CLT Update
Friday, September 7, 2001

Thank you CLT Minuteman Norm Paley,
and courageous Rep. Vinny deMacedo:
Heroes both!

State House News Service
Thursday, September 6, 2001

Rep., Scituate citizen team up
to prevent spending bill from advancing

By Elisabeth J. Beardsley

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 6, 2001 ... Orthodontic lab technician Norm Paley rode to the rescue today when short-staffing at a gas station nearly caused a state lawmaker to miss his chance to put the brakes on a Beacon Hill spending bill filled with controversial policy issues.

The House of Representatives, in an informal session, was set to take up a bill aimed at spending most of the $550 million fiscal 2001 surplus. With a single member able to delay action during such informal sessions, Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) was set to stall the legislation by objecting to a provision allowing the state to avoid an automatic tax cut by raising the cap on the state's rainy day fund.

But an employee at deMacedo's R.W.A. Mobil station in Plymouth suddenly bailed out for a new job, leaving the representative in "a lurch" that was going to require him to spend the morning pumping gas instead of blocking laws.

So Citizens for Limited Taxation, which also opposes the cap hike, put out an SOS call to Paley, a Scituate resident who volunteers for the organization. And Paley, who is not deMacedo's constituent but knows the rep through the Plymouth County Republicans Club, took a half-day off from work and spent four hours filling motorists' tanks while deMacedo shot up to the State House.

Reached on a cell phone this afternoon on his way to Quincy to meet with a doctor, Paley said he's just an ordinary citizen who pitched in to help out a fellow Republican in a pinch.

"I'm well aware of the deficiency budget, but even if there was no deficiency budget and I got a call saying Vinny needed some help down there, I'd have done it," said Paley, adding that business this morning was brisk but not crazy.

The House met for about 45 minutes, with deMacedo hovering in front of the rostrum from gavel to gavel. The deficiency budget never came up. DeMacedo, reached this afternoon back at his gas station, said Speaker Thomas Finneran (D-Mattapan) was well aware he intended to object. Major policy issues like altering the Rainy Day Fund cap should be formally debated before the entire body, not slipped through during a sparsely attended informal session, deMacedo said.

"It's important to have it out there where everyone can see what's going on," deMacedo said. "I think it should be discussed in front of everybody, then let the chips fall where they may."

CLT chief Barbara Anderson praised deMacedo, who she called a "hero," and Paley, who's going to receive a CLT award for "valiant effort on behalf of the taxpayers." Anderson said it's "bizarre" enough that lawmakers are still trying to spend money for a fiscal year that ended two months ago. But if they're going to try to deny taxpayers an automatic tax cut by raising the Rainy Day Fund cap, they should at least have to go on the record in a roll call vote, she said.

"They shouldn't be doing this in an informal session," Anderson said. "We figured, let's just stop it all until they can have a formal session."

It may well come to that, said Finneran spokesman Charlie Rasmussen. The House is going to try to take the bill up again during Monday's informal session, and if deMacedo objects -- which he promised he would -- then the House will call a formal session, Rasmussen said.

Beyond deMacedo's threatened objection, the deficiency budget simply wasn't ready for passage today, Rasmussen said. House and Senate negotiators are still trying to work out major differences in both the bottom line and policy priorities, he said. The comptroller has warned that the Legislature has to spend the money by Sept. 15 or lose some of it to a tax cut, Rasmussen said.

"There's a lot of differences between the two budgets, but people are working on it trying to reach some resolution," Rasmussen said. "Hopefully on Monday we'll have that."

There may be differences, but both branches agree on hiking the Stabilization Fund cap. The virtual certainty of that provision reaching Acting Gov. Jane Swift's desk brought a promise of a veto today.

"The governor does oppose raising the cap," said Swift spokesman Jason Kauppi. "That would stop money from automatically going into the taxpayer fund."

The House and Senate also agree to use surplus cash to set up "mini-Stabilization Funds" to buffer against hard economic times over the next two years. The Senate offers $100 million and the House proposes $150 million, but the branches are on the same page conceptually, which has caused grumbling among some Republicans.

"Those minis are just a way to end-run (the automatic tax cut)," said Rep. Brian Cresta (R-Wakefield), who President Bush appointed today to serve as regional health and human services director.

Swift hasn't decided whether to veto the mini-funds, Kauppi said, but she's considering it, given that the state already has about $4 billion squirreled away in reserve funds. "You're getting to a point where you're probably taking too much away from taxpayers," Kauppi said.

And Swift's veto pen is poised to eradicate any part of the deficiency budget that she doesn't consider a "proper" use of taxpayer money, Kauppi said. "I understand there's quite a bit of pork in there, rather than priorities," Kauppi said.

Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D-Chelsea) and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) could not be reached for comment.

Associated Press
Thursday, September 6. 2001

With Statehouse vote looming,
an activist steps in at the pump

By John Mcelhenny

BOSTON (AP) Vinny deMacedo pumps gas five mornings a week before driving to Beacon Hill for his other day job as a state lawmaker, but on Thursday, he had a problem.

