No Tax Cut in This Year's Budget:
$21B Spent and Still More "Unmet Needs"

Can you believe today's news (below)? The Massachusetts House of Reprehensibles has announced that there will be no tax cuts included in this year's proposed budget, its biggest ever -- more "unmet needs," you know -- at the same time that a stealth automatic gas tax increase is about to be triggered!

Mine! Mine! Mine! More Is Never Enough!

Has there ever been a better reason to roll back the eleven year-old income tax rate ... while we can?

Bear in mind, the increased spending the House is proposing is forever: when the economy cools down, just as it did in the late-80s, the spending will need to be continued. We'll be stuck with it. That means even higher taxes ... probably promised again as "only temporary," just to get us through the fiscal crisis they're now creating.

Talking about promises, remember back when the mandatory seat belt law was passed in 1986 (then was repealed), and again in 1994. Both times we were assured it would be only "secondary enforcement," meaning you had to be stopped for some other violation before being ticketed for not using your seat belt. We opponents warned that they would not hold to their word, and were poo-pooed. We put it on the ballot again, but this time the voters bought it.

When will enough citizens wake up and finally realize that politicians will say and do anything at any given moment to seduce and have their way with us? It is simply their nature.

They are patient, devious, and incremental.

Primary enforcement has arrived right on schedule, as we predicted. A bill is being pushed through that will allow drivers to be pulled over just for not being buckled-up ... or thought to be unbuckled.

And if you can believe it, the charge is being led by Sen. Brian Lees, minority leader of the party of "less intrusive, limited government," a Republican.

The State House News Service reported on Monday: "I know this is tough. I know people don't like to be told what to do," said Senate Minority Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow), who pushed for the commission's formation after the Public Safety Committee rejected his bill earlier this year. "But ..."

There is always a "but" -- always -- after they have their way with us, get what they want, and calculate that we've forgotten. I wonder if enough people will ever learn ... or learn in time ...

Sorry if I digressed, but that was one of my pet issues until the voters chose "safety" over freedom. Still, it provides us with one more lesson to remember in November, yet another example.

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Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Tax relief not yet on budget horizon
by Ellen J. Silberman

The fiscal 2001 House budget slated to be released tomorrow doesn't include any immediate tax relief, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul R. Haley said yesterday.

"Not for this year," said Haley (D-Weymouth). "We don't think now is the time to be cutting back on our tax base. We've already cut taxes by some $2.5 billion over these past 10 years."

Offering a second day of budget highlights, Haley stressed the need to shore up the state's low- and moderate-income housing programs before giving money back to the taxpayers.

"We need to make sure that we cover the base and we make sure that there's adequate funding in place to support the overhead costs," Haley said as he unveiled a plan to increase housing funds by one-third.

Despite the tough anti-tax cut talk, Haley left the door open for a future tax cut and sources said the budget does include a promise of lower taxes down the line.

Rep. John H. Rogers (D-Norwood), the chairman of the House Taxation Committee, has been pushing for a deferred tax cut for more than a year. Under Rogers' plan, the state would approve a future income tax cut and put the difference between the current rate and the reduced rate into a special fund.

"At the end of that investment period the taxpayers benefit from the tax cut," Rogers said. He called his plan "more responsible than the rollback petition" being pushed by Gov. Paul Cellucci.

The state last year agreed to gradually reduce the income tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5.75 percent. Currently, the rate is 5.85 percent. Haley said next year's reduction to 5.80 percent was fully funded in the House budget.

Cellucci's ballot initiative would continue the decline, dropping the income tax rate to 5 percent by 2003. But many Democrats believe the state cannot afford the $1.2 billion tax cut at the same time the state is trying to find as much as $1.7 billion to cover Big Dig cost overruns.

"There's going to be a big fight around this tax cut," said Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston). "I don't think it's going to be a kind of automatic knee-jerk reaction among the population of Massachusetts to go for the tax cut as long as we can describe this ... in terms of what people want in terms of education, what people want in terms of medical care and what lots and lots of people want around housing."

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, March 29, 2000

All pumped up: Cellucci battles state's automatic gas tax hike
by Cosmo Macero Jr. and Joe Battenfeld

The Cellucci administration today is moving to head off a hidden state gas tax hike that would force already overburdened Massachusetts motorists to shell out millions more at the pump every month.

A little-noticed provision in state law could trigger up to a three-cent increase in the state's gas tax if prices continue to soar as expected through the summer.

Such an increase would cause political problems for Gov. Paul Cellucci, who has sought to craft an image as an anti-tax crusader.

