A Taxpayer IQ Test
(What's Wrong With This Picture?)

This is the last weekend to petition -- in the City of Boston ONLY and for signatures of Boston registered voters ONLY. All Boston petitions must be turned in to the City of Boston registrar of voters at Boston City Hall by 5:00 PM on Monday.

We're going to give our own Taxpayer IQ test below, from State House News Service reports.

QUESTION:  Which one report does not fit with all the others, and why is it inconsistent with the rest?

(The answer is at the bottom of the page.)

Chip Ford

Excerpts from State House News Service
Weekly Roundup (Week of June 19, 2000) and
Advances (Week of June 26, 2000) reports:

HALEY: MEDICAID GETTING OUT OF CONTROL AGAIN -- Presiding over the release of a supplemental budget with $188 million for Medicaid, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth) said the old "budget buster" threatens the state's fiscal stability once again. Haley said the cost of providing health coverage for the poor has begun to rise the way it did in the late 80s.

EDUCATION SPENDING -- US Census reports that in 1997, Massachusetts was ranked 7th nationally when it comes to per-pupil spending on education. The nation's leader was New Jersey. Utah holds the dubious distinction of bringing up the rear of the pack. Massachusetts in 1997 spent $7,190 per student. New Jersey spent $9,461. Utah spent $3,810. The national average was $5,873.

TEACHER RETIREMENT PLAN MADE LAW OVER CELLUCCI'S VETO -- The House and Senate took lopsided votes to pass a plan allowing teachers with 30 years' experience to retire regardless of age. Cellucci said the override will cause 8,000 teachers to leave classrooms in the next year; proponents argue the benefit will attract people to the profession.

HOUSE W&M ADVANCES EARLY RETIREMENT FOR PUBLIC SAFETY -- As if to confirm the fears of opponents of the teacher-retirement piece, House Ways and Means gave approval to a bill allowing certain public safety employees to retire after 25 years of service. The Massachusetts Municipal Association and the governor had predicted that if the teachers got new retirement benefits, lawmakers would feel pressure from other public employee groups to approve similar plans for other employees and the costs to taxpayers would grow.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE -- The bulk of testimony at Monday's hearing on family leave policy will come by invitation only. The day-long forum is being conducted by a special task force on unemployment insurance and family leave and comes at a time when the federal government is moving to let states dip into their UI trust funds to pay 'new baby' benefits. Labor unions and women's groups support using UI money to pay family leave benefits, arguing that all workers -- regardless of their income -- should be able to take time off to care for a new baby.

Associated Press
Saturday, June 24, 2000

Baby benefit plan for parents

BOSTON -- New parents would be able to collect up to 12 weeks of unemployment benefits under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.

The plan would use the state's $1.8 billion unemployment insurance trust fund to extend benefits to parents of newborn or newly adopted children.

Supporters say the proposal is needed to help working parents meet the needs of new children without facing a fiscal crunch.

"Under this bill, when a new child is born or a new child is adopted, working families get the crucial time they need at home," said Sarah Nathan, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

Opponents say the trust fund should only be used for its original purpose -- helping workers who have lost their jobs.

"If you expand the program to meet other social needs, by the time you need it to pay for the benefits of laid-off workers, you don't have it," said Alan Macdonald, director of public affairs for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

When the unemployment insurance system was first established in 1935, most new mothers did not work outside the home, Nathan said. The proposal recognizes how much family life has changed, she said.

The state's unemployment insurance trust fund is supported with contributions from Massachusetts employers.

The baby benefit plan will be the subject of a public hearing at the Statehouse on Monday.

The Telegram & Gazette
Worcester, Mass.
Thursday, June 22, 2000

Editorial:  Rollback reason
Tax fairness the issue in ballot question debate

As things are shaping up, the highlight of this fall's statewide election campaign will be a confrontation between two seasoned politicians who aren't even running against each other -- at least not yet.

The event is the debate between Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham and Gov. Paul Cellucci over the ballot question seeking a phased rollback of the state income tax to 5 percent. The Legislature raised the tax rate by about 20 percent to stave off insolvency in the wake of the ill-fated "Massachusetts miracle."

More than a decade later, with billions of dollars squirreled away in various "rainy day" and contingency accounts, the Legislature has seen fit to grant only a tiny reduction of the supposedly temporary rate, from 5.95 percent rate to the current 5.85 percent.

An explanation more credible than dire warnings about catastrophic cuts in state services is long overdue.

Since the recession of the early 1990s, state spending has grown at a troubling pace, several times the rate of inflation. The fiscal 2001 budget now being completed by House-Senate committee will set spending 6 percent to 7 percent higher than in the current fiscal year.

Taxpayers who tune in to the debate no doubt will observe plenty of fancy fiscal footwork. Mr. Birmingham, the redoubtable advocate for the pro-tax side, can be expected to marshal an impressive array of figures suggesting that, despite the overflowing coffers, the state can't afford the rollback.

Despite the mind-boggling complexity of state finances, the underlying issue couldn't be more straightforward: Do Massachusetts taxpayers favor prudent, sustainable growth of state government or continued, hyperinflationary expansion?

Past votes on state tax increases suggest voters wisely choose the former course.

We are skeptical of government by initiative petition, which bypasses the regular process of hearings and legislative deliberation. But referendums are justified when the Legislature defies the will of the people -- as on the income tax rollback.

The high-profile debate between two respected state leaders will focus on this crucial ballot question the public attention it deserves.

ANSWER to the Taxpayer IQ Test: While House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley is whining that the sky is falling, that a "budget buster" is running out of control -- a tactic our opponents will use against a tax rollback -- the Legislature is spending like there's no tomorrow, which there won't be for the Gimme Lobby's spending spree if we take back our tax over-payment in November.

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