CLT Update
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Sen. president schemes to ambush tax rollback

"It's not as if we've been hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush the tax cut at the first opportunity," [state Senate President] Birmingham said.

The Boston Globe
Nov. 7, 2001
Delay in tax rollback is eyed

It's time for the CLT Truth Squad to pull a reality check!

I've gone out and beat the senate president's bushes, driven out the wily ambushes he baldly denies were ever hidden beneath.

He's quite proficient at denying the obvious truth when it furthers his agenda (ie., that the "temporary" tax was never promised to be temporary). His opposition-at-any-cost is historically preserved in excerpts following today's Boston Globe news report.

In June of 1999, during the economic boom, Sen. Birmingham "ridiculed the notion that the state's economy needs a 5 percent income-tax rate to flourish," the Boston Globe reported: "This economy is hot enough as it is," he ordained.

Today, in the economic slowdown/recession it isn't a good time for a tax cut either, he asserts. But he's not hiding in ambush under a bush ... he'd like us to believe.

Watch those Beacon Hill bushes.

Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Delay in tax rollback is eyed
Birmingham fears key program cuts

By Rick Klein
Globe Staff

Saying that the state's extraordinary fiscal woes warrant drastic action, Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham is backing a freeze of the voter-approved income tax rollback to save $200 million in state programs.

Birmingham said he will fight for a one-year delay of the tax cut if two-thirds of senators -- enough to override Acting Governor Jane M. Swift's promised veto -- sign on at a Democratic caucus today. He said he will tell the senators, in detail, what programs they can save by halting the tax reduction.

"Which would you prefer -- would you prefer this $200 million of cuts, or would you prefer freezing the tax reduction?" Birmingham said he will ask his colleagues. "My personal sense is, I would vote to freeze. But I don't know what the members will decide."

Swift said she will not back down on her threat to veto any altering of the tax reduction, which voters overwhelmingly approved at the polls last year. The income tax rate is scheduled to drop from 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent on Jan. 1, which would save a family of four with an income of $70,000 about $175 for the year.

Although Swift and then-governor Paul Cellucci said when they pushed for the tax rollback that it could be implemented without cutting state programs, Swift acknowledged yesterday that reductions will be necessary. She said the terrorist attacks dramatically changed the economic outlook, and the state must respond prudently.

"Nobody was governing in anticipation of what happened on Sept. 11," Swift said. "Our economy is weaker than any of us anticipated. Taking money out of the pockets of families and into the coffers of state government is the wrong approach."

Swift said that unless Birmingham and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran act quickly to reach a budget agreement, she will implement $600 million in budget cuts on her own. The state is facing a $1.35 billion budget gap, and the government is spending $1.6 million more every day than it can afford now that the budget remains unfinished. She proposes making up the rest of the gap by tapping reserve funds and money from the settlement of the state's lawsuit against tobacco companies.

The Legislature is 130 days late in sending a budget to Swift, and Massachusetts is the only state in the nation operating without a spending plan.

"It's fair to say my patience is starting to be exhausted," Swift said. "I can't allow their inability to come to a budget agreement to have a dramatic impact on how we operate."

Swift said she warned Finneran and Birmingham that unless they tell her today that a budget agreement is imminent, she will rein in spending without legislative approval. The current interim spending plan expires Nov. 19, and Swift said that if the budget remains undone then, her next interim budget will incorporate the cuts to state programs and services that she deems appropriate.

She declined to specify areas that she would cut, saying her aides are still working out lists and that she remains hopeful the Legislature will come to an agreement. House and Senate leaders met again for several hours late yesterday, but ended their talks without a final agreement.

Despite Birmingham's support for a tax rate freeze, it may not be part of any final agreement; Finneran appears loath to go along, in part because it would solve a relatively small part of the shortfall problem.

Still, Birmingham's stance on the question could become a campaign issue. Both Birmingham and Swift are running for governor next year, and the Senate president's support for backtracking on a voter-approved law is potentially explosive. Birmingham said he did not come to the decision lightly.

"It's not as if we've been hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush the tax cut at the first opportunity," Birmingham said. "Nobody could have predicted or even imagined the precipitous drop in our revenues that has occurred."


