CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Execution of the I&R steamrolls on


If you can't beat 'em, just change the rules.

That appears to be the message behind a movement on Beacon Hill that would make it more difficult to pass laws or amend the state Constitution through the ballot....

Never mind that groups already have to tie themselves practically in knots to get approval for a question to appear on the ballot in Massachusetts....

Supporters say the changes are meant to root out fraud, citing examples of solicitors misleading voters about their cause to boost their signature count.

But you shouldn't monkey with the entire system to combat isolated cases of cheating.

And we suppose it's just coincidence that the bill, which has been filed previously, happens to be moving now, as gay marriage opponents mobilize their new campaign to amend the state Constitution.

Same-sex marriage supporters insist Massachusetts residents are unfazed by seeing their gay friends and neighbors marry.

If that's true, then there is no need to game the system. Let the voters decide the question on its merits, and let the chips fall where they may.

A Boston Herald editorial
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Sign of the times: Bill overreaches


With state tax revenues soaring, lawmakers on Beacon Hill are advancing a proposal to lower the Massachusetts income tax rate, if state spending is restored to levels last seen before the fiscal crisis began three years ago.

The Senate unanimously approved a Republican measure Thursday that would trigger a series of income tax rate reductions to lower the rate to 5 percent from 5.3 percent, but only if state spending on education and municipal services reaches 2002 levels....

The Tisei-Tarr amendment was offered without prior consultation with Romney's administration, which dismissed it yesterday as an inadequate response to the governor's longstanding demand for an immediate tax cut.

Under the proposed legislation, the state income tax rate would drop by 0.1 percentage point annually for three years if the state restores funding for municipal education and services to levels not seen since fiscal 2002....

The revenue picture has improved dramatically in recent months. Yesterday, the state Department of Revenue announced that it collected a record $17 billion in taxes in fiscal 2005, which ended June 30. That's a 7.1 percent rise over fiscal 2004. Income tax revenue alone rose 9.7 percent, an increase of $860 million.

Romney's press secretary, Julie Teer, said yesterday that the governor was not satisfied with the Senate's attempt at compromise.

"While we appreciate the creative thinking of the Senate, we do not see any reason to condition rolling back the income tax to 5.0 percent on anything other than the overwhelming vote of the people to do so," Teer said in an e-mailed statement.

The Boston Globe
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Bay State recovery spurs bill for tax cut
Reduction hangs on local aid hike


How can [Attorney General Tom] Reilly prove himself (and his party) worthy of voters' fiscal trust again? Easy - it's a matter of timing and taxes.

First, Reilly cannot wait until after the Democratic primary in September 2006 before moving to the right on taxes and spending. He has to stake out fiscally conservative ground now, before Republicans paint him with the broad brush of being a tax-and-spend liberal - which only worked so well against previous Democratic nominees because it was true.

For starters, Reilly should sign a no-new-taxes pledge....

And Reilly ought to embrace the income tax rollback to 5 percent as a matter of basic fairness consistent with his reputation for integrity. His early misstep of taking a position against the rollback can be overcome given changed circumstances like dramatically rising state revenues.

"The people spoke and their will ought to be honored now that the state can afford it," Reilly could point out to all the interest groups whining at his doorstep.

The Boston Herald
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Reilly must move right on taxes
By Virginia Buckingham


Barbara Anderson's CLT Commentary

We're busy working against the Election Laws bill; hereís a quick update.

The bill to kill the initiative petition was reported out of the Election Laws Committee with a 12-1 vote, with only Rep. Mary Rogeness (R-Longmeadow) in opposition. We're expecting a Senate vote tomorrow, then a quick move to House because they have to get this done so it can be used against the anti-gay marriage petition during the fall. (Note that it has an ďemergency preamble,Ē meaning that it takes effect immediately -- not after the usual 90 days.)  Since itís moving fast, please call your state reps as well as state senators, if you havenít already.

But they are running late, because we expect a veto from the Governor which they will have to override, and the Legislatureís August vacation looms. If we canít stop this in the Senate or the House, we have to try to delay it, or sustain the Governor's veto.

