CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Hubris reigns upon L'il Mount Olympus


You gotta admire the audacity of House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Robert "Bobby Trav" Travaglini. No wilting wallflowers these two, no sir. They were going for the Big Score and if they could pull it off they'd be golden, see, unbeatable, just like Jimmy Cagney in "White Heat." "Made it, Ma! Top o' the world!" ...

Get this. Sal and Bobby were gonna tell the people they had to pay. "Pay what?" you say. "Retroactive taxes," they say. "But I already paid my taxes!" you say. "That's right," they say. "Only now youse owe us more taxes." ...

Turns out things didn't go so smooth as Sal and Bobby thought. Seems people don't like being shaken down for more taxes on deals they made three years ago. Go figure. Folks got real mad and sent the Beacon Hill Boys letters and e-mails ó some with words you can't print in a family newspaper.

So the heat was on, the going was tough. Did Sal and Bobby stand firm? Nah, they folded like cheap newsprint. "You win, we give," they said....

If they had gotten their way, you would have had to pay them in one lump sum. Right now, no questions, or The Fixer was coming to break your knees. But the rules that apply to you and me don't apply to the Beacon Hill Boys. They'll give us our money when they're good and ready....

Sal and Bobby, they'll be back, too. And we'll be watching.

The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, December 4, 2005
Beacon Hill's retroactive tax scam falls apart
By Ken Johnson


Even as a bill designed to put teeth into the state's Open Meeting Law winds its way through Beacon Hill, Senate President Robert Travaglini is defending a key provision exempting the Legislature from its requirements.

Travaglini says he sees no reason to require lawmakers to live by the same open meeting regulations that govern the actions of local city councils and boards of selectmen ó in part, he asserted, because the work of the Legislature is more important.

"To suggest that we have a responsibility to do everything in full public view, I frankly don't agree with," Travaglini said.

"Our responsibilities are far more significant and the issues that we deal with are far more complex and comprehensive than an issue that a local board of selectpeople would be dealing with," Travaglini said in defense of the practice.

Associated Press
Tuesday, December 5, 2005
Legislators like their privacy
By Steve LeBlanc


Itís a basic rule of personal accounting. Just because you have the money ó doesnít mean you have to spend it.

State lawmakers should keep that in mind as nearly everyone on Beacon Hill makes a grab for the cash left over from the hurricane assistance fund....

Good causes? Sure. But letís get a grip here. State lawmakers are right now negotiating economic stimulus and surplus budget proposals that run in the hundreds of millions. The Legislature just agreed (rightfully) to refund another $200 million-plus to taxpayers who paid a higher capital gains tax rate back in 2002.

And letís not forget the small matter of the income tax cut approved by voters five years ago which has yet to see the light of day.

Itís taxpayer money that lawmakers should simply shift back into the credit column.

A Boston Herald editorial
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Katrina cash no windfall


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Oh boy, I hope Eagle-Tribune editorial page editor and columnist Ken Johnson never finds out what he got himself into with his excellent blistering column attacking the DiMasi/Travaglini retroactive capital gains tax "scam"!

A couple of years back, just before the last statewide election, I wrote in my Commentary (CLT Update, Oct 21, 2002):

Can you imagine the terrible troika which could control our state government -- scratch that, their state government -- without any opposition in that scenario? House Speaker Tom Finneran, [Shannon] O'Brien's mentor and de facto governor, and the Senate controlled by the brother of O'Brien's henchman, Robert Travaglini. That's it, it's all over but for their dividing up the spoils. It'd be like handing the keys to the State House to Tony Soprano.

The Boston Herald's political anecdotes Sunday column, "The Buzz," a few days later on Oct. 27, 2002 ("Gone too far")  launched a tirade at me:

Bone-headed bigot of the week award goes to the fledgling anti-tax morons at Citizens for Limited Taxation, who apparently think that just being Italian means you're a crook. . . .

Overlooking the fact that a 30-year old organization can hardly be deemed "fledgling" by any stretch, in my Commentary on the CLT website I fired back.  (See CLT Update,  Oct. 27, 2002 ("Scurrilous "bigot" charge rebutted"):

I was strangely attacked today as a "bigot" because one member of what I termed "the terrible troika" happens to be of Italian heritage -- while the other two happen to be of Irish descent. . . .

