Another Gimme Lobby "independent report":
A call for class-warfare

"Cellucci tax-cut campaign chairman Paul Melkonian appeared overeager for the fight as he interrupted a press conference outside the State House press gallery. Melkonian eventually drew a sharp rebuke from opposing campaign director Jack McCarthy....

"'That's rude to interrupt like that,' McCarthy told Melkonian after he tried to jump into a question-and-answer session between reporters and study authors Jim St. George of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts and Mike Ettlinger of Washington D.C.-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. 'You can have your own press conference afterwards.'...

St. George has crashed at least one Cellucci tax-cut press conference in recent months.

"Press conference jostling the latest wrinkle in state tax cut fight"
State House News Service
Sep. 25, 2000

"We don't need left-wing think tanks from Washington, D.C., telling Massachusetts taxpayers what to do with their own money."

Paul Melkonian
Chairman, Tax Rollback Committee
Boston Globe - Sep. 26, 2000

In its news release, TEAM (Tax Everything And More) called it an "independent analysis" ... even though Jimmy St. George of TEAM co-authored it.

Independent of what, truth?

Independent of reality?

Independent my assets!

TEAM complained that its opposition -- us -- would dare to interrupt their news conference. How unfair, how "rude."

But we've never had one at which Jimmy St. George failed to show. He was there at the Secretary of State's office when we turned in our petitions and he had the apparent audacity to engage in debate with state Sen. Brian Lees at "our" event.

I wonder if that was "rude" too?

And what's with their silly "benefit the wealthy" mantra?

The "temporary" income tax hike was an increase of the 5 percent tax rate ... on every taxpayer. Every taxpayer saw his or her tax increased by the same rate, for the same period of time. The promise that it would be for "only 18-months," that it was only "temporary," was made to every taxpayer; every one of us regardless of income.

The Gimme Lobby didn't object back then.

Of course when we finally keep the promise it will also effect every taxpayer equally -- just as the "temporary" increase did.

Those being soaked the most for the past eleven years will be soaked just that much less when the rate is rolled back, as promised. "The wealthy" will benefit no more and no less than every other taxpayer. They will still pay a whole lot more taxes than the less wealthy.

The Gimme Lobby will never comprehend or accept it, but when everybody is burdened or benefits equally it's called ... fairness.

They have never wanted tax fairness. Five times over the years they've put a proposed Graduated Income Tax on the ballot. Under their Grad Tax plan, the more you earned, the higher your tax rate would be. Five times the voters have overwhelmingly defeated the Gimme Lobby's "risky tax scheme."

Their class-warfare argument is nothing more than a stealth attempt to sneak their Graduated Income Tax in through the back door, despite the consistent rejection of it -- and them -- by the voters.

The Gimme Lobby's constant whining is not working. Their desperate tactics of fear and class-warfare are recognized and being publicly exposed by many in the media.

Soon all the Gimme Lobby will have remaining to work with is the truth ... and they know from their five failed attempts to achieve their Grad Tax honestly, they simply can't win with the truth.

Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Proposed tax cuts aid rich, report says
By Regina Montague
Globe Correspondent

A labor-backed coalition opposed to a tax rollback proposal on the November ballot released a report yesterday saying that the tax cuts are targeted to benefit the wealthy.

Question 4 on the state ballot proposes rolling back the tax rate from 5.85 percent to 5 percent in Massachusetts.

"We say 'yes' to tax cuts, but 'no' to this tax cut because the benefits go to the wealthy," said James R. St. George, education director of the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts, which released the report.

Downplaying the report, however, were supporters of the proposal championed by Governor Paul Cellucci. Paul A. Melkonian, chairman of the Tax Rollback Committee, called the report a sham, and accused the coalition of trying to incite "class warfare."

The Tax Equity Alliance has raised $850,000 from unions and businesses.

The report says that the top 1 percent of Massachusetts taxpayers, those with an average income of $1.3 million, would receive 18 percent of the total savings, with an average tax saving of $5,800 per year.

Voting "yes" on Question 4, will not provide the average family of four with a savings of $500 as the state Department of Revenue reports, but rather a savings of $220, according to the report prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy for the coalition.