The new bill number is Senate 2158. The text of the bill can be found at that link, but donít argue fine points with legislators, just STAY ON MESSAGE: "Donít kill the initiative petition process; kill this bill."

Section 2  states:

(d) Each person who circulates a state initiative or referendum petition shall sign on each sheet of the petition, after all voters have signed that sheet, a statement under the penalties of perjury that the signatures on that sheet were signed in the circulator's presence and, to the best of the circulator's knowledge, by the voters named. The statement shall also contain the circulator's legibly printed name, residential address and telephone number, correct as of the time of the circulator's signing, and the dates when the first and last signatures on that sheet were signed.

The legal term for this is a ďjuratĒ:  a line at the bottom of each petition that signature collectors would have to sign under penalties of perjury, stating that they have personally seen each signer on that petition sign it. That's impossible to do when you are working with a team at a table in a mall, passing the sheet around to friends to get a few signatures, etc. This was required before 1985 (for the Prop 2Ĺ drive) and trust me, you donít want to deal with it.

The biggest problem is that the names of signers are to be made public and available on the Secretary of Stateís website as soon as the sheets are turned in to the town halls -- so that they can be harassed by opponents, intimidated to recant their signature.

Though CLT uses volunteers, our allies sometimes pay petitioners, and in a crunch we might need to also (if we ever have the money!). This bill would forbid paying them by the signature. Paying by the hour would be prohibitively expensive.

As for the income tax rollback, we havenít commented on this new scheme because we donít want to dignify yet another delay by taking it seriously.

I think itís safe to say that the local aid trigger would fall short by a few cents for as long as possible. We await the hearing on our ďimmediateĒ rollback bill on September 27th, and appreciate the Governorís position as reported in today's Boston Globe. If this passes, it doesnít prevent a quicker rollback later this year and we remain committed to that.

Ah, the hazy, lazy days of summer . . . we're left with only the crazy days!

Barbara Anderson


The Boston Herald
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
Sign of the times: Bill overreaches


If you can't beat 'em, just change the rules.

That appears to be the message behind a movement on Beacon Hill that would make it more difficult to pass laws or amend the state Constitution through the ballot.

This couldn't possibly have to do with the fact that gay marriage opponents are busy prepping a signature-gathering campaign for this fall, now could it?!

Of course not, supporters insist. They're just getting around to tightening the system.

Never mind that groups already have to tie themselves practically in knots to get approval for a question to appear on the ballot in Massachusetts.

They have just 60 days to collect signatures from 3 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last statewide election - this year, the number is more than 65,000. Then they have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get those signatures certified.

This bill would put up further roadblocks for those who want to participate directly in the democratic process by taking a public policy question straight to the people.

Among other things, it bans the practice of paying professional signature-gatherers based on the number of signatures they collect. That will drive up the cost of hiring professional solicitors, a necessity for many because of the tiny window of time given to collect enough signatures, placing some groups at a competitive disadvantage.

The bill would also make it easier for opponents of a ballot question to see the names and addresses of those who have signed on, giving them plenty of opportunity to try and lure them away.

Supporters say the changes are meant to root out fraud, citing examples of solicitors misleading voters about their cause to boost their signature count.

But you shouldn't monkey with the entire system to combat isolated cases of cheating.

And we suppose it's just coincidence that the bill, which has been filed previously, happens to be moving now, as gay marriage opponents mobilize their new campaign to amend the state Constitution.

Same-sex marriage supporters insist Massachusetts residents are unfazed by seeing their gay friends and neighbors marry.

If that's true, then there is no need to game the system. Let the voters decide the question on its merits, and let the chips fall where they may.

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The Boston Globe
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bay State recovery spurs bill for tax cut
Reduction hangs on local aid hike
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff

With state tax revenues soaring, lawmakers on Beacon Hill are advancing a proposal to lower the Massachusetts income tax rate, if state spending is restored to levels last seen before the fiscal crisis began three years ago.

