CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deval is "Doing It For The Children" too!


Labor unions and other Democratic allies are pitching in to help Deval L. Patrick, who for the last two weeks has been heavily outspent in an increasingly combative television ad battle with his Republican opponent, Lieutenant Governor Kerry M. Healey....

Patrick's campaign got a boost in recent days from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union Local 1199, both of which have launched ads in support of the Democratic nominee....

Jim Sacks, communications director of the 102,000-member teachers union, said the MTA expects to spend "well over $1 million" between now and the Nov. 7 election on "issue ads" in support of the Patrick-Murray ticket.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Patrick gets help in ad battle with Healey


What is wrong with this picture? Deval Patrick says he wants property tax relief, and the teachersí union is running TV spots for him.

It doesnít make sense. The leading opponents of property tax relief backing the guy who swears he wants to help taxpayers.

Unless, of course, maybe the Mass. Teachers Association got the secret handshake from Deval. I mean, when was the last time you saw members of your local teachersí union holding signs in the town square saying, VOTE NO ON OVERRIDE - OUR PAY IS TOO HIGH?

"Those ads should certainly be a warning," Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation said yesterday. "The MTA has been the No. 1 enemy of Prop 2Ĺ ever since it was a glean in the taxpayersí eyes back in 1978."

But the teachers unions have never been able to kill 2Ĺ. For 16 years, even as the conservative base in the Legislature withered away, the taxpayers retained the governorship - and the veto pen....

As for Prop 2Ĺ, itís one of those things that you wonít miss until itís gone. "I donít think theyíre going to file a bill, House 111, to abolish 2Ĺ," Anderson says. "Whatís more likely is that theyíll have an exclusion for some group or classification of funds, and once you have one exception, the Legislature wonít be able to stop anyone from demanding an exclusion, and thatís the end of it."

And 2Ĺ will die, not with a bang but a whimper. Sort of like the initiative-petition process....

No wonder the teachersí union is spending all that dough to get Deval elected.

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Teacher support for Deval spells doom for Prop. 2Ĺ
By Howie Carr


Nearly every school employee will receive a sick-leave buyback check upon retirement. It's in the contract of the city's 500 teachers and also guaranteed for a few hundred secretaries, custodians and food service workers in other union contracts. Even assistant principals and program directors will get it....

Sick-leave buybacks work like this: If school employees don't use all their sick days - teachers get 15 per school year - the days accumulate from year to year. Upon retirement, they get paid for anywhere from 1 to 90 unused sick days....

For many veteran teachers and administrators, who get paid for up to 80 unused sick days, that means a check for $25,000 as they go out the door....

A former school administrator, Walsh said buybacks were given to teachers decades ago as a way of providing additional compensation for what was then a low-paying job....

Sick-leave buybacks were put into the teacher contracts in 1973 ... At that time, a starting teacher was paid $8,000, and a veteran with a master's degree earned about $13,500. Those salary figures have jumped to $35,425 today for starting teachers and $56,914 for veteran teachers with an advanced degree.

The buybacks are big payouts because they are based on a teacher's salary at the time of retirement. A teacher hired in 1973 was earning only $40 a day, but now makes more than $300 a day. So the total for those buyback checks is going up.

His fear, Fleming said, is that if buybacks aren't addressed, "we're going to be burying the next generation with these things."

The Salem News
Monday, October 16, 2006
Salem teachers, administrators get big paychecks
for unused sick days


When it comes to Deval Patrick, thereís one big question still to ask.

Just how much is all of this going to cost?

Because when it comes to spending our tax dollars, he has ... big plans....

But if Patrick canít square the circle, whatís going to give? Who is going to be disappointed? The teachers ... or the taxpayers?

The burden shouldnít be on the Healey campaign to provide the answer - or the voters to guess it.

The Boston Herald
Monday, October 16, 2006
With Patrick, the price may not be right
By Brett Arends


Barely minutes into yesterday's lieutenant gubernatorial debate, Democrat Timothy P. Murray put on an exasperated look, turned to the man sitting on the stool to his right, and said, "Please, Reed, no more pledges from you and Kerry Healey. Because every time you make a pledge it costs the taxpayers millions of dollars."

"You're going to raise taxes every way you can!" responded Reed Hillman, a former state representative from Sturbridge on the Republican ticket. The candidates then began raising their voices and talking over one another before moderator Jim Braude intervened....