"Too much too soon" has been the reaction of Senate President Thomas Birmingham, who, says aide Alison Franklin, prefers that any tax cuts be targeted to those in need.

The Boston Globe
Jul. 7, 1997
CLT returns to center stage in fight for income-tax cut

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham (D-Chelsea), meanwhile, sounds even more reluctant to move swiftly on the income tax cut, saying that while he has not "slammed the door" on the idea, his preference is to target relief to people of modest means.

The Boston Globe
Sept. 11, 1997
Cellucci, Legislature clash over tax cuts

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, who was not in office in 1989, says he would try to abide by such a promise if there was one. But he says any pledge made in 1989 was broken the next year, and it is preposterous for Cellucci to suddenly hold it up for fulfillment eight years later.

"In 1990, the circumstances didn't allow the promise to be kept," he said. "Members took a very different vote in an election year, withdrawing the temporary nature of the tax increase."

Besides, says Birmingham, the legislative process is an evolutionary one and legislators have the right to change their minds and pass new laws as they gain new information.

The Boston Globe
Mar. 11, 1998
Bay State tax-cut vow is hard to track down

Senate President Thomas Birmingham, D-Chelsea, first of all, disputed Cellucci's assertion that lawmakers promised to lower the 5.95 percent income tax rate to a 5 percent after the tough fiscal times of the early 1990s were over.

"No such promise was made. ... No such representation was made," Birmingham said at a news conference called to respond to the budget.

Associated Press
Jan. 27, 1999
Momentum slowing for tax cuts on Beacon Hill

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham had the insolence to deny the tax hike was ever meant to be temporary.

An Eagle-Tribune editorial
Feb. 1, 1999
Money to burn, none to return

"I'm not saying it's dead on arrival, but I'm highly doubtful the Senate will do an income tax reduction on the order of the governor or the speaker," Birmingham said at his own press conference later in the day. "I think it is highly doubtful the Senate will do an income tax cut because we have higher priorities" like education, health care and public safety, he said.

State House News Service
Apr. 15, 1999
Birmingham, Finneran, Cellucci stake out tax cut positions

Tax cuts? asks Tom Birmingham. What tax cuts? He says he hears no demands for tax cuts, but plenty of demands for government programs.

The Boston Herald
Apr. 17, 1999
A Boston Herald editorial
Yes, we do want tax cuts

Birmingham said he rejected calls to cut the income tax rate because the Senate wants to pay for health care expansions and fully fund the final year of the 1993 education reform act.

State House News Service
Jun. 1, 1999
Senate Unveils $177 Million in Tax Cuts;
Cellucci Calls Plan "Peanuts"

[Birmingham] also ridiculed the notion that the state's economy needs a 5 percent income-tax rate to flourish. "I dare him to find a legitimate economist to say the same thing," Birmingham said of Cellucci's comments. "This economy is hot enough as it is."

The Boston Globe
Jun. 2, 1999
Senate leaders reject income-tax cut idea

Senate President Tom Birmingham is not just planting his feet in concrete against Gov. Paul Cellucci's call for a return to the 5 percent income tax rate. Birmingham and his followers won't even accept the small step the House wants to take to lower the rate from 5.95 percent to 5.75 percent.

A Boston Herald editorial
Jun. 3, 1999
Broken promises litter Beacon Hill

Birmingham said another year of major education funding increases is doable, despite fears that the economy may slow down and that the state will have to absorb more Big Dig and health care-related costs. "We can afford it," said Birmingham.

State House News Service
Mar. 20, 2000
Birmingham Says Good Times
Make $245M Boost to Education Affordable

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, an opponent of sweeping tax cuts, recently said: "The sky will not fall if the tax rollback passes. Massachusetts will not crumble into the ocean."

The Boston Globe
May 23, 2000
Think tank warns against tax cuts

Taxpayers who tune in to the debate no doubt will observe plenty of fancy fiscal footwork. Mr. Birmingham, the redoubtable advocate for the pro-tax side, can be expected to marshal an impressive array of figures suggesting that, despite the overflowing coffers, the state can't afford the rollback.

