CLT Update
Friday, September 21, 2001

State Senate kills voluntary tax checkoff

Yesterday, true to his promise, state Sen. Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth) again brought up our voluntary optional income tax for debate and, this time, a rollcall vote.

Taxation Committee Senate chairwoman Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury) ignorantly, if not outright deceptively, opposed it using arguments that just don't legitimately exist in the proposed legislation, such as:

  • It would be unconstitutional by violating the single-rate requirement. (Do the "save the whales," "fight Aids," or the "voluntary contribution" for election campaigns checkoffs also violate the single-rate tax requirement?)

  • She also claimed that somehow our proposal "earmarks" the additional funds generated for targeted spending; but, as authors of the legislation we know the funds would go to the Department of Revenue, then into the general fund along with all other revenue.

What was she talking about? Where did she possibly get that false drivel?

Our voluntary tax checkoff was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 3-34. (The House version remains in its proposed FY 2002 state budget, still in conference committee and almost three months late.)

Those three votes supporting passage were cast by Sen. Hedlund, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), and Sen. JoAnn Sprague (R-Walpole).

All other senators present, including the remaining Republican senators led by Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow), voted against our bill.

This will be one of the votes that will be included in this year's CLT legislative rating, and only three senators passed this simple test.

Now we anxiously await the next hue and cry for a tax increase, so we can point out how the Senate declared that it obviously doesn't really need or want it -- because when they had the opportunity to increase revenue voluntarily, they rejected it. (The 50-cent a pack cigarette tax increase will likely be our first opportunity, coming up soon.)

Too bad Sens. Lees, Tisei and the other Republicans who voted against it failed to grasp or appreciate the significant tool we offered them to work with ... but, ah well, what can I say. This is Massachusetts.

Chip Ford

Excerpts from
State House News Service


CONVENES: The Senate convened at 1:41 pm, Senate President Birmingham of Chelsea presiding.


OPTIONAL INCOME TAX ENDOWMENT: Sen. Hedlund moved to substitute S-1734 to establish a separate fund known as the voluntary optional tax endowment fund, for an adverse committee report on the bill. Sen. Hedlund also requested a roll call on his motion and there was support.

Sen. Hedlund said this bill has had some discussion. It was a House budget amendment that was accepted. It provides DOR to promulgate the mechanics of an optional tax checkoff for those that wish to contribute more than the 5 percent income tax approved by the voters. It may be especially timely now with declining revenues. It would allow those who feel it's appropriate to contribute a little more voluntarily.

Sen. Walsh said the Taxation Committee appreciates good ideas and we recognize the good faith. The people reduced their income tax to 5 percent over four years costing the Commonwealth $1.3 billion. The proponents say you have the personal opportunity not to lower your own rate -- I can have a special income tax rate. Plus I can earmark the money for a certain charity. We appreciate all novel ideas.

Here are our concerns. We have a state Constitution and Article 44. We don't have the opportunity to legally allow a different class rate for the same class of people for the same tax. We have to have a flat tax. We can't have a graduated tax.

Likewise we cannot have individual tax arrangements, even if it's voluntary. The cost administratively of having the DOR establish that process would be expensive. In addition, we are earmarking money -- again a philosophical argument. The DSS is 19 years old and a budget buster. It doesn't have a political constituency. MassHighway -- very expensive and important but we don't have people beating the drum to fund that. For those reasons, we recommend ought not to pass.


Adverse reported accepted.

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