Earlier in the day, Murray went to the Long Wharf Marriott hotel, where Healey was addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Murray approached Healey after her speech and, in front of a group of reporters, asked why she would not release her answers to a questionnaire from the Gun Owners Action League, which endorsed her on Monday.

"We hope you'll be willing to release your answers to the questionnaire, because it will add to a full and valuable discussion on all the issues relating to public safety," Murray said.

"You know what I'd like to know?" Healey shot back, drawing within 2 feet of Murray. "Why don't you release your Mass. Teachers Association information?"

The teachers union endorsed the Patrick-Murray campaign last month.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Sparks fly at lieutenant governor debate


While some voters are captivated by Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's campaign to roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent, their wallets are being drained by sharp increases in residential property taxes. Deval Patrick, her Democratic opponent in the race for governor, calls this a "fiscal shell game." That's an accurate characterization. But Patrick is also fooling voters by suggesting that his election would lead to cuts in property taxes.

A Boston Globe editorial
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Property tax shell games


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

We're sure learning a lot with less than three weeks before the election.  Last night we finally learned what the "Deval Patrick Property Tax Relief Plan" -- in exchange for his refusal if elected to roll back the income tax -- is all about, the "details" if you wish to call them that.  It took Patrick's Democrat running mate, Timothy P. Murray, to expose "the plan."  There is no "Deval Property Tax Relief Plan" -- but to trust municipal officials to not raise property taxes.  (See CLT's new release today, "Devalís 'Property Tax Relief' Plan Revealed At Last!")

When even the editorial elites on the Boston Globe editorial board conclude, "But Patrick is also fooling voters by suggesting that his election would lead to cuts in property taxes," you know Deval's credibility is treading on thin ice.

Of course, the Massachusetts Teachers Association -- the state teachers union -- is backing Deval Patrick to the hilt, including "well over $1 million" in "issue ads" advocating his election.  What a simple investment decision that must have been for the greedy teachers union:  enabling a candidate who supports its defeated strident 2000 position against the income tax rollback (during which it wasted more millions), and who won't lift a finger to reduce property taxes, which feed its insatiable lust for our money.  As Howie Carr opined in his column of today, a win for Devel Patrick and the teachers union will not only overturn the only hope for the voters' 2000 mandate to roll back the income tax -- but could also finally empower the teachers union to toss out the voters' 1980 Proposition 2Ĺ at last, its greatest frustration.

And Lord knows, the teachers union needs all our money it can extract to fund its insatiable greed.  There have been numerous news reports lately concerning public employee "buy-outs" and sick-leave "buy-backs" that none of us in the private sector would even dream about.  (See:  CLT Update, Oct. 7, 2006, "A government position is not a license to steal")  Who knew that many teachers in municipalities around the state were taking such advantage of us taxpayers, taking us to the cleaners on "sick leave buy-outs" too -- on top of every other demand they make?

As Jim Fleming, chairman of the Salem personnel subcommittee, said: "We're going to be burying the next generation with these things."

Burying the next generation?  Is this what they mean by "doing it for the children"?

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Patrick gets help in ad battle with Healey
By Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff


Labor unions and other Democratic allies are pitching in to help Deval L. Patrick, who for the last two weeks has been heavily outspent in an increasingly combative television ad battle with his Republican opponent, Lieutenant Governor Kerry M. Healey.

Two big labor unions are paying to air their own independent television and radio ads supporting Patrick. Another Patrick ally, an independent group bankrolled by labor and Democratic organizations, may also rejoin the broadcast battle soon, after airing anti-Healey ads earlier in the campaign.

Healey and the Republican Governors Association outspent Patrick by about 3 to 1 on paid media in the first two weeks of October, before most of the recent labor union spending for Patrick began, according to estimates by the campaigns. During that period, Healey sliced into Patrick's once overwhelming lead in the polls but still trails the Democrat, according to independent surveys.

Last night, her campaign launched another negative ad, this one attacking Patrick's support for driver's licenses and tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, saying she will "use our tax dollars to benefit those who abide by the law, not break it."

The Democrat has been pushing back with a series of negative ads about Healey's negative ads, the latest featuring Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, who defends Patrick and criticizes Healey on crime-related issues.

