State House News Service
Tuesday, April 18, 2000
Cellucci Cites House "Spending Binge"
in Renewing Call for Big Tax Cut
By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 18, 2000 ... Renewing his
call for lower taxes, Gov. Paul Cellucci today bashed the Massachusetts House for spending
as much money in one night as his income tax cut would deliver to taxpayers in its first
At a press conference, Cellucci said Massachusetts
workers pay among the highest taxes in the country. But he said a more important reason
for voters to cut the 5.9 percent tax to 5 percent is to reduce the likelihood of spending
binges like the one in the House last week. Cellucci said legislative spending is
"out of control," noting a House committee added $400 million to his budget plan
before House members, largely at an all-night session last Thursday, added $200 million
more in floor amendments.
"This is eerily familiar," said Cellucci.
"This reminds me of the late 80s when we had a Legislature that was out of control.
And they're going to raise all sorts of excuses. I cal them the thousand and one
excuses why we can't cut taxes. They're going to talk about the Big Dig. They're going to
talk about all sorts of things. But let me tell you what the real reason is. The real
reason was on display. Exhibit A was on display last week on the floor of the House of
Representatives. They don't want to cut taxes because they want to spend more money. Let's
get that on the table today."
Saying he'll be happy to veto spending increases, the governor added that "if the
Senate does what it normally does," the budget to hit his desk this spring may be a
billion dollars larger than the one he filed.
Cellucci said the tax cut would safeguard the state's
strong economic position and eventually turn back $500 a year to the average family of
four. It would also make good on an 11-year-old legislative promise and impose fiscal
discipline on the Legislature by taking $1.2 billion out of the annual spending pot, which
now tops $22 billion, he said. The tax cut is phased in over several years.
Senate President Thomas Birmingham found fault with
Cellucci's logic on taxes. Birmingham said the governor "can't have it both
ways" by supporting spending increases and tax cuts. While declining to comment on
the House budget and spending amendments, Birmingham said Cellucci "would look for
any excuse as opposed to justification to justify this aggressive and regressive tax
"If we want to expand our health care,
particularly for seniors citizens, if we want to improve our public schools, if we want to
responsibly pay for the cost overruns that this administration has incurred on the Big
Dig, something has got to give," said Birmingham. "And we shouldn't try to
delude the people of the Commonwealth that we can indulge ourselves in over a billion
dollars in tax cuts and continue our efforts in education, health care and meeting other
Big Dig costs, recently estimated at $10.8 billion,
may ultimately reach $14 billion, federal officials say.
Birmingham said the Legislature is an easy target for
Cellucci. "For some reason collectively we seem to be -- the whole is less than some
of the parts," he said. "Individual legislators are usually held in high regard
by their constituents." They become a target because the branches don't speak with
one voice, he said.
House Speaker Thomas Finneran defended new House
spending initiatives designed to improve special education, help the elderly buy
prescription drugs, and increase payments to child care providers. He also questioned
Cellucci's attack. "I understand that the governor is probably looking to create
distraction from a whole host of other issues," said Finneran, apparently referring
to Big Dig overruns.
Finneran also said the House budget must be reconciled
with the Senate's priorities and ultimately, the governor's input -- Cellucci today
pledged spending vetoes. "This will work out," Finneran said. "We will have
another balanced budget even if for toda the governor chooses to characterize it as
exuberant spending ... I understand the political argument that the governor continues to
The House budget does include an income tax cut, tying
it to continuing improvements in the economy. "It's not one that's even dependent
upon the voter's sentiments," Finneran said. "It is however conditioned upon
real economic growth" to preserve efforts on housing, education and health care
Jim St. George, director of the Tax Equity Alliance
for Massachusetts, said members of the Coalition for Massachusetts' Future are traveling
the state to lobby against the tax cut. "Massachusetts needs to invest in education,
health care and our infrastructure if we are to be competitive in the 21st Century,"
said St. George. "We cannot make those investments while financing the Big Dig and
paying for this risky tax cut. It's time Gov. Cellucci leveled with the people of
Massachusetts: this isn't Wonderland, and we can't have everything." He said the bulk
of recent legislative spending is for worthwhile initiatives.
St. George said campaign workers will make the
argument that the tax cut will lead to a decline in police, fire and education services, a
claim Cellucci says is false based on a string of years in which the state has managed to
cut taxes, increase spending and balance budgets.
Lt. Gov. Swift said such claims against tax cuts are
"chicken little arguments" and made the case that tax reductions will extend
economic prosperity. "The successes of the last nine years have been a result of
state government cutting taxes in a way that increased our economic competitiveness and
setting priorities so that we could then fund programs that are important to the public
health and well being," Swift said.
