CLT Memo to the Legislature
To: Members of the General Court
March 31, 2000
Re: Haley budget
Broken Promises, Greed and Vice
The House Ways & Means Committee does not keep the
Legislature's promise to rollback the income tax rate to 5 percent, while it breaks the
Legislature's promise that a vote for Question On in 1998 would mean that legislators no
longer hike their own pay.
The Committee wants to grab more cash for incumbent
legislators while denying Massachusetts working people a promised income tax reduction as
it spends more of their tax dollars to urge them to gamble more.
The Committee insists the Commonwealth cannot afford
to cut the income tax rate to 5.6 percent, the first phase in Governor Cellucci's
proposal, moving it closer toward the promised 5 percent; but it can afford the increase
in each legislator's personal "getting re-elected slush fun" and an advertising
campaign to coax citizens to gamble.
Once taxpayers were promised that the state gas tax
would reflect the economy, and rise and fall with the price of gas. The promise was broken
when the Legislature later voted to put a floor on the fall. We await the cap on the rise.
Broken promises, greed and vice: a budget document for
the new millennium. Nice start. House members can do better during the debate, with a vote
to cut the income tax rate, remove the legislative pay raise, cut the gambling incentive,
and prevent the automatic gas tax hike.
P.S. Re: Outside Section 66, the Massachusetts
Taxpayers Foundation proposal which "promises" to roll back the income tax rate
beginning in 2003 by .10 percent a year if the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter
collides with Mars. Voters have been promised that 1) the auto excise, sales tax,
deed excise hike, income tax rate hike and Turnpike tolls were temporary; 2)
the gas tax would dro with the price; 3) the Big Dig wouldn't take highway
funds from local projects; 4) the Big Dig would only cost $2.6 billion; 5)
legislators wouldn't vote anymore for their own pay hikes; and by the way, 6) the
mandatory seat belt law would never be primary enforcement. Now you hope to convince them
that if they don't vote for the initiative petition in November you'll keep this promise
three years from now through the end of the decade? Using what for credibility?
P.P.S. We wonder why MTF fails to see the
correlation between its opposition to Governor Cellucci's tax rollback and its annual need
to warn about the rate of growth in state spending.
The Boston Herald
Friday, March 31, 2000
Pols pack budget with pork
by Ellen J. Silberman and Joe Battenfeld
House lawmakers have fattened their $21.7 billion
budget with more than $4 million in pet spending projects -- including another bailout for
the Sail Boston extravaganza -- and a $3,600 back door raise for each legislator.
The new details emerging from the budget plan
yesterday infuriated Cellucci administration officials as well as campaign finance reform
advocates and tax cut proponents.
House budget leaders inserted $4.3 million into the
state tourism budget for questionable projects, including $750,000 for the controversial
Sail Boston event, $30,000 for a clock in Haverhill, $30,000 for a reproduction Civil War
cannon and $200,000 for a new air conditioning system at the John F. Kennedy museum in
Several of the budget items -- which weren't requested
by the tourism office -- appear to have little to do with tourism.
"I'm shell-shocked," said Mary Jane McKenna,
state tourism director. "I know this is an election year but this is
The $750,000 contribution to Sail Boston, the tall
ships parade scheduled for this July, is the second time in the last six months state
officials have funneled public money into the corporate-sponsored event.
Gov. Paul Cellucci gave the organizers $1.5 million in
tourism money last fall. Since 1998, $2.5 million in state taxpayer money has been poured
into the event.
McKenna said she opposes the latest public bailout
because the money would pay for berthing spots for the ships.
"Setting up thingamajigs in the water ... is not
exactly what we're all about," she said. Sail Boston representatives could not be
reached for comment.
As the Herald reported yesterday, the House budget
would double members' "per diem" travel allowances and office expense accounts.
The move to double office expenses, which will cost
taxpayers $720,000 a year, is particularly controversial because lawmakers collect the
allowances in monthly checks and aren't required to account for how they spend the
cash. "It might as well be handed over to them in a
brown bag, Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government said.
In fact, the state reports the office expenses to the
Internal Revenue Service on 1099 forms and lawmakers are free to pocket whatever they
don't spend on paper clips and phone calls. And sources say many lawmakers don't like to
part with a dime -- even when the stationery runs out.
"Some of them treat it like their salary,"
one State House source said.
Lawmakers -- particularly those who live more than 50
miles from the State House - also add thousands to their salaries with "per
diem" allowances meant to offset those travel costs.
