CLT Update
Wednesday, March 21, 2001

"People who live in glass houses" (and senates) ...


Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Contact:  Barbara Anderson - (508) 384-0100

"People who live in glass houses" (and senates) ...

According to the State House News Service, senate budget leaders are accusing the Cellucci administration of "hypocrisy" because it proposes to spend more tobacco settlement "trust fund" money. State Sen. Mark Montigny said that "if Cellucci had been more forthcoming when he promoted Question 4, it would not be necessary to spend 70 percent of the tobacco trust money." Montigny also accused the administration of going out "for political gain" when it told the public it "could live with Question 4, without any effort."

Let's see if we have this right. Certain members of the Legislature -- that was not "forthcoming" either when it "temporarily" raised the income tax rate in 1989-90 or when it supported a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the tobacco companies and which, by definition, lives for political gain -- are accusing the Cellucci administration of ... hypocrisy?

And what is this "effort" that is required to spend the tobacco settlement "trust money"? If Beacon Hill leaders were "forthcoming," they would admit that the lawsuit was specifically justified to reimburse taxpayers for money they already had paid in Medicaid bills. Instead, legislators want to hold the reimbursement money until they can spend it for their own "political gain" on whatever their particular supporters want.

Massachusetts taxpayers should be getting their Question 4 income tax rollback and a tax cut reflecting the entire $8.3 billion reimbursement. We know better than to expect the latter. We wish Sen. Montigny and his budget leaders would stop whining about the former. We and the governor won fair and square. Let's move on.

P.S. On the subject of hypocrisy, let Sen. Montigny and "budget leaders" support S. 1734 -- the Voluntary Tax check-off -- so they can choose to pay the higher, pre-Question 4 rate themselves.

State House News Service
Monday, March 19, 2001

Tobacco $$$, budget riders, IG plan draw attention
at budget hearing

By Michael C. Levenson

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAR. 19, 2001 Senate budget leaders accused the Cellucci administration of "hypocrisy" by proposing to spend more tobacco trust fund money, reduce budget riders, and eliminate the office of the Inspector General.

Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said if Cellucci had been "more forthcoming" when he promoted Question 4, the $1.2 billion income tax rollback approved by voters in November, it would not be necessary to spend 70 percent of the tobacco trust money. Current law stipulates 30 percent of the funds be spent and 70 percent put in an endowment.

"You've put us in this spot, you as an administration went out for political gain and told the public that we could live with Question 4, without any effort," Montigny said.

As the Senate prepares its budget, Montigny said he might eventually agree to commit more tobacco trust fund money to operating expenses because of reduced tax revenue caused by the tax cut. "Unfortunately, they've now put us in the spot, where we are going to have a real difficult time" funding programs, he said. "The administration should have been much more forthcoming in the Question 4 debate."

While Cellucci and his lieutenant governor, Jane Swift, are no longer calling for new tax cuts, they have joined the Democrat-controlled Legislature in enacting more than 40 tax cuts over the past ten years. During that time, tax revenues and state spending soared but with the economy slowing and the major income tax cut kicking in, Democrats and Republicans are now worried about making fiscal ends meet.

Massachusetts is due to receive more than $8 billion over the next 25 years as part of a national settlement concerning Medicaid-related costs of treating smokers. Administration and Finance Secretary Stephen Crosby, said spending tobacco settlement money to aid urgent health care needs is prudent, regardless of the status of tax collections.

"There is a very serious misimpression that you are conveying," Crosby said at a Monday morning budget hearing. "We feel that it's our job to spend as little public money as we can, and when there's this great big pot of money sitting there that was meant to solve health care crises, this seemed to us the right thing to do."

Montigny also scoffed at Cellucci's proposal to reduce budget riders because, he said, the governor has relied on riders as much as lawmakers in recent years. Riders, also called outside sections, are non-budgetary items tacked onto the budget, often without debate or much public disclosure.

"They've submitted hundreds of them over the years, so it was ironic to see the posturing," Montigny said. "I think it's wrong to be a hypocrite."

"We're not looking to lay blame, we're looking to solve a problem," said Administration and Finance spokesperson Dominick Ianno.

Crosby acknowledged the administration has used outside sections but said it's time for all Beacon Hill budget writers to stop the practice. He said outside sections are "an odd way to do business" that "have become abused over time, and have allowed laws to pass underneath the radar of public scrutiny."

Eliminating them, he said, is part of an overall campaign, along with a voter-approved public campaign financing law, to make government more open and accessible.

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