And while the revenue department has released estimates that Question 4 would cost the state approximately $1.2 billion, the coalition says that about $250 million of that savings would revert to the federal treasury, said Michael P. Ettlinger, a tax policy director at the institute. That would reduce the savings to the taxpayers to $950 million, he said.

Ultimately, voters will decide the outcome of Cellucci's proposed tax rollback, which Melkonian said would benefit middle-income families.

"Our figures come from the Department of Revenue," Melkonian said. "That has more credibility than what's presented by people who have a vested interest in the outcome.

"We don't need left-wing think tanks from Washington, D.C., telling Massachusetts taxpayers what to do with their own money." 

State House News Service
Monday, September 25, 2000

Press conference jostling the latest wrinkle
in state tax cut fight

By Trevor Hughes

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 25, 2000 ... Tax-cutters and tax-cut skeptics on Monday jousted over who will benefit from Gov. Paul Cellucci's $1.2 billion income tax rollback initiative, as Cellucci supporters crashed a press conference called by forces who hope to defeat the November ballot plan.

The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future coalition, which is opposing a pair of tax cuts on the November ballot, called the morning press conference to showcase a report authored by a liberal-backed think-tank. The report says taxpayers in middle-income wage brackets will save $170 a year if voters cut the income tax rate to 5 percent. The governor says his cut will save the "average working family" nearly $500.

The liberal-backed CMF has challenged Cellucci to a series of high-profile but as-yet unscheduled debates. And today, Cellucci tax-cut campaign chairman Paul Melkonian appeared overeager for the fight as he interrupted a press conference outside the State House press gallery. Melkonian eventually drew a sharp rebuke from opposing campaign director Jack McCarthy.

"That's rude to interrupt like that," McCarthy told Melkonian after he tried to jump into a question-and-answer session between reporters and study authors Jim St. George of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts and Mike Ettlinger of Washington D.C.-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. "You can have your own press conference afterwards."

Cellucci is locked in a fierce battle with the state's Democratic establishment and labor unions over the tax cut. The sides are trying to sway voters who will decide on the Cellucci tax cut, and two others, at the November elections. In recent years, state coffers have swelled with massive surpluses generated by the booming economy. The state currently has $1.4 billion in its "rainy day" fund, to help cover any financial shortfalls that would accompany unexpected events, such as a recession or economic slump.

In the eight-page report, Ettlinger and St. George say the richest 1 percent of residents, who have average annual incomes of $1.3 million, would save about $5,804 if voters approve Cellucci's cut. The poorest 20 percent of residents would save just $8 annually, the report said.

Said St. George: "If somebody were saving $500, they might be much be more inclined to forgo the opportunity to invest in their schools or in community hospitals or nursing homes. When people find out we're talking 45, 50 cents a day, they might be much more inclined to say, wait a minute, I don't need a tax cut that bad." St. George has crashed at least one Cellucci tax-cut press conference in recent months.

Later in the day, Cellucci said "I don't care" if the rich get a tax cut as part of his plan. "If the rich people get a tax cut, that's not going to affect whether they can pay their fuel oil bill this winter. If their fuel oil bill goes up 1,000 percent, they can still pay it," he said. "If you're a middle-class taxpayer who gets a $400 tax cut, that's really going to help you. The rich people can pay the bills no matter what."

Cellucci made the income tax rollback initiative into a personal crusade last spring after state lawmakers repeatedly refused to accede to his legislative proposals lowering residents' taxes. Cellucci says the cut will maintain the booming economy, limit government spending and maintain a decades-old promise to reduce the income tax rate.

Also on the November ballot are binding questions letting voters decide to rebate $600 million in Masspike tolls and auto excise taxes, and a $60 million reduction for people who make charitable deductions. The Democrat-dominated Legislature argues that the first two reductions are unaffordable, but approved an identical version of the charitable giving reduction this summer. CMF says the money Cellucci wants to give back to voters would be better spent improving schools and shoring up the state's financially troubled health care system.

Melkonian dismissed the new analysis of the governor's tax cut plan, saying, "All these guys are in cahoots," and that they "want to keep government growing." He added that, using the $500 savings figure, taxpayers who invested their savings over 20 years would end up with more than $20,000. "That's a lot of money for college," he said.

