CLT Update
Wednesday, July 4, 2001

225th Independence Day

Gov. Swift violating her "No New Taxes" pledge

Happy Independence Day, folks!

But before you start feeling too independent, there's some shocking news, reported today by the Boston Herald: "Swift eyeing tax for family leave" [below].

First it was "tax relief for low-income families" who pay no income tax, out of the pockets of taxpayers who do, depriving the latter of a legitimate return from the Tax Reduction Fund.

Now, Acting Governor Jane Swift is proposing a new payroll tax on everybody and calling it a "user fee."

Her re-election campaign is becoming mighty expensive.

Arguing that it won't violate Swift's "No New Taxes" pledge, an "administration source" said "It's different because it doesn't go to the state." Now there's a difference without a distinction!

Governor Swift took the "No New Taxes" pledge. This proposal is a violation of it.

Governor Jane Swift is becoming downright Clintonesque.

Before you read this about face by the Swift administration, we've provided you with the state Supreme Judicial Court's definition of a fee. You decide: is her proposal a fee, or is it a tax in sheep's clothing?

Happy Independence Day indeed.

Chip Ford

March 14, 1984

Fees imposed by a governmental entity tend to fall into one of two principal categories: user fees, based on the rights of the entity as proprietor of the instrumentalities used, or regulatory fees (including licensing and inspection fees), founded on the police power to regulate particular businesses or activities.

Such fees share common traits that distinguish them from taxes:

  • they are charged in exchange for a particular governmental service which benefits the party paying the fee in a manner "not shared by other members of society";

  • they are paid by choice, in that the party paying the fee has the option of not utilizing the governmental service and thereby avoiding the charge, and;

  • the charges are collected not to raise revenues but to compensate the governmental entity providing the services for its expenses.

The Boston Herald
Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Swift eyeing tax for family leave
by Ellen J. Silberman and Joe Battenfeld

Acting Gov. Jane M. Swift is considering imposing a tax on Bay State workers and businesses to create a paid family leave program, sources say.

Swift is seriously considering requiring all workers in Massachusetts to buy temporary disability insurance to be used by new mothers as well as workers who become sick or injured, administration sources said.

Administration officials are still trying to figure out how to split the cost of the massive new insurance program between workers, businesses and the state.

But aides say the new program wouldn't violate Swift's "No New Tax" pledge.

"It's different because it doesn't go to the state," said an administration source, comparing the insurance payments to a "user fee."

Swift, who is currently on her own fully paid $2,500-a-week "working maternity leave," has made creating a paid leave program for other mothers a top priority.

Yesterday she rejected House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's plan to give tax breaks to companies that offer family leave as ineffective.

"A tax credit doesn't guarantee that everybody will have access to a program," said Swift, who gave birth to twin girls on May 15.

An administration source said Swift doesn't believe Finneran's plan to give 20 percent tax credits to companies that pay new parents up to half their salaries for four to six weeks would add significantly to the number of companies that already offer family leave benefits.

An aide to Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham echoed that concern. "(Birmingham) has concerns about whether a 20 percent state contribution will change employer offered benefits or simply subsidize those who already offer those benefits," said his spokesman Allison Franklin.

But since disability insurance would not cover adoptive parents or new fathers, Swift is likely to turn to a tax break or similar incentive to encourage companies to offer paid leave to them.

"Tax credits could be part of the proposal," Swift said yesterday.

Swift said her aides were working to craft a leave plan that would "provide (family) leave to those who currently don't haveaccess to it and who are of lesser economic means."

At the same time, said Swift, she doesn't want to burden businesses because we "need to remain economically competitive so we don't eliminate the jobs that folks want to take a leave from."

Swift's program is expected to be modeled in part on Rhode Island's temporary disability insurance program, which is funded entirely by mandatory employee contributions through a payroll deduction.

But Swift said yesterday she planned to come up with a unique program.

"There's not one good model," she said. "We're trying to cobble together a variety of different things that other states are doing."

Swift, who has been running the state by remote control since she was hospitalized in early labor on May 8, spent several hours in Boston yesterday joining Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a West Roxbury press conference and presiding over the weekly Governor's Council meeting.

She is spending this week with her extended family at a vacation rental in North Falmouth.

"It's a nice time for my family to spend together particularly before I go back to work," said Swift, who has been signing the paperwork necessary to keep the state running from her Williamstown farm.

Swift has repeatedly adjusted the length of her paid leave -- an option not available to other working moms.

Last month she said she didn't expect to be back in the State House full time until September. Yesterday she said she'd be "back on a full schedule ... by the first of August."

Sources say Swift wants to unveil her family leave proposal soon after she returns to work.

As lieutenant governor, Swift pushed to expand paid family leave for state workers, who get two weeks of paid leave for maternity, paternity and adoptions as well as up to a year of unpaid leave.

"I don't think the state and the public sector should dictate to the private sector until we've taken care of our own responsibilities for our own employees," she said yesterday.

Currently, companies are not required to provide any paid maternity leave but under federal law must allow up to 12 weeks unpaid leave.

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