CLT Update
Friday, October 19, 2001

Gimme Lobby escalates its attempted theft

The tax cut is expected to take $400 million out of state coffers this year. Calls for a one-year moratorium on the tax cut are not unreasonable and deserve serious consideration.

The Springfield Union-News
Oct. 19, 2001

The income tax rate cut from 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent should go ahead as scheduled next year.

The Boston Herald
Oct. 19, 2001

The Losers -- the Gimme Lobby -- have launched a full-court press assault to halt our tax rollback by any and all means. What they failed to accomplish legitimately at the ballot box they now hope to achieve through the media and the Legislature. As usual, they will say and do anything to accomplish their nefarious goals.

As they ramp up their assault, providing cover fire for a Legislature willing to use any excuse to keep more of our money, it's worth noting:

  • It's the same cabal that fought us and the rollback tooth and nail for years that are now calling for a "suspension" of the voter-mandated rollback.

Yesterday I was a guest on Brian Higgins' radio talk show (WJLT-650am, WBIX-1060am, and WSRO-1470am) to discuss this subversion. On Wednesday he had Sarah Nolan, TEAM's policy analyst, as his guest (along with a spokesman for the so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation). Brian told me that TEAM doesn't want to overturn the tax rollback; they claim to seek only a "temporary, one-year suspension" of it. This is the same crowd that spent $4 million in their ceaseless yet unsuccessful effort to defeat Question 4!

In a couple of years, you just know we'd have to do another petition drive, this time to keep the promise to keep the promise!

And so do they.

  • In his Oct. 12 letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, responding to mine, director of the Human Services Coalition Steve Collins stated:

"Here in the so-called tax-and-spend human services community, we are prepared to put on the table a discussion of possible cuts to accounts that do not directly pay for services for vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.

"When will the sanctimonious CLT show a similar willingness to sacrifice for the greater good?"

His recognition of waste and misdirected taxpayer money was refreshing. We at CLT agree to begin the "sacrifice" there with administrative lard; we've been advocating that forever. And if Steve knows where more such pork is buried, let's rip that out too. Surely in a budget that has doubled to over $22 billion in a mere dozen years, such waste is just waiting to be revealed.

Since CLT doesn't take a cent from government, it won't affect our budget or our staff. Can Steve and his allies say the same?

  • Even if a billion dollars needs to be cut from the proposed state budget (now 3 1/2 months overdue, both the House and Senate versions still being wrangled over by the conference committee, thus non-existent), that amounts to only 5 percent less than what they'd like to spend. Thanks to annual revenue surpluses of about $1 billion, state budgets have been growing year after year by more than 5 percent.

Where's the problem? They just can't spend an additional billion dollars again this year.

The state has $1.8 billion in the "rainy day" fund, $579 million of last year's surplus stashed away in the new "transitional escrow account", about $300 million arriving annually from the tobacco settlement "taxpayers reimbursement", and other various "trust funds" set aside for alleged emergencies. Where's the problem?

The only problem is that the Gimme Lobby and the Bacon Hill pols refuse to part with a cent of our money without a fight to the death.

And that, folks, is always the problem.

Chip Ford


Respect the Voting Majority
October 18, 2001

It must be difficult to write budget stories that contain both news of a FY'2001 surplus (What shall we do with it?! Spend, save, return to taxpayers in the tax reduction fund...?)...

- AND -

News of a FY 2002 budget deficit, especially when there isn't yet a FY 2002 budget.

CLT's position: The '01 surplus goes into the Stabilization Fund and the part that overflows into the Tax Reduction Fund triggers an automatic increase in the personal exemption.

As for the '02 deficit: How can there be a deficit in a budget that doesn't even exist yet? Budget conferees should take note that the state budget has doubled since the last fiscal crisis twelve years ago, and make their decisions accordingly.

Billions of dollars are lounging in the Stabilization Fund and other state slush funds. In addition, spending annual surpluses before they encouraged tax cuts must have generated enough waste in many budgets to make the search for savings rather easy for any credible manager.

And there's still the question of what happens to last year's $579 million surplus.

Clearly there is no problem that justifies overturning the voters' mandate to "keep the promise" and rollback the state income tax rate to 5 percent.

