Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Saturday, January 15, 2000


"The 88,000-member [teachers] union will be a factor again this year though some members are tired of being the open checkbook in every campaign against tax cuts."

Battle lines drawn in tax war of 2000
Brian C. Mooney - Boston Globe

Even teachers can learn, so maybe there's yet hope for government education!

As bad as it is on taxpayers when the Massachusetts Teachers Association pumps millions of dollars into keeping taxes higher and higher, its the union members -- the dues-paying teachers -- not only must fund the union bosses' selfish challenges and campaigns, but also lose the benefit of tax cuts along with the rest of us.

We might complain about taxes and broken promises, but things could be worse. You could be a union teacher and a hostage to the MTA!

Talk about a lose-lose situation.

They're banging their collective heads against the wall; someone should tell them it feels so good to stop!

If teachers didn't learn sooner or later, letting them continue teaching the children would be nothing less than child abuse!

And again there goes that alleged "fiscally sober" yet fraudulently misnamed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. It's president, Michael Widmer, squeals in false alarm that the sky will fall on us if taxes are rolled back: "We see a difficult time ahead even without the ballot questions," he bemoans.

He's been singing that tune for years.

Unless, of course, it's a tax cut for the MTF's business membership. He believes we taxpayers can always afford to cut his members' taxes, but never a general tax cut.

Globe columnist Brian Mooney did make an interesting observation on the regularity of CLT's tax reduction ballot questions, Prop 2 in 1980, Question 3 in 1990, and now the "temporary" income tax rollback in 2000 (though he left out the Dukakis surtax repeal in 1986 to make his point).

But the teachers union's new ballot committee, "the Campaign for Massachusetts' Future to Defeat Multi-Billion Dollar Tax Cuts" -- "Multi-Billion"? This explains why the kids are scoring so poorly in math and English! Even if combining both our rollback and the "Free the Pike" tolls-and-excise-tax credit, it still doesn't reach two billion!

If they are going to lie already, they should have pulled out all the stops and just called it "a gazillion-dollar risky tax scheme"!

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Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Saturday, January 15, 2000

Battle lines drawn in tax war of 2000

By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff

The Great Tax Cut War of 2000 officially began yesterday. Lexington and Concord it wasn't, but the formal creation of a committee to oppose Governor Paul Cellucci's tax-rollback petition guarantees a tumultuous fall campaign.

Led by teachers and the AFL-CIO, "The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future to Defeat Multi-Billion Dollar Tax Cuts" filed organizational papers yesterday at the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

To Cellucci and his allies, this is a fight to fulfill the promise, at least implied during the 1989-90 fiscal crisis, to return the income tax rate, now 5.85 percent, to 5 percent.

To opponents, including many local officials, it's mindless politics. Since 1990, 36 other tax cuts, now totaling more than $3 billion a year, have gone into effect. Cellucci's initiative, even phased in over three years, will inevitably harm schools, human services, and other important programs, they say.

It's become a rite: At the start of each decade, Massachusetts has a bloodletting over tax cut questions. How much will you pay for your government? In 1980, Proposition 2 passed. In 1990, Question 3, a massive tax and fee rollback, was defeated. In 2000, voters have a full menu -- besides Cellucci's $1.1 billion rollback, a $700 million offset for road tolls and auto excise taxes, and a question to make charitable giving deductible for state income tax purposes, a $200 million item.

Comparison will be made to '90 and Question 3, ("It goes too far" was the opponents' winning slogan). Similarities surely abound, but this campaign may be decided by the differences.

Foremost is the role of Cellucci, who has virtually staked his governorship on this issue. The risks or rewards will be enormous. A better campaigner than chief executive, Cellucci can at least partly redeem a lackluster 2 years in the governor's chair with a big win in November. In 1990, Question 3 backers, led by Citizens for Limited Taxation and Barbara Anderson, were much less organized than this year's tax-cut activists.

Moreover, Cellucci's fund-raising machine has led efforts to raise about $200,000 so far and hopes to raise at least $2 million more, said Rob Gray, Cellucci's top political operative.

"It'll be a fair fight this year," said Gray.

In 1990, opponents of a $1.2 billion tax cut outspent Anderson's Question 3 forces about $3 million to $1 million. The Massachusetts Teachers Association alone spent $1.4 million to defeat the question. The 88,000-member union will be a factor again this year though some members are tired of being the open checkbook in every campaign against tax cuts.

The governor, meanwhile, has all the toys of incumbency, including the big soap box Thursday night -- his State of the State address -- to campaign for the tax cut.

A tricky variable from the '90 ballot campaign is a problem for Cellucci, however. As he pushes his own initiative, he's mum on the others. "We're keeping our powder dry on all the other ballot questions," said Gray.

Opponents aren't. To them, a two-fer is a bigger target.

"We're going to focus both on the governor's rollback and the 'Free the 'Pike' question," said James St. George, executive director of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts. It is neutral on the charitable deductions tax cut.

The toll-excise question is an ingenious political creation -- a son of toll-repealing "Free the 'Pike," which was knocked off the ballot two years ago because it jeopardized bonds vital to funding the Big Dig. Proponents seek instead a straight tax credit for tolls and have tossed in the same for auto excise taxes, perhaps the most hated of all Massachusetts taxes. Its impact would be enormous, though, $700 million a year.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, nonpartisan and fiscally sober, opposes the toll-excise question and only backs further cuts in the tax rate if tied to economic performance.

"We see a difficult time ahead even without the ballot questions," said Michael Widmer, foundation president. Tax cuts already enacted since 1998 (including a phased-in reduction to 5.75 percent on the income tax rate) will cost $1.66 billion, fully implemented. The Cellucci and turnpike questions would lop another $1.7 billion from state revenues. Meanwhile, spending is way up -- well over 6 percent annually the past two years -- and the 1980s "budget busters" of Medicaid, state employee health insurance, and pension costs are growing again, said Widmer.

Even as the state logs mid-year revenues indicating a likely surplus of several hundred million dollars by June, those are "pincers," Widmer said, on a budget now at $20.8 billion.

The Great Tax Cut War of 2000 is under way. How much will you pay for your government?

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