House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth)
defended the increases, saying the office expense money would allow lawmakers to abide by
the "Clean Elections" campaign finance reform law by absorbing some of the
"constituent service" expenses they currently pay out of their campaign funds.
The voter-approved law offers candidates public funds if they agree to limit their
But the lack of accounting is raising concerns among
campaign finance advocates who pushed to get office expenses covered.
"There's no reporting whatsoever," said
David Donnelly, director of Mass Voters for Clean Elections.
The stipend increases come less than two years after
voters approved a Constitutional amendment that automatically increases lawmakers'
salaries every two years. If the economy continues to grow at the current rate, rank and
file members will see their pay jump in January more than $3,000 to $49,000 a
year. House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan) and Senate President Thomas F.
Birmingham (D-Chelsea) could see their salaries soar to $85,000 a year.
The House budget also allows for spending of just 30
percent of the state's tobacco trust fund, as opposed to the 50 percent Cellucci wants to
spend on hospital bailouts.
And while House leaders in their budget rejected
Cellucci's plan to privatize the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, they embraced
the governor's controversial prison work program tha would allow inmates to qualify
for fringe benefits like unemployment insurance and workers compensation.
House lawmakers don't include any new tax cut in their
budget, and, as expected, tie future tax cuts starting in 2003 to economic indicators.
Cellucci is pushing a November ballot initiative that would cut the tax rate from its
current 5.85 to 5 percent.
Other spending proposals in the House budget include:
Cosmo Macero Jr. contributed to this report.
The Boston Herald
Friday, March 31, 2000
Bay State mayors unite to request more local aid
by Steve Marantz
In a show of urban unity, seven mayors yesterday
called on Beacon Hill to restore full funding for local aid to cities.
Unveiling the Massachusetts Mayors Association
"New Cities" agenda at the Parkman House, the mayors asked for increases in
funding for affordable housing, education, roads and bridges, and school buildings.
"Cities in our state have limited resources and
great needs," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "Many of our schools are aging
and our roads and bridges need attention. We appreciate the commitment the State House has
made to us in the past seven years. We are asking that our partnership continue and we ask
your support renewing this partnership."
Menino was joined by the mayors of North Adams,
Leominister, Somerville, Fitchburg, Lynn and Medford.
The mayors' agenda calls for restoration of $47
million in discretionary local aid in the governor's budget, and additional funds for
affordable housing. It also asks for $272 million in education funds above the current
year's level, and for restoring $50 million cut from local bridge and road projects.
The plan also opposes the diversion of federal funds
earmarked for non-Big Dig projects. It asks Beacon Hill to protect school construction
projects filed by the end of the current fiscal year.
Menino said the mayors are encouraged by budget
proposals from both the Senate and House, but said they believe Gov. Paul Cellucci's
budget needs to be revised.
The Boston Herald
Friday, March 31, 2000
A Boston Herald editorial
Getting grabby on Beacon Hill
How typical that our lawmakers on Beacon Hill would
take care of themselves handsomely -- and stiff the taxpayers.
The budget proposal from the House Ways and Means
Committee announced yesterday would double both the travel allowance (now $5 to $45 per
day, depending on the distance from home to the State House) and the "constituent
services" expense allowance (now $3,600).
But no tax cut, not even a baby one on the order of
last year's reduction of 0.2 percentage points in the income tax rate.
The justification for such a raid on the treasury is
absurd. The claim is that the reps and senators otherwise won't be able to afford to
choose to run for re-election with the public funds available under the "Clean
Elections" law passed by the voters at the last election.
Which is further confirmation that the travel and
constituent services accounts have been campaign funds in disguise all along. When the rep
buys a couple of tickets to somebody's testimonial dinner, what "service" is he
providing? When he takes an ad in the dance program of the senior prom? When he picks up
the check in a four-star restaurant for dinner with a few "key supporters?"
As for travel, we know the price of gasoline is going
up, but it sure hasn't doubled. Don't forget, federal tax law permits legislators who live
more than 50 miles from the State House (very roughly, on Cape Cod or west of Gardner,
Spencer or Webster) to take a large tax break that can reduce the federal tax bills of
some to nothing.
The new election finance law was supposed to cut down
campaign spending. It does provide more funds for candidates whose opponents opt out of
the system to evade spending limits. Jus once, we'd like to see incumbents try to
live by a law rather than jigger the system to provide themselves with incumbency
protection provisions on the sly.