The rollback was a citizen-sponsored initiative petition that became a ballot question under Article 48 of the state Constitution. The Cellucci-Swift administration and Citizens for Limited Taxation beat TEAM, the Human Services Coalition and their allies fair and square, 59-41 percent.

Now the Losers are circulating a non-initiative, non-ballot petition to urge legislators, the majority of which opposed the income tax hike throughout the campaign and also lost, to ignore the will of the voting majority.

The Losers should focus on the bizarre situation of a FY'01 budget surplus, an alleged budget deficit in the non-existent FY'02 budget, and on the waste and slush. Legislators should respect the will of the people and continue with the phase-down of the income tax rate to 5.6 percent in 2001, 5.3 in 2002, and 5 percent thereafter.

Along with keeping the promise, and respecting the voters, they will leave more money in the hands of their constituents to help them get through the present economic slowdown.

The Boston Herald
Friday, October 19, 2001

State budget gap not hard to close
A Boston Herald editorial

The Massachusetts state budget gap can be closed without extraordinary strain -- if our politicians have the will to do it.

Spending cuts and judicious use of reserve funds should be able to see the state through a recession if it's anything like the "V-shaped" decline with recovery next year that many economists expect.

The income tax rate cut from 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent should go ahead as scheduled next year.

The House and Senate have passed versions of the budget for the current fiscal year that each originally called for spending about $22.9 billion. Recently acting Gov. Jane Swift and the legislative leadership agreed they should try to hold the total to $22.6 billion. Since then the evidence has grown that the original total will be $1 billion or more in excess of available revenues. (October tax collections should give a clearer picture.)

The state has almost $1.8 billion in its rainy-day fund, plus a $579 million surplus from last year. Reasonable spending cuts, that surplus and a quarter to a third of the rainy-day fund should do the job.

Already the usual complaints are heard that a worthy program for the homeless over here or one for the mentally ill over there will be trashed. But the social safety net will remain even if an innovation or two is deferred.

Chrysler Corp. honcho Lee Iacocca once bragged that he had never seen a budget he couldn't cut by 5 percent. Note that $1 billion is less than 5 percent of the state's originally planned total.

Anyone who thinks the budget can't be cut should just read one. (Current House and Senate proposals are available on the Internet at; H.4195 and S.1901.) The state's annual spending plan, like Chrysler's in Iacocca's day, contains the essential, the desirable and the nice-to-have all scrambled together.

Not every dollar devoted to some library's talking book program is as important as a Medicaid reimbursement dollar. Deciding which dollars can be omitted takes judgment and courage. That's what we pay our politicians for.

The Union-News
Springfield, Mass.
Friday, October 19, 2001

Slowdown puts state in the breakdown lane

Acting Gov. Jane M. Swift was wise this week when she took steps to immediately curb state spending, but it won't be enough to avoid an economic disaster.

Swift imposed a hiring freeze throughout state government and also banned nonessential out-of-state travel by state employees.

The hiring freeze in state government is the first since the early 1990s when state employees were laid off, taxes were raised and the state's bond rating took a nosedive during the state's last economic crisis.

More drastic steps will be necessary if the state is to avoid a return to those painful days.

Swift also wants to tap hundreds of millions of dollars in state reserve to cover a $1.1 billion shortfall in the state budget, and spend more of the money the state will receive as its share of the tobacco settlement.

Without knowing whether the economic slowdown will last several months or several years, those are not good options.

For some time, the state experienced a remarkable level of prosperity, even out here in Western Massachusetts where the economic boom was more like a muffled explosion. Yet, its days were numbered. The tax cut that former Gov. A. Paul Cellucci and then-Lt. Gov. Swift packaged and sold to voters left the state in the vulnerable condition in which it now finds itself.

The tax cut is expected to take $400 million out of state coffers this year. Calls for a one-year moratorium on the tax cut are not unreasonable and deserve serious consideration.

Lawmakers from Western Massachusetts did a remarkable job winning support on Beacon Hill for local projects and programs in the proposed state budget. But now that the economy has slowed, revenues are down and the state has the added expense of the war on terrorism, many of those local projects and programs will be scaled back or eliminated by legislative leaders as they negotiate a final budget.

One such program -- among many -- is the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences project, a biotechnology research initiative by Baystate Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst....

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