Voters looking for the straight story on the value of the tax cuts won't find one easily. Even in Secretary of State William Galvin's voter information packet, which has been mailed around the state, opponents say the tax cut will cost the state $2.7 billion over four years, while supporters say it will cost $1.2 billion "when fully implemented." There's no explanation of the discrepancy in the arguments authored by the Democratic and GOP members of the Legislature's Taxation Committee.

Another onlooker at Monday's press conference kept quiet, but beamed afterward. "We're delighted that Jim St. George has come around to our way of thinking," said Harold Hubschman, of the "Free the Pike" initiative. "Our initiative is going to reduce revenues by $400 million a year, and the majority of that money is going to go to lower- and middle-class taxpayers. Whether you drive a Mercedes or a Dodge Dart, you still pay the same when you go through the tollbooth."

Hubschman said he estimates his reduction will cost the state as much as $200 million in toll payments and local governments $350 million in auto excise taxes; earlier estimates of $600 million are too high because many drivers won't bother to keep all their toll receipts, as the initiative requires, he said. Also, out-of-state drivers won't bother to send in the necessary paperwork, Hubschman said. CMF opposes "Free the Pike" on the grounds that it's "cumbersome, complicated and confusing." On its website, CMF makes no financial arguments against "Free the Pike."

Associated Press
Monday, September 25, 2000

Voters to decide fate of $1.2 billion tax cut 
By Steve Leblanc

BOSTON (AP) When Bay State voters step into the voting booth in November, they will be asked to decide one of the most divisive issues on Beacon Hill: Do Massachusetts taxpayers deserve a $1.2 billion tax cut?

At stake is the political reputation of Gov. Paul Cellucci, the political ambitions of a half dozen Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls and the political clout of groups who favor or oppose the measure.

But for voters, the decision will likely come down to a simple choice: Would they rather keep the few hundred dollars the average family will save by lowering the income tax rate from 5.85 percent to 5 percent or would they rather let the state decide how to spend the money?

Exactly how much taxpayers will save is one of the most contentious parts of the debate.

On Monday, opponents of the tax cut released a study they said shows the typical family of four would save only about $220 a year.

The study also found that the top 1 percent of taxpayers in Massachusetts would save more than the bottom 60 percent combined.

"The benefits go to the wealthy," said James St. George of the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts.

Supporters of the cut say a family of four making $60,000 would save between $450 and $500 enough money to help save for college or pay off high heating bills.

"This is a tax cut for every taxpayer," Cellucci said. "The vast majority of this will go to middle-class families who need it the most."

Cellucci said there is another principle at stake: honesty.

The Legislature approved the tax increase during the fiscal crisis of the late 1980s. Cellucci, who was serving in the state Senate at the time, said lawmakers promised to reduce the rate back to 5 percent when the crisis ended.

With the state now enjoying budget surpluses and low unemployment, the Legislature should make good on that promise, Cellucci said.

Senate President Thomas Birmingham, an opponent of the tax cut, said there is nothing in the legislation itself promising a cut in the tax rate once the economy improved.

"The Legislature makes a promise in legislation, not in description, not by prediction. I reviewed the legislation. There was no promise," Birmingham said.

Birmingham said a fairer tax cut would mirror one he authored doubling the personal exemption. That tax cut cost the state about $500 million and saves joint filers about $250 regardless of how much they pay in taxes.

For Cellucci, the question is a risky gamble. If voters approve it, he can argue the Democratically controlled Legislature is out of touch. If the question is defeated, Cellucci could find himself marginalized.

Cellucci is deliberately raising the stakes. This summer he challenged six top Democrats to debate him on the issue.

Five have accepted, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Steve Grossman, state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, Secretary of State William Galvin and Birmingham all possible gubernatorial candidates in 2002.

Although at least one poll has shown voters favoring the tax cut, it is not a sure thing. In 1990, a similar tax cut ballot question was defeated 58 percent to 39 percent.

Both sides have been raising money at a quick pace to promote their positions.

The Campaign for Massachusetts' Future, which opposes the tax cut, has pulled in the most about $911,000.

Much of that has come in donations from unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($200,000), the Boston Teacher Union ($100,000), the Massachusetts Teachers Association ($75,000).

The three groups which support the question have raised about $493,000. Much of that has come corporations and business groups like Goodrich Properties in Boston ($100,000) and the Massachusetts High Tech Council ($97,500).

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