if state legislators adopt measures raising property taxes on telecommunications companies, the city will devote all of the proceeds to cutting residential and business tax bills, not to new municipal spending....

One leading tax foe said she is skeptical about his pledge that any new tax revenues from telecom companies will only cut other taxpayers' burden, not swell Boston's $2.3 billion municipal budget.

"Is he putting it in writing?" asked Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which led efforts to enact and defend the Proposition 2 tax-capping law. "I'd want to see something definite with his signature on the bottom line."

The Boston Globe
Monday, June 19, 2005
Telecom taxes won't fill coffers, Menino pledges


Despite a looming deadline to finish the state budget, nearly a dozen lawmakers played hooky from work yesterday, hitting the links on sunny Cape Cod for a political pal's charity golf tournament....

The midweek golf outing drew fire from Republicans, who slammed Democratic lawmakers for shirking their duties while the budget is due on Gov. Mitt Romney's desk July 1.

"It seems the only way we're going to get a state budget is if we turn the State House lawn into a putting green," said Massachusetts GOP Executive Director Tim O'Brien. "The budget is due in eight days, and cities and towns are waiting for this money." ...

The Cape outing comes a day after DiMasi, Travaglini and several other Beacon Hill lawmakers teed it up for a charity tournament sponsored by Sen. Fred Berry (D-Peabody) at Marblehead's Tedesco Country Club. The weekday tee times followed a three-day weekend for the solons, who were off Friday for Bunker Hill Day.

"It's just the tail end of Bunker Hill weekend," said Barbara Anderson, spokeswoman for Citizens for Limited Taxation. "I would expect it. This is par for the course."

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, June 22, 2004
Budget off course: GOP teed off over reps' golf outing


Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday launched a revolution over health care, unveiling a bold initiative that would force tens of thousands of people to pony up cash for coverage....

The main feature of Romney's proposal - mandating that 150,000 uninsured individuals start paying a share of their medical costs via forced insurance - dramatically shifts the debate in Massachusetts over who should foot the bill for any future universal health-care program.

"It's a bold approach to a long-term challenge," said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Massachusetts High Technology Council....

The catch for the uninsured who don't sign up is that they would have their tax refunds and wages garnished by an unspecified "appropriate" amount if they need medical care and can't pay, Romney said.

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, June 22, 2004
Mitt's RX for health care:
Mandatory insurance premiums for workers


Massachusetts residents who choose not to obtain health insurance would face tax penalties and even the garnishing of their wages under a proposal Governor Mitt Romney unveiled yesterday....

Currently, people without health insurance often go to hospitals and receive care they never pay for, because the hospital and the state pick up the tab. Under Romney's proposal, uninsured Massachusetts residents would be asked to enroll in a plan when they seek care.

If they refuse, the state could recoup the medical costs in several ways, Romney said yesterday: The state might cancel the personal tax exemption on their state income taxes, which is worth about $175. It could withhold some or all of their state income tax refund and deposit it in what Romney called a "personal healthcare spending account." Or, it might take money out of the person's paycheck, as it does now to collect child support.

"No more 'free riding,' if you will, where an individual says: 'I'm not going to pay, even though I can afford it. I'm not going to get insurance, even though I can afford it. I'm instead going to just show up and make the taxpayers pay for me,'" Romney told reporters after a healthcare speech at the John F. Kennedy Library....

"It's the ultimate conservative idea, which is that people have responsibility for their own care, and they don't look to government to take of them if they can afford to take care of themselves," Romney told reporters after his speech.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Romney eyes penalties for those lacking insurance


It's a bold idea from Gov. Mitt Romney: Force thousands of people - many of them young - to sign up for health insurance or risk the consequence of garnished wages.

But a surprising number of young consumers around Boston yesterday said they like the idea - albeit with some caveats....

Romney's plan also got a thumbs up from an unlikely source yesterday - Barbara Anderson, head of Citizens for Limited Taxation, a group that often looks with deep suspicion on government mandates and programs.

"I'm reaching out to conservatives who hear the words 'universal health care' and think of Hillary Clinton's socialized medical" proposal of the 1990s, Anderson said.

The tax activist said that Romney is proposing universal insurance, not universal health care - which Anderson said society effectively already has, as almost no one is denied care even if they can't pay for it.

"Let's just face that reality and deal with it," Anderson said, adding that covering more people will reduce costs to taxpayers.