For the four weeks since the Sept. 19 primary, Healey has outspent Patrick by about 2 to 1, according to data compiled for the campaigns. Patrick's campaign has spent about $1.8 million, but the figures vary on Healey's ad buys. Her campaign pegs it at $3.3 million; Patrick's campaign says it's about $4 million. In addition, the Republican Governors Association spent about $890,000 on broadcast and cable ads that were pro-Healey during the early part of this month.

Since his primary win, the Democrat's fund-raising has picked up, and the campaign expects to be competitive but outspent by Healey down the stretch, Patrick campaign manager John Walsh said. On Monday, a fund-raiser headlined by former president Bill Clinton reaped an estimated $2 million, which will be split between the state party and the campaign of Patrick and his running mate, Timothy P. Murray. Another major event, featuring Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, is scheduled for Friday, and the party and campaign hope to collect another $200,000.

Healey campaign manager Tim O'Brien said the GOP candidate has had to spend more heavily to overcome the negative effects of a barrage of disparaging ads before the primary by six Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor and to offset the influence of labor unions here.

Patrick's campaign got a boost in recent days from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union Local 1199, both of which have launched ads in support of the Democratic nominee. The teachers association is airing television and radio ads promoting Patrick and his education policies and says, "Our children lost a lot under the Romney-Healey administration." The big SEIU local has a statewide radio ad extolling the Democrat as a champion of better, more affordable healthcare.

Jim Sacks, communications director of the 102,000-member teachers union, said the MTA expects to spend "well over $1 million" between now and the Nov. 7 election on "issue ads" in support of the Patrick-Murray ticket.

Last week the teachers union reported spending about $75,000 on direct mail on behalf of Patrick, and the Massachusetts Republican Party has been mailing leaflets to targeted voters in support of Healey.

Separately, the SEIU local is backing Patrick with a radio spot, which costs about $100,000 per week to air in the state's major markets. Meghan Finegan, spokeswoman for the 12,000-member SEIU unit that represents healthcare workers, declined to elaborate on future spending plans to help Patrick or criticize Healey.

At the same time, the Republican Governors Association, which spent about $890,000 on television ads that lauded the Romney-Healey administration and criticized Patrick early this month, has gone off the air in Massachusetts.

"We've got 36 races; we're evaluating a lot of them around the country, and this is one of them," said Phil Musser, executive director of the association, which is chaired by Governor Mitt Romney. The RGA has not decided where to deploy its resources in the final three weeks of the campaign, Musser said.

Republicans are struggling to defend eight governorships now held by the GOP but in danger of falling to Democrats. "But Kerry Healey is closing the gap, and that's the kind of thing you want to see as you enter the last 21 days," Musser said.

The RGA is one of two 527 political organizations engaged in the Massachusetts governor's race; they are called 527s for the section of the federal tax code under which they operate. The second group is the Patriot Majority Fund, which is funded by labor unions and the Democratic Governors Association, the RGA's counterpart. Under the law, the 527s may not coordinate with campaigns or other party entities and may not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.

The Patriot Majority Fund, in a filing this week, disclosed the contributors who financed about $460,000 worth of ads last month that were harshly critical of Healey and part of what is expected to be up to $2 million spent on the governor's race. Dan Cence, a local spokesman for the group, declined to say when the fund will resume spending here. "There are resources, and there are issues that are important to the people of Massachusetts that will be brought to the forefront," Cence said.

The report, covering the past three months, lists the following contributions: the Democratic Governors Association, which donated $230,000; Massachusetts Teachers Association, $250,000; SEIU Local 1199, $200,000; New England Carpenters Political Action Committee, $50,000; SEIU Local 509, $10,000; and the political committee of Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, $5,000. Richardson is the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Independent candidate Christy Mihos has suspended his advertising temporarily. He said he will return to the airwaves with new ads at the end of this week.

Mihos, who has spent about $1.3 million on television and radio since the primary, went off the air a week ago. "We're going back up on Friday" with new spots, the independent said. "I don't think you ever want to get in the way with anything creative or substance when the two traditional parties are whacking each other like this about things that are meaningless to what our problems are in the state," Mihos said.

The fourth gubernatorial candidate, Grace Ross of the Green-Rainbow Party, has not advertised in the race.

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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Teacher support for Deval spells doom for Prop. 2Ĺ
By Howie Carr


What is wrong with this picture? Deval Patrick says he wants property tax relief, and the teachersí union is running TV spots for him.

It doesnít make sense. The leading opponents of property tax relief backing the guy who swears he wants to help taxpayers.

