Can You Smell the Gimme Lobby's Desperation?

Can you smell the Gimme Lobby's desperation, their mounting panic? The governor was right on target when he said: "I think that's kind of like waving the white flag. It pretty much means they know the arguments in favor are so overwhelming. I think that would be waving the white flag, saying 'we give up.'"

When they know the can't win fair, the Gimme Lobby will fight dirty, as usual.

We're all watching how Secretary of State William Galvin handles this. The decision on whether to confuse voters as a last resort is now entirely his to make. We're counting on him to make the right one!

Chip Ford

State House News Service
Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Lawmakers Plot to "Double" Ballot Arguments
Against Income Tax Cut

By Trevor Hughes

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 11, 2000 ... State senators opposing Gov. Paul Cellucci's ballot fight to cut the income tax are maneuvering to ensure that voters statewide get bombarded with additional arguments against the governor's plan to return $1.2 billion to taxpayers.

On June 22, the Senate voted 31-8 to ask Secretary of State William Galvin to include the Upper Branch's anti-tax arguments in the voter information package that Secretary of State William Galvin will send to 3 million households two days after the September primary. The move has tax cut supporters crying foul and claiming lawmakers are resorting to unusual tactics in an uphill fight against Cellucci's top priority.

If Galvin approves, the Senate's arguments will join anti-tax cut arguments authored by most members of the Taxation Committee. Republicans on the Taxation Committee will make the case for the tax cut. That means there would be one "majority" report and two "minority" reports. Usually, the information packet contains arguments for and against, or one majority report and one minority report.

Even House Taxation Committee Chairman Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood), who opposes the tax cut, admits pre-election wrangling over what voters will be told about the tax cuts this fall is confusing at best.

"I think that the voters would have to engage in mental gymnastics to find out whether the Taxation Committee stands on this petition," Rogers said.

The committee's official arguments against the tax cut are: it's unaffordable, it mostly benefits the rich, lawmakers have already enacted $2.7 billion in tax cuts since 1992, and the House has a better alternative, which cuts the rate to 5 percent, but over a longer period with triggers to stop it if the economy tanks.

The Cellucci ballot plan is more aggressive. It rolls back the income tax to 5 percent in three steps -- to 5.6 percent in 2001, 5.3 percent in 2002, and 5 percent in 2003. The tax cut would return between $500 and $600 a year to the average family of four. By contrast, it would remove from the state's coffers an amount equal to about 6 percent of this year's expected $20.6 billion annual state budget. Tax cut critics say that would slow efforts to improve health care and education and may force cuts in state programs.

The Senate makes similar arguments against the tax cut but avoids mentioning the House's tax cut plan. Senate Republicans failed to offer the House-approved tax cut plan during the income tax portion of May budget debate, and Senate President Thomas Birmingham refused to allow debate on it after that mistake.

Cellucci says the cut is necessary to keep state spending under control, maintain the state's booming economy and return the income tax rate to its previous 5 percent rate. Forces on both sides of the argument plan to spend millions of dollars on TV and radio advertising to rally voters to their cause. On Beacon Hill, where Democrats rule the Legislature, most lawmakers believe the tax cut goes too far.

While Republicans question her motives, Senate Taxation Committee Chairwoman Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury) said she wants the Senate arguments in the voter packet to avoid voter confusion. She says senators are trying to draw clear-cut lines between the Upper Branch, the House and Cellucci, whom President Thomas Birmingham is expected to challenge for the Corner Office in 2002.

"We're just trying to have the voter understand the Senate position. This is about voter information," she said. "We don't want to be misunderstood. We don't want the voters to think we support the House's position on that (tax cut). We wanted to have absolute clarity that that's not the Senate position."

Cellucci says the Senate's attempt to load up the voter information packet with arguments against his plan signals that lawmakers recognize his plan has overwhelming support. Polls show that about 70 percent of voters plan to support the tax cut in November.

"I think that's kind of like waving the white flag. It pretty much means they know the arguments in favor are so overwhelming," Cellucci said. "I think that would be waving the white flag, saying 'we give up.'"

Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow), who opposed the Senate plan, said it's a deliberate attempt to confuse voters. "I believe that it will be confusing," Lees said. "I think the shenanigans that they are pulling are not right. They're trying to do anything they can to gum up the issue. I think that Bill Galvin should see through it."

The head of Cellucci's income tax rollback campaign has sent Galvin a letter seeking to publish a second pro-tax cut argument in the information packet if the Senate's arguments are included. "Should you decide to allow additional reports, in fairness you should allow one from each side of the question," wrote Paul Melkonian.

Galvin won't talk about the matter, saying only that he'll be reviewing precedents, including a 1994 decision by his predecessor, Michael Connolly, to allow two minority reports in the information package. That appears to have been the first time more than two reports were allowed on the ballot.

Rogers said he understands why the Senate is maneuvering; he just thinks it's a bad idea. "I thought we did a fair job describing the rationale and the sense of the majority. I invited the Senate to join with us but they didn't want to be associated with the House in any way, shape or form, which I think is fair in a political sense, but inappropriate in a Constitutional sense."

The controversy over voter information on tax cuts has another unusual twist. While senators want voters to know they don't agree with the House-passed income tax cut plan, House and Senate budget negotiators are due to reject or approve the House plan long before the November election. The House tax cut plan is a matter of heated debate before House-Senate negotiators who are now ten days late in delivering a budget to govern state spending in the fiscal year that began July 1.

Negotiators must also decide whether to go along with a Senate-passed plan, which addresses another ballot question, offering significant tax cuts to Massachusetts residents who donate money to charities.

State House News Service
Wednesday, July 12, 2000

BIG DIG/TAXES: Coalition opposed to Gov. Cellucci's income tax cut ballot question says reports that the Big Dig has a new $400 million cost overrun on its hands should convince the governor to drop his tax cut plans. A spokesman for the governor says the $400 million figure may not prove to be accurate and notes that the project is about to secure $150 million through a Boston land deal. The state is also looking at at least $200 million in surplus fiscal 2000 revenues, which Cellucci wants to use to pay off high-interest debt.

Campaign for Massachusetts' Future
News Release

July 11, 2000
Contact: Jack McCarthy, (617) 426-1228 x106

Growth in Big Dig Cost Cast Doubt on Tax Cut

The Campaign for Massachusetts Future called on Governor Cellucci to abandon his support of an ill advised tax cut in light of the latest reports of increased cost for the Big Dig. Reports surfaced today that the cost of the big dig rose $400 million dollars more than the $1.4 billion dollars overrun reported by the Cellucci administration to the Federal Transportation Secretary just last month. "It is inconceivable for the Governor to support a tax cut when the Big Dig's skyrocketing costs more than wipes out the surplus that the state once thought it enjoyed. When the Governor's own Big Dig Czar admits 'the number is a rolling number ... some contracts are huge amounts (over budget),' then a tax cut is a risk we can't afford," stated Jim St. George of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts (TEAM).

"This ill advised tax cut would leave the state vulnerable to this type of unexpected problem in the future. This tax proposal will not allow the state to invest in our school buildings, our crumbling bridges, and access to health care. The future of Massachusetts is too important to squander for a politically motivated tax cut," St. George continued.

The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future, coordinated by Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, is a broad-based coalition of business leaders, community groups, individuals, organizations, unions, and local and state officials. The campaign is committed to defeating two unaffordable, unfair, and irresponsible tax cuts on the November 2000 ballot; namely the Cellucci-Swift income tax cut and the toll rebate initiative.

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