I cited two Irish and one Italian in my "terrible troika," but got hammered by the anonymous Boston Herald writer for being insensitive, allegedly implying "that just being Italian means you're a crook."

I can only imagine what that thin-skinned Herald writer would think about Ken Johnson!

*                        *                       *

Yesterday the Associated Press provided yet another example of how too many legislators -- especially the leadership -- feel they are above the hoi polloi and common citizen-taxpayers, that they reside upon Mount Olympus instead of merely serving on Beacon Hill -- at least in theory, at our pleasure.

"To suggest that we have a responsibility to do everything in full public view, I frankly don't agree with.... Our responsibilities are far more significant and the issues that we deal with are far more complex and comprehensive than an issue that a local board of selectpeople would be dealing with," thundered Zeus -- excuse me, that was Senate President Robert Travaglini.

No mere mortals are they, not in their minds.  At least he didn't call it "a board of" simple "selectpeople."

Come to think of it, is it me or is he sounding more like Tony Soprano by the day?  Oops, better scratch that and quit while I'm ahead!

Chip Ford


The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, December 4, 2005

Beacon Hill's retroactive tax scam falls apart
By Ken Johnson


You gotta admire the audacity of House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Robert "Bobby Trav" Travaglini. No wilting wallflowers these two, no sir. They were going for the Big Score and if they could pull it off they'd be golden, see, unbeatable, just like Jimmy Cagney in "White Heat." "Made it, Ma! Top o' the world!"

Charlie Flaherty and William "Billy" Bulger? Small potatoes. Tommy "The Perfesser" Finneran and Tom Birmingham? Amateurs. Forget midnight pay raises and voters who "didn't unnastand what they was votin' for." Sal and Bobby were thinking big. There was money to be made here for the Beacon Hill Boys. Real money, not chump change.

Get this. Sal and Bobby were gonna tell the people they had to pay. "Pay what?" you say. "Retroactive taxes," they say. "But I already paid my taxes!" you say. "That's right," they say. "Only now youse owe us more taxes."

It's all because the Beacon Hill Boys messed things up back in '02. It involves what you call your "capital gains taxes," the cut you owe the state when you sell stuff like property and stocks. Back in '02, the Beacon Hill Boys decided the cap gains racket wasn't paying off as well as it should. So they increased the tax rate on May 1.

But when the judges on the Supreme Judicial Court heard about this they said, "No way. You can't bump up the vig in the middle of the year. You gotta pick a date: Jan. 1, 2002, or Jan. 1, 2003."

Now the Beacon Hill Boys thought about this one. If they went for Jan. 1, 2003, that would mean they'd have to shell out $275 million to the people who already paid the higher rate from May 1, 2002, to the end of the year. Give some of their dough back to the people? You know that ain't gonna happen.

But picking Jan. 1, 2002, would mean they'd have to go back to people who already paid the taxes due on their deals and shake them down for more. No one had ever pulled that scam before and the Beacon Hill Boys were scared. That's when the bosses stepped in. "That's the way it's gonna be," Sal and Bobby said. "We'll take the heat." If Sal and Bobby could pull it off, the Boys would clear $200 million.

So the guys down in Revenues sent out the notices. One mug of my acquaintance here at the Trib got his the day before Thanksgiving. It said pay up, with interest, by Christmas ó or else! Nice people, these folks. Real humanitarians.

Turns out things didn't go so smooth as Sal and Bobby thought. Seems people don't like being shaken down for more taxes on deals they made three years ago. Go figure. Folks got real mad and sent the Beacon Hill Boys letters and e-mails ó some with words you can't print in a family newspaper.

So the heat was on, the going was tough. Did Sal and Bobby stand firm? Nah, they folded like cheap newsprint. "You win, we give," they said. They set the tax increase at Jan. 1, 2003, and said no way nobody was gonna pay no retroactive taxes nohow.

Think that's the end of this caper? You don't know Sal and Bobby too well. Like the guys who own the casinos, they got you coming and goin'.

Remember: Now that the date is Jan. 1, 2003, the Beacon Hill Boys owe us mugs $275 million. But don't hold your breath waiting for your big check. Sal and Bobby made sure they had that one covered.