Unless, of course, maybe the Mass. Teachers Association got the secret handshake from Deval. I mean, when was the last time you saw members of your local teachersí union holding signs in the town square saying, VOTE NO ON OVERRIDE - OUR PAY IS TOO HIGH?

"Those ads should certainly be a warning," Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation said yesterday. "The MTA has been the No. 1 enemy of Prop 2Ĺ ever since it was a glean in the taxpayersí eyes back in 1978."

But the teachers unions have never been able to kill 2Ĺ. For 16 years, even as the conservative base in the Legislature withered away, the taxpayers retained the governorship - and the veto pen.

What Proposition 2Ĺ does is allow the taxpayers in cities or towns to make the decision for themselves as to whether they want their taxes raised. Rising along with property values, real estate taxes have still gone up way too much. But without 2Ĺ, it would have been far worse.

Just think how many proposed local property tax increases have never seen the light of day, just because the municipal hacks were afraid to put it to a vote?

There are higher-profile issues in the governorís fight. Did you see Bill Clintonís nose the other night? His pick-up line is now "My Little Chickadee." Thereís Devalís closest supporter, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, trying to broom a sentence for a two-time loser cocaine dealer. And I wonít even get into the rest of the Deval Fan Club - Ben LaGuer, Bernie Sigh and David Scondras.

As for Prop 2Ĺ, itís one of those things that you wonít miss until itís gone. "I donít think theyíre going to file a bill, House 111, to abolish 2Ĺ," Anderson says. "Whatís more likely is that theyíll have an exclusion for some group or classification of funds, and once you have one exception, the Legislature wonít be able to stop anyone from demanding an exclusion, and thatís the end of it."

And 2Ĺ will die, not with a bang but a whimper. Sort of like the initiative-petition process. Somewhere Tom Finneran will be smiling. From a prison cell, if thereís any justice.

Prop 2Ĺ would have been gutted long ago, had it not been for the threatened vetoes by all the GOP governors since 1991. The Democrats have had the votes to croak it for a while, but the legislative leaders never wanted a roll-call vote to override the veto.

"But now," Anderson said, "the conservative Democrats in the Legislature are gone, and we canít do a ballot question to save it, so all we have left is the veto pen."

And now that, too, could be lost. To be charitable, Deval is not a guy who spends a lot of time worrying about Prop 2Ĺ. Heís a big picture guy, like his old boss, who promised his own tax cuts in 1992 and then gave us the biggest tax increases in U.S. history.

Deval has skipped override votes in the Town of Milton. Do you ever miss a chance to keep your taxes low?

Maybe the first step toward eliminating 2Ĺ will be to turn the override over to the Town Meeting. Been to a Town Meeting lately? Itís like being in a public sector union hall. But Gov. Patrick can shrug and say, "Well, donít they say TM is the purest form of democracy in the world?"

No wonder the teachersí union is spending all that dough to get Deval elected. Killing 2Ĺ is the thing they want most in the world, next to making sure the people donít get a chance to vote on "gay marriage." And of course theyíll get their wish on that one, too, if Deval wins.

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The Salem News
Monday, October 16, 2006

Salem teachers, administrators get big paychecks
for unused sick days
By Tom Dalton, Staff writer


SALEM - When Ann Papagiotas retired in June after a tumultuous three years as principal of Salem High, she left with a severance check for nearly $23,000, mostly for unused sick days.

Although new principals are no longer are given lucrative sick-leave buybacks, Papagiotas reached a deal with a school administration that was trying to ease her out of the job and avoid a potentially ugly showdown with the School Committee.

But when the School Committee was told of Papagiotas' severance check a few weeks ago, it triggered an angry reaction.

"I think it's absolutely wrong," said Jim Fleming, who chairs the personnel subcommittee. "She got $100,000 for three years - that was adequate compensation for her work as principal. To pay her on top of that ... is wrong."

The check paid to Papagiotas was out of the ordinary in that it was a financial arrangement made with one departing administrator. But it was hardly the exception to the rule.

In fact, it is the rule.

Nearly every school employee will receive a sick-leave buyback check upon retirement. It's in the contract of the city's 500 teachers and also guaranteed for a few hundred secretaries, custodians and food service workers in other union contracts. Even assistant principals and program directors will get it.