The Senate unanimously approved a Republican measure Thursday that would trigger a series of income tax rate reductions to lower the rate to 5 percent from 5.3 percent, but only if state spending on education and municipal services reaches 2002 levels. The fiscal crisis prompted lawmakers to slash funding that year.

Passage of the bill by the Senate, where the Democrats have a large majority, is the first sign that Democrats may be warming to the idea of an income tax cut, after repeated calls for tax relief by Governor Mitt Romney. In 2000 voters approved a ballot question that called for rolling back the income tax rate to 5 percent, but Democrats in the Legislature have refused, saying the state could not afford to lose the estimated $600 million a year in tax revenues.

"If we pay our bills and the rest of our services are at a safe level, then why wouldn't I want to decrease the taxes?" said Senator Marc R. Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat, reflecting the effort to reach a balance between a politically popular tax cut and the continued demand for services. "But all those things have to be in place."

Senator Richard R. Tisei, Republican of Wakefield, who authored the tax amendment with Senator Bruce E. Tarr, Republican of Gloucester, said he was surprised that the measure sailed through the Senate after so much resistance to income tax cuts.

Tisei attributed its passage to the state's improving financial position. "It's shocking," he said. "You win one every now and then. Bruce and I had to pinch ourselves."

House Democrats said they were blindsided by the proposal. Kimberly Haberlin, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, left open the possibility yesterday that the House could take it up this week before lawmakers go on summer break. The Tisei-Tarr amendment was offered without prior consultation with Romney's administration, which dismissed it yesterday as an inadequate response to the governor's longstanding demand for an immediate tax cut.

Under the proposed legislation, the state income tax rate would drop by 0.1 percentage point annually for three years if the state restores funding for municipal education and services to levels not seen since fiscal 2002.

Tarr said the gradual tax cut process would begin the January following the passage of such a spending plan. He said the income tax cuts would continue even if state spending subsequently fell below the 2002 levels.

The legislation requires that each of three categories of local spending reaches the 2002 mark to trigger the tax cuts. Only one of the three main budget categories that deal with local aid, so-called Chapter 70 money for education, has returned to the 2002 level. A second, derived from the state lottery, is expected to exceed 2002 levels by next year. Lawmakers would have to pump about $100 million more into the third category, called "additional assistance" for struggling communities, to reach the tax-cut goal in the proposed legislation.

The revenue picture has improved dramatically in recent months. Yesterday, the state Department of Revenue announced that it collected a record $17 billion in taxes in fiscal 2005, which ended June 30. That's a 7.1 percent rise over fiscal 2004. Income tax revenue alone rose 9.7 percent, an increase of $860 million.

Romney's press secretary, Julie Teer, said yesterday that the governor was not satisfied with the Senate's attempt at compromise.

"While we appreciate the creative thinking of the Senate, we do not see any reason to condition rolling back the income tax to 5.0 percent on anything other than the overwhelming vote of the people to do so," Teer said in an e-mailed statement.

A gradual income tax cut is already on the books, but the chances of it taking effect anytime soon are slim.

In response to the 2002 fiscal crisis, lawmakers passed an elaborate tax bill that froze the income tax rate at 5.3 percent, repealed charitable deductions, and reduced personal exemptions in a bid to increase revenues, but they included stipulations to reverse those changes if certain economic conditions were met.

Last fall, after three years of steady economic improvement, the first of those hurdles was met, and as a result, personal exemptions will increase in the coming tax year by $275 for single filers and by $550 for those who are married and filing jointly. If the economy continues to improve, exemptions will continue to rise until finally, in fiscal 2010, the income tax rate would begin to reduce by 0.05 percent each year for six years until it is finally back at 5 percent. After that, if the economy continued to improve, the charitable deduction would be restored.

The Tisei-Tarr amendment, by comparison, would allow the Legislature and not the economy to dictate when and if the income tax rate would begin to be cut, based on state spending.

Michael Widmer -- head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed government watchdog group -- said the Tisei-Tarr amendment was a more prudent direction to take than Romney's approach of an immediate rate cut. Widmer said the state continues to rely on roughly $1 billion in one-time revenues to keep spending levels stable from year to year.

