STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 10, 2001 ... Victorious income tax
cutters today offered to let opponents give their money back to the government, but affronted lawmakers and activists declared
the proposal an "obscene joke" that's "dripping with sarcasm."
Citizens for Limited Taxation, which led last year's successful ballot campaign to roll back the income tax
to 5 percent, is now pushing a bill (S.1734) to allow people to refuse their tax cut through a voluntary
check-off on their state tax returns.
CLT Associate Director Chip Faulkner said that while 59
percent of citizens voted for the income tax cut, more than 1 million voted "no." Those people should have the opportunity to
make good on their campaign arguments that the money would be better spent on schools and health care, he said.
If all the people who voted "no" donated their income tax
cut, state government could retain between $400 million and $600 million of the $1.2 billion the tax cut, which is being
phased in over three years, Faulkner said.
"We want to make everyone a winner on the tax rollback,"
Faulkner told the Taxation Committee today. "It's really targeted tax hikes for people who want to pay more."
Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Douglas Petersen
(D-Marblehead), who voted against the income tax cut, seemed annoyed by what he called a "tongue in cheek" proposal. "It
seemed to me there was some guilt behind it, that somehow you felt badly that you won," Petersen said.
Faulkner dismissed that notion. "I've never felt guilty
about beating liberals at ballot questions," he said.
Petersen fired back: "You have to admit there's some sarcasm. It's dripping with sarcasm."
Faulkner countered, "Maybe we're exposing the hypocrisy of
people opposed to the tax cut."
Committee Co-chairman Rep. Paul Casey (D-Winchester) cut the
exchange short, and moved on to testimony on other bills. But the issue resurfaced some time later when CLT chief Barbara
Anderson arrived at the hearing, fresh from watching the gubernatorial transition.
Settling herself at the witness table, Anderson turned to
Petersen, who is her representative, and said, "I understand you were saying something about tongue in cheek and sarcasm."
Petersen said, "I was questioning the motives behind the legislation."
Casey stepped in again and said, "We're not accustomed to
being asked questions. We're just here to hear testimony."
Anderson conceded that sarcasm is her "favorite type" of
humor, but she added, "This really isn't about that." CLT likes to talk about "concepts," particularly the concept of more
voter choice, she said. "Besides the sense of fun that I admit CLT has, we are serious," Anderson said.
Anderson's counterpart in the opposition, James St. George
of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, refused to attend the hearing today and "dignify" the bill with a response.
Reached at his office, St. George said he would have "eagerly" given up the tax cut in favor of state services, but now that
the voters have spoken, "what I do personally is irrelevant," he said.
"It's a joke," St. George said. "All they're doing is
yanking the chain of reporters, getting cheap media coverage. It borders on being an obscene joke."
But the lead legislative sponsor isn't laughing. Sen. Jo Ann
Sprague (R-Walpole), a member of the committee, said at the hearing, "I'm not funny. I'm serious and hard-working, but I'm
not funny. To me, this bill is extremely serious, or I never would have agreed to file this."
Sprague said she stands with the majority of voters who
wanted an income tax cut, but she added that she feels for her constituents who "believe in their hearts" that the money would
have been better spent on schools, health care, and police and firefighters.
"Why not look at giving them a voice?" Sprague said. "This
is the most basic principle of our democracy."