The Boston Herald
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Romney wins health-y reviews:
Youths like gov's idea of mandatory coverage


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

With all the news that been coming at us this week, the stunner-of-the-week was announced yesterday. The U.S. Supreme Court decreed that it's perfectly just fine for government to take private property and hand it over to developers if it helps increase government's tax base!

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Just where in "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" did the liberal wing of the nation's highest court find a right to take private property just to increase government revenue? And, of course, it's the government, or its courts, which decide what "just compensation" is.

More and more over the past few years too many courts have been turning centuries of established constitutional law on its head, finding things in the founding document that were never there and tossing out enumerated limits that have protected We the People from an overreaching and monolithic government. Constitutions have come to mean whatever a mere majority of five unelected justices decree they mean; the written word and centuries of precedent no longer stand in the way of ideology and an agenda.

Now that private property may be possessed only until the whim of a government decides otherwise, little if anything is safe from government's overarching reach and insatiable appetite.

"Flag-burning," Defense of Marriage" and other issues discussed as potential constitutional amendments pale by comparison to the urgent need to do whatever is necessary to overturn this obscene ruling and reestablish property rights. Without constitutional protection of private property, there is now nothing the government can't lay claim to next.

This is only the beginning.

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Friday, June 24, 2005

High court backs seizure of land for development
By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Staff


WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court yesterday granted cities and towns the right to force the sale of private property to make way for economic development projects, ending a closely watched battle between homeowners and the City of New London, Conn., over a plan for a sprawling waterfront complex of private housing, stores, restaurants, and businesses.

The owners of nine houses charged that the city was abusing its power to take private property for public purposes with a plan that would enrich businesses and real estate developers, not the public at large. The city maintained that the public would benefit with the creation of 1,000 new jobs and higher tax receipts.

Over five years, the case drew progressively greater scrutiny in the real estate world as a David-and-Goliath battle, with many believing a conservative-dominated Supreme Court would impose new restrictions on the forced sale of private property.

It did not. In a 5-to-4 decision that cut mostly along the court's liberal-conservative fault line, with moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy siding with the four most liberal justices, the court expanded the power of cities to order the taking of homes or businesses.

It declared that economic development is a reasonable use of a city's power of eminent domain.

New London's "determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority, which also included justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer. "The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- jobs and increased tax revenues."

Cities have long used their property-taking power to clear the way for roads, bridges, sewers, and other public improvements. They have also forced the cleanup of blighted neighborhoods and made room for sports stadiums, conference centers, and railroads -- all of which, even if privately owned, are used by the general public.

Any owner whose home or business is taken for such a purpose is to receive a fair price.

But the bulldozing of homes and businesses has often brought a passionate backlash -- such as with the still-lamented destruction of Boston's West End in the 1960s -- and courts have struggled to determine what is a constitutionally permissible justification for taking property.

Some states have refused to use eminent domain to help employers build larger offices and expanded research facilities. Other states have insisted that economic development has clear public benefits.

Yesterday, city planners across the country cheered the Supreme Court ruling, saying it preserves an important tool in assuring the economic competitiveness of cities at a time when employers can be enticed to cheaper suburban and rural locations.

Economic development is "an essential public purpose of cities and towns," Boston Redevelopment Authority spokeswoman Susan Elsbree said.

"While the BRA does not utilize eminent domain in the same manner as New London, we do believe that this ruling affirms the importance of maintaining a strong planning and economic development agency to help create and implement the public vision for growth," Elsbree said in a statement.

But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in a sharply written dissent, declared that the decision will "wash out" any distinction between public and private uses of property, leaving homeowners vulnerable to the whims of unelected planning agencies.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," wrote O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

New London's development agency devised its plan for the Fort Trumbull neighborhood along the Thames River after the pharmaceutical company Pfizer agreed to build a huge research facility on an abutting piece of land.

The city hoped to use Pfizer's commitment to attract new companies, stores, restaurants, a museum, a marina, and more homes to the area.

The plan encompassed public land and 115 private properties, most of which were purchased at a negotiated price.

But nine property owners refused to sell, and brought suit against the city in 2000.

The named plaintiff in the case, Susette Kelo, said she had made significant improvements in her house and prized its water view.

Another plaintiff, Wilhelmina Dery, was born in her home in 1918 and did not want to give up a house that had been in her family for about a century.

The owners won an injunction against the city from a state judge, but it was overturned by the Connecticut Supreme Court last year. The US Supreme Court heard arguments in February.

