and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Massachusetts House
Dodges Debate on Income Tax Rollback

Dems promise debate “two to three weeks down the road”
during supplemental budget debate

October 6, 2005

State House News Service
House Session - Thursday, October 6, 2005


CONVENES: The House, which was due to convene at 1 pm, convened at 1:32 pm, Speaker Salvatore DiMasi of Boston presiding.

Rep. Jones called out "Mr. Speaker" ...

At 2:39 pm, question again came on the Ways and Means amendment.

JONES AMENDMENT - TAX RELIEF: Rep. Jones offered an amendment.

Rep. Bosley said point of order the amendment is beyond the scope of the bill.

Speaker DiMasi conferred with the clerk. Rep. Jones joined the discussion on the rostrum.

Speaker DiMasi said at 2:42 pm that the order is well taken and the amendment will be laid aside.

Rep. Peterson doubted the ruling of the chair. Rep. Jones offered a second.

Rep. Peterson said he hopes the ruling does not stand. This is one of several amendments I and others filed dealing with the income tax rollback, something the voters adopted through a referendum that the Legislature has failed to enact to this point. The ruling says these amendments are out of order.

First, the bill before us has several sections dealing with Chapter 62, the income tax code in Massachusetts. Clearly we are even starting to narrow our rulings to sections of chapters of the General Laws to make it as tight as possible. I think that's a travesty. I don't think that's a good ruling.

Second, this is an economic stimulus package. My question is I as a small businessman or partnership, where is my tax liability on an annual basis? The only tax liability that business has is the personal income tax. We are dealing with a bill that is supposed to be an economic stimulus package for business. Are we saying tax relief is outside the purview of this bill? I think not.

Rep. Jones said he hopes the ruling is not upheld.

I know the members like the idea of not having to take votes, but they need to step back. We had an appropriations bill before us and historically broad latitude had been granted. That custom and tradition has fallen by the wayside.

Next the committee has introduced Chapter 62 changes. Historically discussions of other aspects of the chapter have been relevant and germane and accepted by the chair. Amendments to the loophole bill a few weeks ago, which we engrossed and had to recall, were germane. I am trying to understand how in two weeks that which was allowed is now not allowed to the membership.

The clarion call to inclusivity and open debate is dead in this House, restricted far more so than during any time in this chamber during my tenure. I hope its death will lead to a ghost who will come back to haunt this chamber. This ruling is one you should not be proud to have on your watch Mr. Speaker.

Rep. Scaccia said he hopes the ruling stands.

We are going to have plenty of time this year to take up that amendment. I predict probably in the next two or three weeks we will have the perfect budget tool coming through to take up that amendment. Pull back some and let that take place when we have a supplementary budget. That is the true document to take up taxes.

We should not be taking up tax issues in a jobs bill. Let's keep this one clean and then we can debate income or sales tax or any other tax later. That's a clear choice we can make two to three weeks down the road.

We are not trying to block this issue. We were trying to keep it clean by not taking up any track legislation. I disagree with the bill. I prefer that businesses struggle like most poor people out there. But if that is the wish of the House, let it proceed.

We had one good month. If the chair of Ways and Means was here, he would say be cautious. One month does not make a year. We had a great September but let's wait a while down the road.

The right vehicle will be there in a couple of weeks. This is a very serious issue that should be discussed in the right vehicle at the right time. This is not the right vehicle. It is not the right time. I am sure Republicans will not add a penny to the supplemental budget or the capital budget that will be coming before the House. If you want to take $250 million out, $600 million for a year, you can't add to any of these cost items because that is unfair. Rep. Jones said he started by saying this isn't the time or place to debate this issue, and then he proceeded to debate the issue. He's a member of leadership, allegedly. Is he willing to have a debate and clean vote on this issue, to make a commitment?

Rep. Scaccia said the clerk offers broad latitude on issues during budget debate because budgets are made up of expenses or revenues. This bill is very different from a budget bill. It's an economic development bill that has money in it. It will probably have a heck of a lot more money in it when we finish the day.

I think from a personal standpoint that we should allow the process of maybe October revenues coming in before we can look at what we can do to do away with our revenue stream. That may not happen because we may take up money bills in a relatively short period of time.

Rep. Flynn said could you start out with the original process of how the budget starts and where it goes and the costs of adding to it?

Speaker DiMasi said time for debate expired.

By voice vote, decision of the chair upheld. Rep. Peterson doubted the vote and there was support for a roll call.


Amendment laid aside.

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