"If you look at tax receipts over the last
several years, when in fact we cut taxes 38 times, it is indisputable that our ability to
fund key programs is solely dependent on the strength of our economy," Swift added.
"It is not correlated to our tax rate. In fact, as we have cut taxes, we have been
able to put significant amounts of money into stabilization funds, we have a significant
surplus this year that will allow us to solve some of our bigger fiscal problems like the
Big Dig. The key components of our success have been in restraining the urge to spend
recklessly, by setting priorities and by having tax policies that isn't responsive to the
need to spend money but responsive to the needs of the economy."
Citizens for Limited
Taxation Director Barbara Anderson said taxpayers this year are paying a
"temporary" tax hike for the eleventh straight year. She said lawmakers are
spending freely as part of a political campaign. "They are desperately, deliberately
trying to get rid of the money so they can argue this fall that they can't afford a tax
rollback and they can't afford to keep the promise," Anderson said.
The House-approved fiscal 2001 budget topped out at
more than $22.5 billion, including MBTA spending, after $150 million in spending was added
by floor amendments, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. MTF officials
say that spending clip is unsustainable over the long term.
State House News Service
ADVANCES (WEEK OF APRIL 17, 2000)
BACK TO THE 80'S?: The House-approved budget topped
out at more than $22.5 million after $150 million in new spending was added via floor
amendments, according to the Massachusetts Taxapayers Foundation.
"That would bring the annual spending increase to
above 8 percent," said MTF President Michael Widmer. "That's clearly
unsustainable over the long term and may well throw fiscal 2001 out of balance.
This was a significant departure from the House
practice of the last decade." Compounding the problem, Widmer said, was approval of
two new "entitlement" programs with potentially explosive long-term costs. An
aggressive prescription drug assistance program for the elderly will likely cost taxpayers
only $10 million or $15 million in fiscal 2001 but could cost between $200 million and
$400 million a year in the long run, Widmer said. And an early retirement program for
teachers will cost taxpayers about $50 million a year, he added.
"That's very troubling," Widmer said.
"We're not saying we're headed into a repeat of the eighties but this is the pattern
of the spending practices that took place in the eighties."
The fiscal 2000 budget weighed in at $20.8 billion.
The House Ways and Means fiscal 2001 budget plan was a $22.38 billion proposal, including
MBTA subsidies. With floor amendments factored in, Widmer said the final House-approved
budget topped $22.5 billion.
The usual response from Tax
Everything And More (TEAM), creature of the Gimme Lobby and
enemy of all hardworking taxpayers:
Campaign for Massachusetts' Future
Contact: Jim St. George, (617) 426-1228
April 18, 2000
Time to Pull the Plug on the Tax Cut
Cellucci-Swift out of Touch with State's Priorities
The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future today called on
Governor Paul Cellucci and Lt. Governor Jane Swift to withdraw their proposed income tax
rate cut from the November 2000 ballot. The campaign asserts that it is irresponsible to
promote such a massive revenue loss when the state should instead be investing in its
"Massachusetts needs to invest in education,
health care, and our infrastructure if we are to be competitive in the 21st century,"
said James R. St. George, executive director of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts.
"We cannot make those investments while financing the Big Dig and paying for this
risky tax cut. It's time Gov. Cellucci leveled with the people of Massachusetts; this
isn't Wonderland, and we can't have everything."
While Cellucci is critical of the House budget, most
of the increased spending went to key programs that enjoy widespread public support. The
senior pharmacy program -- a catastrophic prescription drug insurance program -- is
available to every senior citizen in the state. The $30 million increase in assistance for
special education and the increased reimbursement rate for childcare workers are both
important efforts to help vulnerable people. Education, debt service, and public safety
alone accounted for most of the increases in the House budget.
In contrast, Cellucci proposed a budget that would
have cut local aid for many cities and towns to cover one-sixth of his proposed tax cut.
Over 50,000 school children would have been affected by actual cuts in local education aid
included in the Cellucci-Swift budget. In Pittsfield, for example, teachers are already
facing layoffs this spring, yet the Governor's budget called for a $200,000 cut in aid for
education. Furthermore, 27 cities and towns faced a loss of unrestricted local aid that
would reduce funding for police and fire protection and other local services. In Quincy,
that means either laying off 21 teachers, laying off 16 firefighters, or increasing
"Cellucci is just plain wrong when he complains
about budget growth outpacing the state's ability to pay. In contrast to the 1980s, over
the last five years state spending has grown much more slowly than personal income
growth," said St. George. "That's a sustainable pattern that will not create a
fiscal crisis in the future."
The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future is a
broad-based coalition of individuals organizations, unions, community groups, business
leaders, and local and state officials committed to defeating two unaffordable, unfair,
and irresponsible tax cuts on the November 2000 ballot.