If they had gotten their way, you would have had to pay them in one lump sum. Right now, no questions, or The Fixer was coming to break your knees. But the rules that apply to you and me don't apply to the Beacon Hill Boys. They'll give us our money when they're good and ready. Under the plan the Boys are considering tomorrow, you'll get your money over the next four years.

Sal and Bobby's Big Score didn't pan out. They're down but not out. Just like Cagney. He got blown to dust at the end of "White Heat" when the chemical tank blew. But you knew he'd be back next week in another feature.

Sal and Bobby, they'll be back, too. And we'll be watching.

Ken Johnson is editor of the editorial pages.

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Associated Press
Tuesday, December 5, 2005

Legislators like their privacy
By Steve LeBlanc


Even as a bill designed to put teeth into the state's Open Meeting Law winds its way through Beacon Hill, Senate President Robert Travaglini is defending a key provision exempting the Legislature from its requirements.

Travaglini says he sees no reason to require lawmakers to live by the same open meeting regulations that govern the actions of local city councils and boards of selectmen ó in part, he asserted, because the work of the Legislature is more important.

"To suggest that we have a responsibility to do everything in full public view, I frankly don't agree with," Travaglini said. "I do believe it's appropriate that in some instances we have private discussions on sensitive and fragile and delicate matters that we, in the appropriate time, will report to you."

Travaglini made his comments before a meeting last week of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, which is pushing a bill that would create civil penalties of $500 and criminal misdemeanor penalties of up to $1,500 for officials who knowingly violate the Open Meeting Law.

"If we are serious about openness in government, we need an Open Meeting Law with real teeth," said Kay Berenson, publisher of The Recorder in Greenfield and MNPA president.

But threatening local officials with criminal penalties is going too far, according to Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. The vast majority of local officials do their best to conduct the people's business in public, he said, and the current law is sufficient.

But Robert Ambrogi, executive director of the publishers association, said at least 40 other states have some kind of criminal or civil penalty for people who violate their open meeting laws.

The pending bill doesn't address what critics say is the biggest loophole in the law ó the exemption for state lawmakers. On Beacon Hill, legislators often go behind closed doors to hash out the details of lawmaking.

Both chambers routinely meet in closed-door party caucuses, and between 2000 and 2003, the full House and Senate ó Democrats and Republicans ó gathered in private caucuses, with court officers posted at the door, more than two dozen times. The practice is rare in other states.

Sometimes, lawmakers need to close the door to get their work done, Travaglini said. If the public is unhappy with the results, they can always vote them out of office.

"Our responsibilities are far more significant and the issues that we deal with are far more complex and comprehensive than an issue that a local board of selectpeople would be dealing with," Travaglini said in defense of the practice.

Supporters of the Open Meeting Law disagree. They say that precisely because state lawmakers are engaged in important work, that work should be done in public.

Despite being "messy and ... sometimes inefficient," said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause, democracy "is the best form of government and that means being transparent."

Steve LeBlanc covers the Statehouse for The Associated Press.

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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
Katrina cash no windfall


Itís a basic rule of personal accounting. Just because you have the money ó doesnít mean you have to spend it.

State lawmakers should keep that in mind as nearly everyone on Beacon Hill makes a grab for the cash left over from the hurricane assistance fund.

In a heartening show of unity back in September, the Democratic Legislature and the Republican governor agreed to set aside $25 million to help displaced hurricane victims, but spent only about $2.6 million.

A group of Democratic lawmakers now wants to use the remainder of the money for Bay State homeless programs. Rep. Paul Casey (D-Winchester) wants to distribute it among the stateís cash-strapped cities and towns. Boston Mayor Tom Menino thinks some of the money should be used to help the cityís homeless get through the winter.

"Whenever I walk out my door here I hear from another rep or senator about what to do with the money," Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told the Herald.

Good causes? Sure. But letís get a grip here. State lawmakers are right now negotiating economic stimulus and surplus budget proposals that run in the hundreds of millions. The Legislature just agreed (rightfully) to refund another $200 million-plus to taxpayers who paid a higher capital gains tax rate back in 2002.

And letís not forget the small matter of the income tax cut approved by voters five years ago which has yet to see the light of day.

Sure, itís tempting when one comes into a little cash to dream of how it could be spent. Thankfully DeLeo seems to recognize that this $22 million is no windfall. Itís taxpayer money that lawmakers should simply shift back into the credit column.

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