Yesterday, the homeowners expressed bitter disappointment.

"It's unbelievable that the court would do this," said Bill Von Winkle, who owns rental property as well as a home in the development area. "After this ruling, no home in the country will be safe."

But in New London's City Hall, still reeling from the announcement earlier this year of the planned closure of the city's naval base, city attorney Tom Londregan expressed relief.

"It is the urban cities of this country that provide for the poor, the disadvantaged," he said. "Cities need to be given the tools to develop the economic base to carry their urban agenda."

The court majority drew heavily on past cases in which cities and states obtained permission to use eminent domain power for new purposes.

The Supreme Court in the past has given strong deference to a state's or city's own determination of what constitutes a public benefit, Stevens wrote in the majority opinion.

He noted that the Supreme Court had upheld a massive redevelopment plan for a depressed Washington, D.C., neighborhood, and a plan by the State of Hawaii to break up the landholdings of a small group of owners whose influence was deemed harmful to the state.

O'Connor, writing for the dissenting justices, argued in favor of overruling recent precedent and allowing cities to take property only if they are going to use it themselves or open it to the public.

Eugene Volokh, a law school professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the decision was consistent with a century-long string of decisions granting more power to governments to force the sale of property.

The greater legal jolt would have come if O'Connor's opinion had prevailed, he said.

"There are real money and real lives at issue here," Volokh said. "But it's not much of a change. It's long been understood that the government has broad powers to order the sale of property."

Globe correspondent Kaitlin Bell contributed to this report.

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The Boston Globe
Monday, June 19, 2005

Telecom taxes won't fill coffers, Menino pledges
Money raised by closing loopholes to ease burden on homeowners, firm
By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff


Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is promising that if state legislators adopt measures raising property taxes on telecommunications companies, the city will devote all of the proceeds to cutting residential and business tax bills, not to new municipal spending.

The measure, which comes before the Legislature's Revenue Committee tomorrow, would generate up to $45 million in new annual revenues for Boston. That would be enough to cut average city homeowners' yearly tax bills by $185 and reduce business taxes by 2 percent across the board, said city Assessor Ronald Rakow.

"Our commitment on this legislation is that we'd use any growth out of it to reduce the tax rate for both business and residential taxpayers," Menino said in an interview. "I'll pledge as long as I am mayor to use the money to reduce the tax burden."

The Menino-backed measure is one of several bills that legislators will take up tomorrow described by backers as closing tax loopholes. It would eliminate many exemptions that companies such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint Corp., MCI Inc., and AT&T Corp. have used to remove $1.3 billion in property from local property tax rolls in the last two years.

In several cases, companies have taken moves such as transferring legal title to telecom switches and cellular base-station gear in order to restore tax exemptions they previously had that were overturned by a January Supreme Judicial Court ruling. The bill would undo those tax breaks and also subject companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. to new taxes on outdoor poles and wires. In all, it could generate $140 million in new local property tax revenues statewide, backers estimate.

Menino is campaigning for reelection in November. One leading tax foe said she is skeptical about his pledge that any new tax revenues from telecom companies will only cut other taxpayers' burden, not swell Boston's $2.3 billion municipal budget.

"Is he putting it in writing?" asked Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which led efforts to enact and defend the Proposition 2 tax-capping law. "I'd want to see something definite with his signature on the bottom line."

Across the board, telecommunications carriers and their state trade group, the Massachusetts Network Communications Council, have said the Menino measure will only wind up socking consumers with higher wireless, phone, Internet, and cable bills.

Anderson agreed, saying, "One way or another, ordinary people will get stuck with the bill. These giant corporations are not going to cut executive salaries or get rid of their lobbyists."

Paul R. Cianelli, president of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association Inc., said the local tax exemption -- which cable companies have enjoyed since 1985 -- "provides incentives for the industry to locate facilities such as call centers here, invest in advanced technologies, and erect infrastructure in rural areas that might not otherwise be worth the capital investment."

Verizon Wireless has come under particular scrutiny for setting up a Bermuda subsidiary for the purpose of owning its Massachusetts network equipment and cutting its tax burden. But company spokeswoman J. Abra Degbor said the company created the subsidiary only to restore its prior tax treatment before the SJC ruling led to a 23,200 percent increase in its Boston property taxes and average 5,600 percent increase statewide. "It was a massive increase that forced Verizon Wireless to take legal steps to reduce this tax burden and keep its operating costs stable," Degbor said.