It's also a benefit paid to almost all retiring city employees. The School Department, however, is taking a close look at the provision at the prompting of a few board members.

Sick-leave buybacks work like this: If school employees don't use all their sick days - teachers get 15 per school year - the days accumulate from year to year. Upon retirement, they get paid for anywhere from 1 to 90 unused sick days.

And the checks are big.

For many veteran teachers and administrators, who get paid for up to 80 unused sick days, that means a check for $25,000 as they go out the door.

Bigger bills coming

The School Department has been putting aside about $300,000 a year to cover those costs. But that reserve account for this year - thanks also to a $110,000 legal settlement - is almost gone.

In coming years, even more money will have to be set aside. There is a long line of teachers approaching retirement.

"I think you're going to see a significant increase in teacher retirements over the next couple of years," Callahan said.

Realizing it is a controversial subject, the superintendent has acknowledged publicly that he, too, will get paid for 80 days when he retires in a year or two.

When the subject of buybacks came up at a recent School Committee meeting, member Brendan Walsh tried to put it in perspective. A former school administrator, Walsh said buybacks were given to teachers decades ago as a way of providing additional compensation for what was then a low-paying job. In other words, instead of paying teachers more, the School Committee decided to throw them a bone at retirement.

Sick-leave buybacks were put into the teacher contracts in 1973, according to Callahan. At that time, a starting teacher was paid $8,000, and a veteran with a master's degree earned about $13,500. Those salary figures have jumped to $35,425 today for starting teachers and $56,914 for veteran teachers with an advanced degree.

The buybacks are big payouts because they are based on a teacher's salary at the time of retirement. A teacher hired in 1973 was earning only $40 a day, but now makes more than $300 a day. So the total for those buyback checks is going up.

His fear, Fleming said, is that if buybacks aren't addressed, "we're going to be burying the next generation with these things."

School Committee member Mike Allen, chairman of the finance committee and a vocal critic of the payouts, calls the buyback policy "absurd." He sees it as an unnecessary bonus for teachers who do not abuse the sick leave policy.

"It seems crazy to pay someone for not cheating," he said.

To the bargaining table?

To some extent, the School Department has started to address the subject. A recent teachers' contract cut the number of unused sick days in half for new teachers, which means those hired after 2000 will be paid for a maximum of 40 sick days.

Other school unions followed suit. In addition, new principals are no longer getting any sick leave payout.

"Recently, the School Committee directed me that all nonunion administrators and hires will no longer be afforded the (buyback)," Callahan said.

Of course, principals are only a tiny fraction of the school system's 900 employees, about 80 percent of whom are eligible for buybacks.

Just recently, the teachers and School Committee began talks for a new contract. Since they are in negotiations, both the teachers' union and school officials were reluctant to comment on whether sick-leave buybacks are on the table. Fleming, however, made clear he believes they are a dinosaur deserving of extinction.

"I want those things out of there," he said.

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The Boston Herald
Monday, October 16, 2006

With Patrick, the price may not be right
By Brett Arends
Boston Herald Business Columnist


When it comes to Deval Patrick, thereís one big question still to ask.

Just how much is all of this going to cost?

Because when it comes to spending our tax dollars, he has ... big plans.

Have you read his proposals? All of them?

Thereís more money for local aid, so towns can cut property taxes.

And for teachers, to provide better pay, a longer school day and smaller classes. For after-school activities, and for pre-school.

And for skills and jobs training - and heíll borrow hundreds of millions, maybe more, for UMass and community colleges.

More money for preventive health care, immunization, HIV, drug and alcohol abuse programs, cancer screening, even nutrition counseling.

Take a deep breath.

Heíll "guarantee catastrophic coverage" for everyone not yet covered. And expand affordable health care. And the Prescription Advantage program.

More money for subway and rail, bridges and roads. And to replace all the stateís cars and trucks with hybrids, or other green alternatives. (Segways?)

More money for the water system.

Heíll "eliminate homelessness." Indeed.

That means more money for public and affordable housing, and shelters "with onsite services."

Subsidies for first time homebuyers, with employers as the bagman.

And another $5 million annually for the "Soft Second Mortgage" program.

Keep going.

A thousand extra cops ... and "more and better skills training, education and substance abuse programs" for prisoners.

More money for housing, personal attendants and long-term home care for the disabled. More money for the CommonHealth, Home Modifications and Community-Based Housing programs.

