PEABODY -- He's built his reputation on keeping taxes
low, but when Mayor Peter Torigian is in Boston today, he'll be hoping to keep the state's
income tax right where it is.
Torigian will be part of the Massachusetts Mayors'
Association meeting at the Lafayette Swiss Hotel, a gathering meant to discuss state aid
and how to keep to keep it coming. Opposing a rollback of the statewide income tax is a
key element of that, the mayor suggests.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino will host the group, while
mayors from Worcester, Springfield, North Adams and Leominster are among those who will
attend. Finance directors from each city met last week to lay the groundwork for the
"The Big Dig may be one of the issues being
discussed," Torigian says, "as well as the tax-cut proposals and the action to
be taken to oppose them." Lobbying is one possibility, he adds.
Torigian is uncomfortable with tax cuts because he
worries any decrease in state revenues will reduce state aid to cities and towns. Aid to
education, transportation and affordable housing will all suffer, he says.
A proposed initiative petition by Citizens for Limited Taxation would reduce the
state income tax from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. Advocates point to overflowing state
coffers and a tobacco settlement due to pump billions into Beacon Hill as reason enough to
do it now.
Gov. Paul Cellucci has endorsed the move to bring the
income tax rate back to 5 percent.
But Torigian sees it differently. "That's $1.1
billion in revenue lost. That's billion with B," Torigian says.
"It doesn't take a mathematical genius to see
that when you reduce revenues and you increase costs -- because the state budget is up --
you have some problems," he says.
The result, he worries, will be to force cities and
towns to a greater reliance on real estate taxes.
"That's the most regressive tax there is,"
he says. Economists say property taxes tend to fall more heavily on those who earn less
money, including many on fixed incomes.
"Who's not in favor of lower taxes?"
Torigian asks. "I understand taxes full well."
Nevertheless, Citizens for Limited Taxation is
promoting the petition to reduce the state income tax to what it was before 1980, 5
percent. When the income tax was increased from that level, according to the citizens'
group head Barbara Anderson of Marblehead,
it was billed at the time as a temporary measure meant to deal with a temporary budget
Yet, instead of rolling back the tax once the crisis
passed, the Legislature has actually increased it, Anderson says. As for Torigian's
position, she says, "I think it is very foolish for any
mayor to say it's all right for legislators to break their word."
Additionally, a petition is being promoted that would
eliminate turnpike tolls, possibly creating another drain on state revenues.
Behind all the state's money woes is the specter of
the Big Dig, recently hit with $1.4 billion in cost overruns and a temporary loss of
In the midst of a signature drive to get her petition
on the ballot, Anderson belittles these concerns, saying, "They
have so much money on Beacon Hill, they don't know what to do with it all."
The state is due to collect $8 billion in a settlement
with tobacco companies, at a rate of $300 million per year, she points out.
"It comes with no strings attached," she
Clearly regretting Torigian's opposition to her
petition, Anderson recalls with nostalgia his position on Proposition 2½ some 20 years
"I remember him coming to a speech I gave. He was
sitting there in the back of the room. I was arrested by these big, dark eyes on me
throughout the speech. He listened to every word I said," she says.
As Anderson remembers, the new mayor did not oppose
the Proposition 2½ ballot initiative, which limited the ability of cities and towns to
raise taxes. And when it passed, she says, "he was one of the mayors who best
instituted Proposition 2½."
March 2, 2000
Contact: Patricia Campbell Malone, Jeffrey Busha
February 2000 Revenues Total $865.3 Million
Revenue Commissioner Frederick A. Laskey today
announced that revenue collections for February 2000 totaled $865.3 million, up
$113.5 million or 15.1 percent from last February. Year-to-date revenue
collections totaled $9.59 billion, up $563.0 million or 6.2 percent above
last year. Collections for FY2000 are $102 million above the midpoint of the
revenue estimate range, which is based on the Administration & Finance annual estimate
of $15,288 billion.
"Revenue collections continue to remain strong.
Income, withholding and sales tax collections all show solid growth from last year,"
Income tax collections for February, which included an
extra deposit day, totaled $481.0 million, an increase of $83.8 million or
21.1 percent when compared to February 1999. Withholding tax collections totaled
$696.8 million, up $102.7 million or 17.3 percent. Sales and use
tax collections totaled $263.3 million, up $33.6 million or 14.6 percent.
Corporate collections totaled $16.6 million, up $975,000 or 6.3 percent
compared to last February.
Year-to-date income tax collections totaled $5.65
billion, up $375.9 million or 7.1 percent. Withholding collections
totaled $4.94 billion, up $400.3 million or 8.8 percent. Total
sales and use tax collections totaled $2.35 billion, up $195.3 million or
9.1 percent. Corporate collections totaled $431.0 million, up
$13.9 million or 3.3 percent.