But NStar senior vice president Joseph R. Nolan Jr. said the electric utility was pleased it could save $925,000 in Boston property taxes if the bill passes. "Any tax reduction is welcomed by us, because it will allow us to spend more money on system improvements," Nolan said.

Verizon Communications Inc., the biggest provider of conventional landline service in Boston, has made the biggest cut in taxable Boston property since the 2003-04 tax year. Verizon has since slashed $125.8 million from the $283.6 million in taxable property it had then, representing about a $4 million yearly tax break, according to city figures.

However, Verizon Communications did not do any asset transfers like MCI, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless. Rather, it made an aggressive effort to write off more of the value of its switches and other gear that serve phone customers in Boston. Verizon spokesman Jack Hoey said the single biggest factor was that, after Boston raised business tax rates in 2003, the company had an economic incentive to better scrutinize the age of equipment it had in service.

Verizon concluded it could depreciate, or write off, much more of the value of its Boston switches and cables because a closer check of records showed it was older and therefore less valuable than initially stated.

"We are now reporting more accurately," Hoey said.

Verizon cut its city tax bill to $13.7 million this year from $17.7 million a year earlier, all through the depreciation moves, but Hoey said, "We still believe we are over-reporting our taxable property."

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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, June 22, 2004

Budget off course: GOP teed off over reps' golf outing
By Dave Wedge/Herald Exclusive


Despite a looming deadline to finish the state budget, nearly a dozen lawmakers played hooky from work yesterday, hitting the links on sunny Cape Cod for a political pal's charity golf tournament.

House Majority Leader Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood) was among those who tossed aside boring budget work for the day to work on their handicaps at Hyannis Golf Club. Rogers puffed cigars in a cart with Rep. John F. Quinn (D-New Bedford) while playing in the tournament organized by Rep. Demetrius Atsalis (D-Barnstable).

Others seen by the Herald playing included: Rep. James Fagan (D-Taunton), Rep. Anthony Petrucelli (D-East Boston), Rep. David Flynn (D-Bridgewater) and Rep. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport). At least four other state representatives played, including Rep. David M. Torrisi (D-North Andover), Rep. Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury), Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham) and Rep. Frank Israel Smizik (D-Brookline), according to a lineup card viewed by the Herald.

Among the players were at least seven leaders of House committees.

Quinn could not be reached last night, and none of the other representatives returned calls seeking comment.

The midweek golf outing drew fire from Republicans, who slammed Democratic lawmakers for shirking their duties while the budget is due on Gov. Mitt Romney's desk July 1.

"It seems the only way we're going to get a state budget is if we turn the State House lawn into a putting green," said Massachusetts GOP Executive Director Tim O'Brien. "The budget is due in eight days, and cities and towns are waiting for this money."

Several more representatives were supposed to play yesterday but did not show up, including Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi (D-Boston), who was captured by a TV news crew playing golf Monday afternoon in Marblehead with Senate President Robert E. Travaglini (D-Boston).

DiMasi's spokeswoman Kimberly Haberlin said the speaker backed out of Atsalis' tournament because of a "schedule change."

While the unfinished state budget sat back at the State House, the parade of representatives at the Hyannis public course began at 9 a.m. sharp, with several reps taking trips to the driving range, putting on sunblock and lacing up their golf shoes. Several unidentified players were spotted drinking beer in their carts. Players ponied up $100 each, which included greens fees, a golf cart, gratuities, a charitable donation and lunch.

The Cape outing comes a day after DiMasi, Travaglini and several other Beacon Hill lawmakers teed it up for a charity tournament sponsored by Sen. Fred Berry (D-Peabody) at Marblehead's Tedesco Country Club. The weekday tee times followed a three-day weekend for the solons, who were off Friday for Bunker Hill Day.

"It's just the tail end of Bunker Hill weekend," said Barbara Anderson, spokeswoman for Citizens for Limited Taxation. "I would expect it. This is par for the course."

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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, June 22, 2004

Mitt's RX for health care:
Mandatory insurance premiums for workers
By Jay Fitzgerald


Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday launched a revolution over health care, unveiling a bold initiative that would force tens of thousands of people to pony up cash for coverage.

But whether Romney can piece together a coalition to topple the largely employer- and government-paid system is another matter, experts said.

The main feature of Romney's proposal - mandating that 150,000 uninsured individuals start paying a share of their medical costs via forced insurance - dramatically shifts the debate in Massachusetts over who should foot the bill for any future universal health-care program.

