CLT Update
Friday, August 3, 2001

"CLT sizing up new tax plan"

State House News Service
Wednesday, August 1, 2001

CLT sizing up new tax plan

A well-respected anti-tax organization that fought successfully last year for the largest income tax cut in the state's history, is, for now, not taking a stand on a new, more sweeping tax cut proposal.

Barbara Anderson, director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said her organization has not yet staked a position on a new ballot initiative backed by libertarian activists to completely eliminate Massachusetts' income tax.

Supporters say the cut would cost $9 billion a year.

For democracy's sake, Anderson said she supports the activists' efforts to get the question on the ballot, but she needs to hear more debate before taking a position on the proposal itself.

"On the one hand, we're aware it's an awful lot of money," she said Wednesday. "We're not talking a tax cut, we're talking about a revolution from big government to smaller government."

Anderson said the CLT board may at some point vote on the plan. "We're revolutionaries, too, and we'd like to see the whole system changed," she said. "We'll ask our members what position they want us to take."

State House News Service
Friday, August 3, 2001

Frustration with courts and Legislature
fuels new ballot campaigns

By Michael C. Levenson

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 2, 2001 ... A lawsuit by seven gay couples seeking the right to marry and a lack of legislative action at the State House has led activists to the ballot in their fight to preserve marriage for heterosexuals only.

"People are tired of the courts not fairly representing their views and now the courts will have to take notice of the people," says Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage Chairman Bryan Rudnick. "The overwhelming majority of Massachusetts voters believe protecting marriage means one man and one woman."

That assertion will be tested if the question reaches the voters, in 2004 at the earliest.

In turning to the ballot, activists campaigning on a smorgasbord of issues this year seem to share a common bond: frustration with the courts or the Legislature.

Seventeen different questions have been filed with the state Attorney General, from measures to eradicate bilingual education to other proposals to eliminate the state income tax and guarantee health coverage for all. Massachusetts is one of 24 states that allows citizens to make laws by ballot initiative.

Activists are boldly stating their displeasure with the Legislature by pushing another question to take away lawmakers' health care benefits unless they enact universal health care coverage.

To place a question on the ballot, the Attorney General must approve the language first. Then, supporters must gather 57,100 signatures. For constitutional amendments, the question must also be approved by a one-quarter vote in successive Legislatures.

Libertarians hoping to eliminate the state income tax say lawmakers will never support the idea, so it's time to go the voters. "[The Legislature's] only interest is increasing revenues to the state," said Carla Howell, a former Libertarian US Senate candidate. "We have a chance," she said. "We know that a tax cut this bold is a long shot, but long shots can and do succeed."

Ron Unz, a California businessman who has successfully financed ballot campaigns to scrap bilingual education in his home state and Arizona, is now focused on Massachusetts, where, he says, "numerous attempts over decades by several governors and uncounted legislators at reforming or modifying that failure have left it absolutely unscratched." So Unz, like many of the activists this year, is heading to the ballot, where, he predicts in one of his frequent email alerts, "this whole massive system is likely to vanish without a trace within just fifteen months."

Unz has battled charges that his campaigns are anti-immigrant, but if test scores are any measure, he has come out on top. Test results from former bilingual education students in California indicate they fare better in English-only classes, a finding that brought vindication for Unz and confounded skeptics.

But critics still have their doubts. Rep. Jarret Barrios (D-Cambridge) has filed a rival ballot initiative, he said, "to give parents, children and schools real choices in bilingual education." Barrios, a bilingual education supporter, said, "One size fits all, as Mr. Unz sees it or as the current law describes, is not what's best for our children."

Paid family leave, a union priority, has circulated for years in the Legislature, with limited success. Now, the AFL-CIO, backed by US Sen. Edward Kennedy is aiming for the ballot.

"We have a back-up plan," says Sarah Nathan, a union spokeswoman. "We're going to take it to the voters." Their proposal would require businesses to pay $20 per worker, and then take advantage of various tax credits, to fund up to 12 weeks of paid time off for parents of a new baby or adoptee.

Activists also use the ballot to pry loose stuck legislation. A citizens' coalition from Freetown has launched a campaign to ban the dumping of coal ash into unlined landfills. Local backers say ash dumped in Freetown is leeching arsenic into the water supply, and they fear their bill is being blocked at the State House.

"The only reason we filed our petition is to keep our options open if the bill doesn't get admitted," said John McNabb Jr., an advocate working on the campaign.

Frustration with traditional channels of legislative action is also driving activists trying to lower local speed limits. "I spent a year trying to address this with MassHighway and town officials," says David Kapturowski, a West Newbury engineer who is spearheading the campaign.

Activists campaigning against a planned runway at Logan Airport are hoping to make the Massachusetts Port Authority Board an elected, not appointed body. That change, they say, may shift the board's adamant support for the runway.

Another proposal being advocated this year is a ban on slaughtering horses for food. Although the meat may repulse many Americans, backers say foreign demand for American horsemeat is growing, especially in Europe, where mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease have devastated livestock.

History shows not every proposed question will make it on the ballot. In 2000, only six of 33 petitions filed made it, and only two of 26 in 1998, according to the Attorney General's office. In addition to legal disqualifications, some questions are laid aside when campaign leaders aren't able to collect enough signatures.

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