With his father ill and unable to man the station, deMacedo couldn't get to the Statehouse for what he expected would be a crucial vote on a proposal to allow the Legislature to collect more taxpayer money.

Enter Norm Paley, technician at a Scituate dental lab.

Summoned by his friends at Citizens for Limited Taxation, an anti-tax watchdog group, Paley rushed over to deMacedo's Mobil station for a crash course in gas-pumping so deMacedo could make it to Beacon Hill in time.

"I knew that Vinny had to be at the Statehouse," said Paley, 56.

DeMacedo, meanwhile, drove up from Plymouth in time to thwart an expected attempt by House leaders to raise the limit on the amount of money the Legislature's rainy-day fund can hold before it is returned to taxpayers.

CLT believes the state's surplus tax revenues should be returned to taxpayers, not socked away in a rainy-day fund that already holds almost $1.8 billion.

Because the House was in informal session on Thursday, a single vote could have blocked the move. With DeMacedo, R-Plymouth, in the House chamber ready to block the move, the issue never came up.

"Rep. deMacedo's the hero of the day," said Barbara Anderson, CLT's executive director.

Paley is also set to win an award, for "valiant effort on behalf of taxpayers," Anderson said. Paley said he spent three or four hours at deMacedo's Mobil station, pumping gas, running credit cards, and even washing one car's windows.

"I stayed far away from the cash register," he said. Another employee rang up the sales.

The Legislature is currently considering whether to raise the limit at which money in the state's rainy-day fund automatically goes back to taxpayers.

The rainy-day fund now has about $1.8 billion, close to the limit, but some lawmakers would like to raise the limit so they can save the money or use it for other programs.

A spokesman for House Speaker Tom Finneran, D-Boston, said the issue didn't come up for a vote on Thursday because House and Senate negotiators hadn't agreed on a bill that would include the change.

DeMacedo said it's impossible to know if his presence kept the issue from coming up, but he wanted to make sure he was there to block it, just in case.

Instead, the issue will likely come up next week during a formal debate, when more lawmakers are present to debate the change.

Back at RWA Mobil, which he has owned for the last 10 years, deMacedo says he's already gotten a couple calls answering the job ad he placed last week, so he's not likely to need Norm Paley to fill in again.

But deMacedo, 35, says he'll still be out manning the pumps every weekday from 6 to 8 a.m. in his own version of "office hours."

"It's very easy on Beacon Hill to forget the people," he said. "This gives me a chance to stay in touch."

The Patriot Ledger
Quincy, Mass.
Friday, September 7, 2001

Anti-tax group praises technician for pumping gas
By Joe McGee

A Scituate orthodontic lab technician was lauded as a hero by tax conservatives yesterday for helping to stall a House bill to kill a tax cut.

Norm Paley, a volunteer for Citizens for Limited Taxation, did it by pumping gas.

"I was glad to be of help and I would do it next week if he needed help," said Paley, who filled in at state Rep. Vinny deMacedo's gas station when it became short-staffed yesterday.

Barbara Anderson, head of the anti-tax group, called Paley when she found out that deMacedo, R-Plymouth, could not make an informal house session to take up spending most of a $550 million fiscal 2001 surplus.

Group members wanted to stall the bill and sent it to a formal roll call vote because one provision would have allowed the state to avoid an automatic tax cut by raising the cap on the state's "rainy day" fund.

State lawmakers created the fund after the state's last economic downturn in the late 1980s.

The state has poured hundreds of millions into the fund to help Massachusetts weather another economic downturn. By law, the fund is capped at 7.5 percent of the state budget, or about $1.8 billion. The fund hit nearly $1.7 billion by mid-summer.

Critics have said raising the fund's cap is a way for lawmakers to avoid returning surplus money to taxpayers.

By law, once the rainy day fund is full, the money should go back to taxpayers through personal tax exemptions.

With only one vote needed to delay action on the tax bill, deMacedo was ready to travel from Plymouth to Boston early yesterday to vote against the provision until a temporary employee at his R.W.A. Mobil station calling in sick.

The Plymouth legislator normally pumps gas at the station from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. as a way to keep in regular contact with his constituents.

With no one ready to take his place at the pumps after 8 a.m., Paley came to the rescue.

Having known deMacedo for the last four years through the Plymouth County Republican Club, he rushed down to Plymouth so that deMacedo could shoot up to Boston.

"It was great, he has so many friendly people down there," Paley said. "I'm an orthodontic lab technician. I've never pumped gas before." Paley, 56, is chairman of Scituate's task force on taxes, and has helped with a Citizens for Limited Taxation signature drive.

Although he considers himself a conservative, he is an independent voter -- his loyalty to deMacedo has nothing to do with party loyalty, he said.

"If he asked me to do it next week I would," Paley said. "I consider him a friend."

Anderson said the group will give Paley an award for "valiant effort on behalf of taxpayers."

Ironically, the state budget session was sparsely attended and the issue never came up. But deMacedo agreed that Paley's devotion is rare.

"I work inside the political process, so certainly it's refreshing to see someone working outside of the process to care enough," deMacedo said. "He's certainly a person of quality."

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