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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CLT Testifies for Prop 2½ at Statehouse Hearing

Chip Faulkner’s Report

On Thursday, September 15th the Joint Committee on Revenue held an 11 am hearing at the Statehouse on several bills. I attended this hearing to testify in favor of one of them, Senate 1513. This bill was submitted by Citizens for Limited Taxation with the sponsorship of Republican Senators Hedlund, Ross and Tarr. It contains two changes to Proposition 2½: Overrides would be held only at a biennial state election and underrides could be put on the ballot if the signatures of 5% of the town’s registered voters were collected.

Senate 1513

An Act limiting Proposition 2½ override elections and allowing an underride in all communities

PDF File Version

Even though that morning I was among the first to put my name on the sign-up sheet, I didn’t get to testify till almost one o’clock. The reason being: the legislative committee took the testimony of their fellow state representatives and state senators first. Even if legislators come in the room well after the hearing has started, they go to the head of the line – try that in a supermarket.

Although the revenue committee has 16 members, there were never more than eight present at the hearing. They included friendly faces Rep. Paul Adams (R-Andover) and Rep. Steven Levy (R-Marlboro).

In giving testimony in favor of the bill, I stated that the override process has been abused, with some communities voting on 2 or 3 overrides in less than a year. This was costly to the town and exhausting to both the proponents and opponents of any question.

I pointed out that the original 1980 ballot question had overrides only at biennial statewide elections and needed a 2/3 vote to pass. The committee's House chairman Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) thought two years would be too long to wait for an election. In response I said this would actually give town officials more time to identify and cut the waste and inefficiency in their budgets. If they were good at it, they might discover an override wasn’t needed after all.

I told the committee that the signature option on underrides was vitally needed because most selectman will not vote to put an underride on the ballot, as they do (quite willingly) for overrides. For example, the Division of Local Services (DLS) lists hundreds of override elections but only a couple of dozen underrides. I just asked for a more equal playing field.

The Chairman asked if CLT would entertain a 5% signature option for overrides also (in the case of selectmen not voting to place one on the ballot). I said, sure, we would consider it. Lastly, the Chairman brought up the fact that many of the previous speakers had talked about the need for more money for the cities/towns and “barebones” local budgets. CLT‘s biennial override requirement, he said, would hurt the towns even more. I responded by using data from the Tax Foundation based in DC. It was simply this: Massachusetts per capita property tax collections total $3,511, which ranks us 6th in the nation. We collect more money from property taxes per person than 44 other states! Therefore, I said, the problem on the local level was a spending problem, not lack of funds.

I hope Chairman Kaufman remembers that statistic when he comes out with his long anticipated report on tax reform.

My Whirlwind September to Remember

9th – FMG meeting in Lexington
11th – AMRC meeting/cookout in Weston
12th – Keiko Orrall fundraiser at Christen’s house in Holliston
15th – Testify before Revenue Comm. at Statehouse
16th – Attend Breitbart speech at One Cranberry Hill
18th – Mass Resistance banquet in Boxboro
20th – Phone bank for Keiko at 6PM in Lakeville
21st - Give speech to North Attleboro RTC in North Attleboro
24th – Attend Plymouth County GOP breakfast in Plymouth
24th – Go to Cheri Felos (Attleboro City Councilor) fundraiser
26th – Rep. George Ross (R-Attleboro) fundraiser in Attleboro

Eleven events in 17 days. Imagine if we were in the middle of a petition signature drive!

Chip Faulkner
Associate Director


Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665