An Historic Week of Broken Promises, Greed and Vice

It's too bad this past week wasn't just a big build-up to an April Fool's Day joke, but we all know better.

In absolute panic to make the still-mounting surplus from the over-taxation of us go away before we can stake a claim to it, the Bacon Hill Cabal is grabbing and spending hand over fist. Incredibly, the pols have proposed adding another $1.4 billion to an already-bloated state budget, one which has doubled to $21 billion in only the last dozen years.

Then they have the audacity to assert that there's no money for the promised rollback of the eleven year-old "temporary" income tax rate hike!

I hope you can make it to the Taxation Committee's hearing next Wednesday, April 5th, at noon in the Gardner Auditorium (State House basement) to listen to the whining and excuses, the endless list of "unmet needs" and crises on the horizon, when we insist on the promised rollback. It should be a classic dog-and-pony show; one that will provide additional inspiration for the upcoming second round of our petition drive, as if we need any.

This week's wrap-up follows, and there's no April Fool's Day joking about it. The only fools today are those who ever again believe a word out of a politician's mouth!

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Chip Ford

ATTENTION! Our petition now sits in the Legislature's Committee on Taxation. The Legislature must vote it up or down by the first Wednesday in May. If they don't adopt our petition (trust me, they won't) then we need to collect another roughly 10,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

The Committee on Taxation will hold its hearing on our tax rollback petition on NEXT WEDNESDAY, April 5th. The hearing for H.4981 will be held in the Gardner Auditorium, in the basement of the State House with testimony beginning at 12:00 noon.

State House News Service
By Michael P. Norton

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 31, 2000 ... It was a week of budget bravado.

Adding another $1.4 billion to bottom-line annual state spending, House leaders called press conference after press conference to announce their plans for tackling society's problems and making life better for state residents. Like last year, education and health care drew considerable, continuing attention from policy makers. But unlike last year, housing and human services efforts returned to the public spotlight.

And tax cuts, a prominent part of recent budget debates, retreated into the legislative shadows, replaced by talk of higher auto registration and license fees to close a shortfall in Big Dig finances that may reach $1.7 billion. Lawmakers even found room in the $21.7 billion plan to pad their own expense budgets.

Here's a closer look at this week's headlines:


Balancing budget priorities with the pressing need for a Big Dig financing proposal, House leaders rolled out two plans. The $21.7 billion budget includes a $100 million package of funding increases to shore up wages in the human services industry. It proposes significant aid for struggling housing programs, and education improvements and aid comparable to those proposed by the Senate. And it includes no new tax cut proposals. The $1.7 billion House Big Dig plan calls mostly for borrowed dollars to erase the cost overruns and be paid back over the years by higher drivers licenses and automobile registration fees. The House also proposed a separate $750 million borrowing plan to address statewide road and bridge projects, and capital needs in education technology and water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.


House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth) was unabashed this week about the role of the budget, exaggerating about the reality of "zillions of outside sections" proposing new laws. Among those in this year's House budget: a complete reform of special education, added "per diem pay" for lawmakers, a new health care management model for Medicaid-Medicare patients, degree requirements for math teachers, expanded prison labor programs, and a program to help with catastrophic drug costs. The 578-page bill, with 273 outside sections, will now be subject to an assault of floor amendments. ...


Economists are saying higher energy prices may be a drag on the booming economy. That debate, largely waged at the federal level, is now coming to the State House. A 1990 law requires the 21-cent gas tax to increase by a penny, and then two more cents, when and if gas prices reach levels that are suddenly within reach. To head off the automatic gas tax hike, Acting Gov. Swift filed to freeze the gas tax rate. ...


Anti-tax crusaders joined a coalition of community and good government activists opposed to taxpayer-funded subsidies for a new Fenway Park. Activists said they feel a subsidy package will almost inevitably pass, but they want to go on the record against what they feel is corporate welfare. The Sox are in talks with legislative leaders over a stadium deal, but the ballpark figure that taxpayers will be asked to pick up has not been officially announced. Estimates to date range from $250 million to $300 million. Anderson, who is fighting for a large income tax cut, says stadium subsidies are not exactly the type of essential services government should address. New Fenway boosters tout the project's big economic lift.

The Boston Herald
Saturday, April 1, 2000

Good times roll on Beacon Hill
A Boston Herald editorial

Oh, life's a wonderful thing when the good times are rolling on Beacon Hill. And obviously the House Ways and Means Committee believes the good times will roll on forever.

The House budget-writing committee took the governor's already rather generous $21.3 billion effort and puffed it up to $21.7 billion, all the while insisting that not a dime can be spared to return to taxpayers in the form of a tax cut.

First we discover that the legislators have been hideously generous to themselves -- doubling their own per diem allowances and granting themselves generous and unregulated stipends for "district office expenses."

Then, as Herald reporters Ellen J. Silberman and Joe Battenfeld documented in yesterday's edition, the House budget is replete with legislative pork -- $4.3 million in tourism appropriations alone that were never requested by the state's director of tourism. There's a $750,000 "contribution" for Sail Boston, $200,000 for new air conditioning for the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis and $30,000 for a clock in Haverhill. Apparently no project is too trivial to be overlooked for such earmarking by legislators eager to curry favor with the folks back home.

And the fun of unraveling the mysteries of the House budget have just begun.

What's truly unfortunate is that the budget also attempts to do some rather worthwhile things. It attempts a long overdue reform of the state's special education laws, and would approve a much-needed increase in the size of the state appeals court.

But legislative greed and pork-barrel politics cast their long shadow over what could have been a far better document.

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