"It's a bold approach to a long-term challenge," said Chris Anderson, executive director of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

Business groups - who fear other health-care proposals might put more of a burden on employers to provide coverage for the uninsured - yesterday were very supportive of Romney's so-called "Safety Net Care" program.

The governor's plan would require those who make less than $29,000 a year but don't qualify for Medicaid to obtain health insurance coverage and pay a portion of the premiums, with sliding state subsidies based on individuals' incomes.

"Ultimately, consumers are going to have to take more responsibility," said Rick Lord, president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Those backing a single-payer system - similar to a plan proposed by ex-Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1980s - said Romney's plan, while daring, is flawed and will end up costing the state far more than he's projecting.

"He's just throwing numbers out," said John McDonough, executive director of Health Care For All, which is pushing for a single-payer system.

But others praised the effort.

Bill Van Fassen, chief executive of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said it's time the state explored a "different model."

Romney said his plan would not raise taxes, instead shifting about $922 million in federal and state dollars now earmarked for the state's "free-care pool" toward his "Safety Net Care" plan.

Under the proposal, uninsured individuals would pay from $2.30 a week to $32.31 a week for insurance premiums. The state would kick in from $36.92 to $66.93 in premium subsidies, depending on incomes. Individuals would be assigned to certain types of insurers during the first two years of the program and would be free to select any insurer after two years, Romney said.

The catch for the uninsured who don't sign up is that they would have their tax refunds and wages garnished by an unspecified "appropriate" amount if they need medical care and can't pay, Romney said.

Romney has previously proposed making lower-cost insurance available to middle-income residents who are uninsured but could afford insurance if it were reasonably priced.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Romney eyes penalties for those lacking insurance
Costs are key in health plan
By Scott S. Greenberger

Massachusetts residents who choose not to obtain health insurance would face tax penalties and even the garnishing of their wages under a proposal Governor Mitt Romney unveiled yesterday.

Romney says the "individual mandate" he is proposing, part of his broader plan to cover the roughly 500,000 people who are uninsured, would not cost the state any money. But some healthcare specialists say the approach might cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than state taxpayers currently provide for government health coverage.

Romney's plan would require all residents in Massachusetts to have some form of health insurance or agree to pay their medical bills out of their own pockets. No other state has such a requirement, and if Romney manages to make it law, it would be a compelling accomplishment he could point to if he runs for president.

Currently, people without health insurance often go to hospitals and receive care they never pay for, because the hospital and the state pick up the tab. Under Romney's proposal, uninsured Massachusetts residents would be asked to enroll in a plan when they seek care.

If they refuse, the state could recoup the medical costs in several ways, Romney said yesterday: The state might cancel the personal tax exemption on their state income taxes, which is worth about $175. It could withhold some or all of their state income tax refund and deposit it in what Romney called a "personal healthcare spending account." Or, it might take money out of the person's paycheck, as it does now to collect child support.

"No more 'free riding,' if you will, where an individual says: 'I'm not going to pay, even though I can afford it. I'm not going to get insurance, even though I can afford it. I'm instead going to just show up and make the taxpayers pay for me,'" Romney told reporters after a healthcare speech at the John F. Kennedy Library.

Although Romney began rolling out his healthcare proposals last fall, he has never before called for an individual mandate. In a telephone interview with the Globe after yesterday's speech, he said he decided to include the requirement after concluding that his other proposals could make private insurance affordable for everyone.

Romney said he wants to make healthcare coverage less expensive by permitting private insurers to offer low-cost policies with scaled-back benefits. People earning too little to afford even those plans and making too much to qualify for Medicaid would be eligible for state subsidies to help them purchase insurance. Medicaid or MassHealth would remain in place for the poorest state residents unable to afford any private insurance.

The Romney administration estimates that about 460,000 people, or 7 percent of the state's population, are uninsured. Of those people, the administration calculates that 106,000 are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled. The governor says roughly 200,000 earn more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $48,270 for a family of three, and will be able to afford the low-cost policies insurance companies will provide under his plan. The remaining 150,000, who make too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford the discounted plans, would get state subsidies to help them pay for private insurance.

"It's the ultimate conservative idea, which is that people have responsibility for their own care, and they don't look to government to take of them if they can afford to take care of themselves," Romney told reporters after his speech.