Lt. Gov. Jane Swift plans to unveil legislation today to freeze the current gas tax at 21 cents per gallon and prevent the automatic increases from making it to the pump, sources said. Cellucci is in China on a trade mission.

The proposal, however, could run into some resistance in the Legislature, where some lawmakers have suggested gas tax increases help pay for the Big Dig.

"We're hoping legislators agree with us that consumers shouldn't be punished at the pumps," another administration source said. "If they're against this, then it's anti-consumer."

If no action is taken, the state gas tax will increase as soon as this spring, the first hike since 1991.

Under the state's current legislative formula, the gas tax will increase by one cent when the average price per gallon reaches $1.68. State officials predict that level could easily be reached by Memorial Day.

The average price now for a gallon of regular gas in Massachusetts is $1.59 -- keeping with a national trend that has seen prices go through the roof.

The state's gas tax will increase by another two cents if average gas prices top $1.80 per gallon, which experts say could happen by the end of the summer. That would put the state's gas tax at 24 cents per gallon.

The Cellucci administration's legislative plan is aimed at preventing a possible public relations nightmare for the governor -- a tax increase under his watch.

The governor has vowed to block any tax increases and is pushing a referendum this year to roll back income taxes.

A hike in the gas tax would be particularly disastrous because of growing anger by motorists at skyrocketing prices.

The governor's plan would not only freeze the gas tax, but also discard the current formula which would trigger increases.

The move -- while aimed at giving consumers relief -- would also be a pre-emptive strike against those who suggest further increases should be considered to help fund the $13.1 billion Big Dig, sources said.

"The governor has been very clear that he doesn't want the gas tax to be used (for the Big Dig)," said one administration source.

Lawmakers will have to approve the gas tax freeze.

But sources said the administration has already rounded up key support for the measure from the powerful American Automobile Association.

That endorsement is considered significant, since AAA has refused to endorse a partial rollback of the 18.4-cent federal gas tax.

"It's obviously starting to put a strain on the economy," said one source close to the governor.

Just the one-penny increase in the state gas tax would cost motorists an additional $2.3 million per month at the pumps, administration sources said.

And if prices continue to rise, as many experts project, drivers could end up paying an additional $7 million to $14 million per month if the tax isn't frozen.

Under current law the tax would rise another two cents per gallon if the average price reaches $1.80, and three cents on top of that if the price reaches $2.

Federal officials have already warned that the average gas price nationwide could be $1.80 per gallon by year's end.

In Massachusetts, average prices have rocketed from $1.03 per gallon of regular in March 1999 to $1.59 per gallon today.

The state first instituted a two-cent gas tax in 1928. It reached five cents in 1953, and eight and a half cents in 1980.

After that, state officials introduced formulas making the tax a percentage of the price per gallon.

The current tax is 19 1/10 percent of the average price, with a minimum tax of 21 cents.

Associated Press
Wednesday, March 29, 2000

CLT goes to bat for critics of Fenway Park subsidy

BOSTON (AP) A conservative anti-tax group is joining the lineup of those opposed to taxpayer subsidies for a new Fenway Park.

Citizens for Limited Taxation, which is currently promoting a $1.4 billion income tax cut ballot initiative, is taking part in the formation of Citizens Against Stadium Subsidies.

"It's one thing to make us pay taxes for essential services that benefit everyone, like public safety, or that care for otherwise helpless people," said CLT head Barbara Anderson in a statement. "But taxpayer subsidies for a game? taken from working families and given to wealthy club owners? Please."

Peter Catalano, of Fenway Action Coalition, a neighborhood group, said the addition of CLT to the stadium opposition provided an important boost.

"I think it certainly will broaden the political spectrum of the groups involved," he said. "It is rather dismaying that CLT to this point is the only group in the conservative movement that has stepped forward to object to this public expenditure."

A news conference was scheduled for today to announce CLT's opposition and the creation of CASS.

Other members of CASS include the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, Save Fenway Park, Massachusetts Senior Action and the Fenway Community Development Corporation.

The Red Sox last year proposed a new 44,000-seat facility to be built adjacent to the existing ballpark. The cost was estimated at $550 million. The team has yet to make public what it will request in taxpayer help, but it has been estimated to be more than $200 million.

PS. A request has been made by Patti Amirault, wife of Gerald, that letters be written to Gov. Cellucci requesting that he commute Gerald's sentence -- now pretty much the only way to obtain any justice in that senseless injustice. If you are so inclined, you can get her letter with  instructions on how to respond and other information on this longstanding outrage.

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