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Jun. 22, 2000
Tax fairness the issue in ballot question debate

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham opposes the rollback and would prefer to spend the windfall on programs such as the Senate plan for senior drug benefits.

The Boston Globe
Jul. 2, 2000
State surplus swells by $200m

As was the case last year, the House and Senate have been in a standoff over the state budget. For example, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran has said he wants a reduction of the state income tax to 5 percent, conditioned on a strong economy. Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham opposes the reduction, and has said he would prefer that budget surpluses go to programs such as the Senate's plan to expand senior prescription drug benefits.

The Telegram & Gazette
Jul. 3, 2000
State's surplus surges $200M
Extra cash to fuel spending debates

The Senate makes similar arguments against the tax cut but avoids mentioning the House's tax cut plan. Senate Republicans failed to offer the House-approved tax cut plan during the income tax portion of May budget debate, and Senate President Thomas Birmingham refused to allow debate on it after that mistake.

State House News Service
Jul. 11, 2000
Lawmakers Plot to "Double" Ballot Arguments
Against Income Tax Cut

While acknowledging a "steeply uphill fight" to defeat the income tax cut, [Birmingham] said the rate reduction would hamper government's ability to spend more money on programs such as last year's $25 million in rate relief for financially struggling hospitals.

"That's the sort of thing I would like to continue to do next year," Birmingham said. "That is the sort of commitment that will necessarily be compromised if we are to indulge ourselves in an overly aggressive, highly regressive tax cut."

State House News Service
Sept. 28, 2000
New health care group warns subsidies, services
threatened by tax cut

Birmingham has called the cut reckless and the theory that it will actually spur revenue growth, "Rumplestiltskinomics."

The MetroWest Daily News
Oct. 15, 2000
Tax cut ballot flashpoint

Birmingham, an opponent of the tax cut, said there is nothing in the legislation itself that promised a tax cut once the economy improved.

"The Legislature makes a promise in legislation, not in description, not by prediction," he said. "I reviewed the legislation. There was no promise."

The Patriot Ledger
Oct. 17, 2000
Ballot question proposes reduction, faces criticism

"The sky won't fall, the state won't crumble into the ocean, particularly if our economy stays strong," said Senate President Thomas Birmingham, a Democrat who is scheduled to debate Cellucci about Question 4 later this month. "But what will be compromised is our ability to move forward, to continue to improve our public schools, to expand health care coverage."

Ottaway News Service
Oct. 21, 2000
Question 4: Considering the tax rollback

"I don't see any prospect whatsoever of tax increases on the horizon in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ... [and] I'm not going to take a back seat in terms of fiscal responsibility to anybody."

WCVB-TV Question 4 debate: Sen Birmingham vs.Gov. Cellucci
Oct. 30, 2000

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham could be a loser. Not only was he one of the most visible opponents of Question 4, but his Democratic Senate refused this year to go along with a House plan to cut the income tax rate from 5.85 percent to 5 percent, triggered by growth in the state's economy.

The Boston Globe
Nov. 8, 2000
Cellucci gets a win, may stay to enjoy it
By Brian C. Mooney

Senate President Thomas Birmingham said his budget writers are willing to slash where necessary, which may mean a slight reduction in health care and education spending.

The MetroWest Daily News
Nov. 9, 2000
Tax rollback committee predict $150 savings for average family

Even the Senate, which refused to go along with a more cautious House plan to cut the income tax cut, appears prepared to implement the ballot question. Senate President Thomas Birmingham's spokesman Alison Franklin said, "The voters' will will be done."

State House News Service
Nov. 19, 2000
Legislature faces decisions on if,
how to implement ballot questions

"The voters having passed Question 4, my very strong predisposition is that we ought to live with what they passed," Birmingham said. "This is a matter that was fully and fairly debated before the people of the Commonwealth."

State House News Service
Jan. 29, 2001
Liberals look to revisit income tax cut,
detractors threaten "war"

"It's not as if we've been hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush the tax cut at the first opportunity," Birmingham said.

Yeah, right!

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