Massachusetts spends more than $1 billion a year on medical care for the uninsured through its "uncompensated care pool," and Romney argued that simply redirecting that money would pay for his plan. He said those dollars will go further if everybody has insurance, because they will see their doctors for preventive care instead of visiting emergency rooms in a crisis.

But a report released separately yesterday by the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation raised questions about the approach endorsed by Romney. The authors of the report said they could not put an exact price tag on Romney's proposal, but that a similar plan to cover all the uninsured would cost an additional $700 million.

"If you're going to provide comprehensive benefits at an affordable level, I don't believe you can do it without any new spending," said Linda J. Blumberg, an economist at the Urban Institute who coauthored the report.

Nevertheless, some of the governor's toughest critics gave his idea a warm reception yesterday, even as they noted that he has yet to disclose important details.

"I am delighted that Governor Mitt Romney is serious about providing affordable healthcare to all citizens of this state," said Philip W. Johnston, chairman of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

US Senator Edward M. Kennedy described Romney's call for an individual mandate as "a healthy step forward," but added that "details of the benefits offered and the level of cost-sharing individuals will face are crucial to understanding this proposal."

Senate president Robert E. Travaglini, the other leading figure in Beacon Hill's healthcare debate, said of the individual mandate, "I wouldn't rule it out." Travaglini's own plan sets aside $100,000 to study the idea of an individual mandate.

"Nothing is going to be dismissed outright; this is too important of an issue," Travaglini said.

But John McDonough of Health Care for All, which is part of a large coalition of groups pushing for a healthcare plan that would force most employers to cover their workers, said that Romney's plan might create an incentive for some companies to stop offering coverage. And Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Temple Israel in Boston, who is helping lead a drive to put a healthcare proposal with a tax increase and an employer mandate on the 2006 state ballot, said he was disappointed by Romney's remarks.

"I believe in individual responsibility, absolutely," Pesner said. "But to step back from the shared responsibility, both of the government sector and the business sector, and put it all on the individual feels completely unacceptable to me."

In calling for an individual mandate, Romney is allying himself with influential conservatives such as former US House speaker Newt Gingrich, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, and the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation. But he also risks alienating critics who say the idea is overly intrusive.

"All around us, we see signs that government mandates and heavy-handed, command-and-control models of providing healthcare don't work and people are abandoning those, and yet the governor seems to be running toward them," said Michael Cannon of the libertarian Cato Institute.

Gary Claxton -- vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health policy -- said individual mandates have been rejected before because Americans "don't like to tell individuals what to do."

Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports research on health and social issues, said: "The sticking point has always been the affordability of coverage. It's one thing to tell people they have to buy it. If they can't afford it, what do you do? Fine them? Put them in jail?"

Alice Dembner of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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The Boston Herald
Thursday, June 23, 2005

Romney wins health-y reviews:
Youths like gov's idea of mandatory coverage
By Jay Fitzgerald and Jesse Noyes


It's a bold idea from Gov. Mitt Romney: Force thousands of people - many of them young - to sign up for health insurance or risk the consequence of garnished wages.

But a surprising number of young consumers around Boston yesterday said they like the idea - albeit with some caveats.

"Right now, I don't have insurance and I'm working," said Tommy Madel, 21, of Boston. "It just needs to be more accessible."

Said Dan O'Brien, 26, of Boston: "There are so many things in life that are obligatory that having one more thing that could be a benefit to you is more of a positive than a negative."

Casey Farrar, 22, of Boston, said the plan is good for people his age. "It's hard to find good, cheap insurance," he said.

Mike Prescott, 19, of Fitchburg, who works at Macy's, likes the idea "as long as there is leniency for people who can't afford it."

But Stephanie Lawrence, 20, a Boston resident, urged the governor and lawmakers to carefully review the proposal to make sure it doesn't harm people. "There needs to be more research done on how it will affect people with lower incomes," she said.

Romney's plan also got a thumbs up from an unlikely source yesterday - Barbara Anderson, head of Citizens for Limited Taxation, a group that often looks with deep suspicion on government mandates and programs.

"I'm reaching out to conservatives who hear the words 'universal health care' and think of Hillary Clinton's socialized medical" proposal of the 1990s, Anderson said.

The tax activist said that Romney is proposing universal insurance, not universal health care - which Anderson said society effectively already has, as almost no one is denied care even if they can't pay for it.

"Let's just face that reality and deal with it," Anderson said, adding that covering more people will reduce costs to taxpayers.

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