And for special needs schools, and community-based care for the elderly.

And for "greater credit counseling" - for those who canít stop spending, presumably.

Itís quite a list.

Thereís just one thing missing. That figure you usually find at the bottom of the invoice.

Deval Patrick hasnít given us a budget.

Or even a good-faith estimate.

Or even a ballpark figure.

When I pressed them last week, his team could only provide cost for three items - extra cops, more kindergarten and removing school activity fees. These alone totaled $187 million.

Itís astonishing he has come this far without being pressed harder on specifics.

The candidate does, at least, admit that he may not be able to do all of these things all at once. No kidding.

And he says he has "no interest" in raising taxes - but wonít go further.

Instead, he says, the money will come from "economic growth" and $735 million in "cost savings."

Iíll believe the savings when I see them.

As for growth: After inflation, thatís only going to raise revenues by a few percent a year. And the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation believes most of that is already committed.

But if Patrick canít square the circle, whatís going to give? Who is going to be disappointed? The teachers ... or the taxpayers?

The burden shouldnít be on the Healey campaign to provide the answer - or the voters to guess it.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sparks fly at lieutenant governor debate
Hopefuls spar over taxes, MCAS, care
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff


Barely minutes into yesterday's lieutenant gubernatorial debate, Democrat Timothy P. Murray put on an exasperated look, turned to the man sitting on the stool to his right, and said, "Please, Reed, no more pledges from you and Kerry Healey. Because every time you make a pledge it costs the taxpayers millions of dollars."

"You're going to raise taxes every way you can!" responded Reed Hillman, a former state representative from Sturbridge on the Republican ticket. The candidates then began raising their voices and talking over one another before moderator Jim Braude intervened.

The exchange was the first of many raucous confrontations between the Democratic and Republican contenders in the hourlong debate on NECN. It was the first debate among all four candidates for lieutenant governor, and they traversed issues from MCAS tests to taxes and healthcare reform.

Independent John J. Sullivan, a town moderator from Winchester who is running with Christy Mihos, stayed out of the fight for the most part, his answers coming in a calm and methodical voice. "I think we're wasting a lot of time in this debate on Patrick versus Healey," Sullivan said.

"I agree with Mr. Sullivan," said Martina Robinson, a disability rights activist from Belchertown who is running with Grace Ross on the Green-Rainbow Party ticket. Robinson -- who has cerebral palsy, a brain disorder that impairs muscular coordination -- sat in a wheelchair during yesterday's debate and had a speech assistant repeat all her answers.

Murray took the offensive nearly every chance he got yesterday, and not only in the debate. Earlier in the day, Murray went to the Long Wharf Marriott hotel, where Healey was addressing the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Murray approached Healey after her speech and, in front of a group of reporters, asked why she would not release her answers to a questionnaire from the Gun Owners Action League, which endorsed her on Monday.

"We hope you'll be willing to release your answers to the questionnaire, because it will add to a full and valuable discussion on all the issues relating to public safety," Murray said.

"You know what I'd like to know?" Healey shot back, drawing within 2 feet of Murray. "Why don't you release your Mass. Teachers Association information?"

The teachers union endorsed the Patrick-Murray campaign last month. Candidates will oftentimes send aides to their opponents' events, but rarely does a running mate make an appearance.

In last night's debate, which aired on NECN, Hillman sought to keep alive the issue of crime, which has dogged the Patrick campaign over the past week.

"This is a huge issue," Hillman said. "It's Tim Murray who's been a defense attorney. It's Deval Patrick that's been a defense attorney. It's Kerry Healey that's always and consistently been on the side of victims."

Murray responded by saying that he and Patrick had an obligation to defend criminals.

"People in this country have a right to an equal protection under the law and due process," Murray said. "And yes, sometimes that does mean criminal defendants, as unsavory as they might be."

The candidates differed on MCAS. Sullivan and Robinson want to abolish it, while Murray said changes should be made. Hillman called it "the best thing that's happened to our kids."

The candidates also scuffled over whether the state should reduce the income tax rate, from 5.3 percent to 5 percent. Hillman maintained that it should be reduced. Murray said that cutting back now would mean cuts in funding for cities and towns.

"This debate is about change; it's about difference," Hillman said at one point.

"You've been elected state representative for six years; Kerry Healey had four years as lieutenant governor," Murray said. "You're talking about change. You had your chance, and you didn't do it."

