CLT Update
Monday, February 5, 2001

Consistency, not situational ethics

Over the weekend, CLT's associate director, Chip Faulkner, went over the voting lists in the towns allegedly represented by state Senator Richard T. Moore, who last week floated the trial balloon that our successful tax rollback was suddenly open to legislative consideration and debate. He found:

"Senator Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) non-represents 13 towns, all in Worcester County except for Bellingham. These 13 towns collectively voted for the tax rollback, Question 4, better than 2-1, with a "yes" vote of almost 67 percent. This is eight percentage points higher than the statewide average of 59 percent.

"In fact, three of his towns (Charlton, Douglas, and Mendon) voted more than 70 percent for the tax rollback. To illustrate how strong support was for this ballot question: The lowest "yes" vote in his district was Southbridge which still gave it 60 percent!

"Talk about taxpayers without representation!"

Today's Boston Herald editorial also sums up CLT's position on the issue of initiative petitions that make it to the ballot and are approved by the voters. We too opposed the Clean Elections ballot question, but it won, big. Fight passionately for your position during the campaign, but -- win or lose -- if they're passed, then we've always pulled out the stops to defend the initiative process. If one initiative can be meddled with or ignored by the Legislature, any and all initiatives can be.

Consistency, not situational ethics.

Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Monday, February 5, 2001

Pols must listen when voters speak
A Boston Herald editorial

Some legislators just don't get it -- and maybe never will.

Oh, sure, they whine and wail when voters take matters into their own hands and pass one referendum after another -- a tax cut, a Clean Elections Law. They somehow fail repeatedly to make the connection between the utter frustration of voters who can't get their will done on Beacon Hill and the need of citizens to resort to voter-initiated lawmaking. (Is there a simple connect-the-dots book we could get them?)

In 1998 voters opted for a Clean Elections Law which provides public money to politicians who voluntarily restrict their campaign fund-raising as called for in the law. This newspaper opposed the referendum on the grounds that it offends our sensibilities to have to bribe politicians with public money in order to keep them honest. But our side lost; the forces in favor of public financing won. End of story.

This past November the citizens of Massachusetts voted to give themselves a tax cut, with a phased-in proposal that will bring the tax rate back down to 5 percent -- the rate it was when the Legislature approved a "temporary" tax hike back in 1989. This referendum we endorsed, as did many other newspapers and civic organizations. It was approved overwhelmingly. Again, end of story.

But we are dealing here with the Massachusetts Legislature, which numbers among its members the truly clueless.

So both of these voter-passed laws are under fire.

Some House incumbents are trying to figure out how they can have their cake and eat it too on the issue of public finance of campaigns. Some apparently want to be able to dip into that pool of public money while preserving some of their rights to take special interest money (just not too, too close to the election). It's a hideously cynical ploy.

In the Senate it's the tax cut that could be endangered. Never mind that 60 percent of the state's voters approved it. Now some senators think the tax cut should be tied to economic "triggers." The Senate had a chance to do that last year, before the voters took matters into their own hands. It didn't. It surely can't revisit the issue now -- after the people have spoken.

Senate President Tom Birmingham (D-Chelsea) has wisely disavowed efforts to tinker with the tax cut.

"The voters having passed Question 4, my very strong predisposition is that we ought to live with what they passed," Birmingham told the State House News Service. "This is a matter that was fully and fairly debated before the people of the commonwealth."

We will take the Senate president at his word. And let's face it, a would-be gubernatorial candidate doesn't need to take on a fight against 60 percent of the voting public.

Tinkering with either referendum would touch off a political war the likes of which this state has never seen before.

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