Geoffrey Beckwith -- executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents the state's cities and towns -- said the reasoning behind the Senate measure was flawed because municipalities are in dire financial straits.

"The main point is, in a rush to at least keep alive the idea of cutting the income tax at the state level, no one should lose sight of the fact that cities and towns are desperately hurting, and they will not recover if 2002 local aid numbers are set as the get-well point," Beckwith said. "The costs of energy, health insurance, wages have all gone up since fiscal year 2002. Cities and towns have actually eliminated 14,200 municipal positions.... The state needs to reinvest in municipal government in a major way, rather than decreasing taxes."

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The Boston Herald
Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Reilly must move right on taxes
By Virginia Buckingham

Even his campaign Web site is boring, but anyone who tells you Attorney General Tom Reilly's biggest obstacle to winning the governorship is lack of flash is missing the obvious lesson of the last four statewide elections.

I worked for a winning gubernatorial candidate who was sometimes labeled boring, too. Paul Cellucci made up for a perceived earth-tone persona by wearing the occasional colorful tie, but more importantly by staying "violently on message." And his message, like former Gov. Bill Weld's before him (and Gov. Mitt Romney's after) was this: "To get to your wallets, taxpayers, the Legislature is going to have to go through me first."

Reilly's own buttoned-down, soft-spoken - OK, nice but boring - manner will be a non-issue if he gets this political contradiction: To win the governorship in this Democratic state, you have to act more like a Republican.

How can Reilly prove himself (and his party) worthy of voters' fiscal trust again? Easy - it's a matter of timing and taxes.

First, Reilly cannot wait until after the Democratic primary in September 2006 before moving to the right on taxes and spending. He has to stake out fiscally conservative ground now, before Republicans paint him with the broad brush of being a tax-and-spend liberal - which only worked so well against previous Democratic nominees because it was true.

For starters, Reilly should sign a no-new-taxes pledge. This one simple act will take the tax-hike issue off the table and earn him a rebuke from the Globe editorial page - a sure signal to voters he's on the right fiscal track. (And, if he wins, an inviolate pledge will give him the strong hand he'll need to enforce fiscal discipline among fellow Democrats.)

And Reilly ought to embrace the income tax rollback to 5 percent as a matter of basic fairness consistent with his reputation for integrity. His early misstep of taking a position against the rollback can be overcome given changed circumstances like dramatically rising state revenues.

"The people spoke and their will ought to be honored now that the state can afford it," Reilly could point out to all the interest groups whining at his doorstep.

Reilly could even one-up his Republican opponents by out-tax-cutting him or her. Calling corporate tax loophole closings the tax hikes they are, and promising to veto any such hikes as governor, would set Reilly apart and peel off business community support from the GOP candidate (particularly if his opponent is Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who will own Romney's business tax hikes.)

Embracing an even more dramatic tax cut plan would solidify Reilly's footing on the fiscal high ground as well. Can you picture a Republican on the debate stage arguing that a Reilly auto excise tax cut, for instance, was irresponsible because it would "hurt the children?"

And contrary to the clap-trap (more like crap-trap) put out by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, even voters who have supported overrides in their towns want some relief from the nonstop guilt campaign waged by property-tax increase proponents that their children's education, safety or health is at risk.

A proposal put forward by Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government would limit overrides per community to one a year and allow voters to have the option of supporting an underride, cutting their property taxes at the ballot box. Reilly's support would sure get the attention of voters who spend a lot more time worrying about balancing their checkbooks than about same-sex marriage, emergency contraception or a half-dozen other issues which consume so much political energy on Beacon Hill.

While Reilly's early speechifying has hardly electrified audiences, one line in his speech to the Democratic issues convention in May is worthy of note. Referring to independent voters, Reilly said, "We need to listen to what they have to say, not tell them what to think."

That's one sign Reilly isn't from the "we know better than you" wing of the Democratic Party. Staking out conservative fiscal ground will be another.

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