There were some lighter moments. Murray inadvertently referred to his opponent's team as "Kerry Hillman."

Hillman grinned.

"We're not married yet," he said.

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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Boston Globe editorial
Property tax shell games


While some voters are captivated by Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's campaign to roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent, their wallets are being drained by sharp increases in residential property taxes. Deval Patrick, her Democratic opponent in the race for governor, calls this a "fiscal shell game." That's an accurate characterization. But Patrick is also fooling voters by suggesting that his election would lead to cuts in property taxes.

Residents are paying more and getting less in the way of local services. Back in 2002, when state aid was sound, an average community depended on local property taxes for 49 percent of its revenues and on state aid for 28 percent. This year, the same town raises 53 percent of revenues from local property taxes and receives only 24 percent from the state, according to the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Association. Homeowners wind up paying almost $800 more in regressive property taxes than in 2002 for the privilege of watching a fire station close or a school art budget disappear.

Ultimately, the state needs to enter into a predictable revenue-sharing partnership with cities and towns. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation recommends that 40 percent of the revenues from the state's income, corporate, and sales taxes be returned to cities and towns. This year, such a formula would have amounted to an additional $1 billion for municipalities, according to the Foundation.

While achieving such a figure requires a careful phase-in period, any successful effort to stabilize local property taxes must come from the executive branch or it won't come at all. Legislators are loath to abandon the current system that allows them to engage in last-minute budget heroics.

Property tax cuts unlikely

Healey isn't an especially popular figure on Main Street, having served as the Romney administration's liaison to cities and towns during a period of deep cuts in local aid. But Patrick isn't helping himself much with the campaign claim that he will "cut the property tax by reinvesting in cities and towns." Even in good economic times like the 1997-1999 period, when state aid to cities and towns was growing, property taxes for the average single-family homeowner increased by about 4 percent annually, according to the state Department of Revenue. In periods of tight state aid, such as 2002-2006, residential taxes jumped by about 6 percent each year.

Actual reductions in property taxes aren't achievable when more than half of the new revenues at the local level are required just to cover increases in healthcare coverage for municipal workers. And, despite complaints about their tax bills, residents still want to restore lost services. The reality, says Taxpayers Foundation president Michael Widmer, is that "property taxes won't go down at all."

The best a voter can hope for is a sensible plan to keep property taxes in check. Patrick still needs to advance a specific plan beyond his recommendation for a local option tax on restaurant meals if he hopes to lead on the issue. He supports the concept of state revenue sharing with cities and towns, but he won't be tied down on a percentage formula.

Healey is mum on revenue sharing. Instead, she stresses the need for legislation to place municipal employees in the more efficient group insurance plan now covering state workers, and she also wants to roll underperforming municipal pension plans into the state system. Such savings could take considerable pressure off local taxpayers.

Independent candidate Christy Mihos embraces the 40 percent solution. But his proposal to cap all property taxes at the time of purchase until a house is sold would create gross inequities when people in similarly sized homes find themselves with wildly different tax bills. Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross sees the 40 percent figure as "reasonable" given that the state no longer honors its "unwritten covenant" to provide adequate local aid.

Dampening economic development

The effects of runaway property taxes and declining local services are being felt beyond the town line. A recent Northeastern University study argued that companies look hard at property taxes, traffic congestion, education, and public safety before deciding to expand or locate in the state. All of the gubernatorial candidates stress the need to expand job opportunities. A good way to do that is to ensure a consistent level of state aid to communities.

Geoffrey Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says that cities and towns can no longer lurch from fiscal year to fiscal year wondering what the state has in store. But with predictable revenue sharing, towns could get serious about long-range planning. During economic downturns, cities and towns naturally would have to share the pain. But officials would at least know how bad that pain might be.

The Romney administration in the past has accused cities and towns of spending their way into fiscal disarray. It's a bogus charge. Municipalities have done more than their fair share of belt tightening since 2002 to make up for a roughly $700 million loss in state aid, adjusted for inflation. And now cities and towns are taking the lead by practicing revenue sharing within their own borders. In Brookline, for example, town officials project gross revenues and split the pie on a 50-50 basis between the schools and other town departments.

How to restore the eroding relationship between the state and municipalities deserves a central place in the gubernatorial campaign. Voters will be choosing a new partner for their communities. Now it's up to the candidates to prove that they can be good providers.

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