CLT Update
Monday, November 12, 2001

Your state Rep. and Senator are waiting to hear from you

Your state representative and state senator need to hear from you immediately; they want to hear from you! They are waiting to hear from you.

Don't keep them waiting!

Ours, the above Rep. Doug Petersen, heard from us today.

My father's state senator, Susan Tucker, heard from him yesterday when he bumped into her at a Veterans Day function.

If you have anything to say about your Rep's or Senator's vote, now -- immediately -- is the time to contact him or her and say it!

"Tax cuts? asks Tom Birmingham. What tax cuts? He says he hears no demands for tax cuts, but plenty of demands for government programs," read a Boston Herald editorial ["Yes, we do want tax cuts," Apr. 17, 1999].

It's up to you to keep them from using that as a lame excuse for repealing Question 4.

Don't let them use your silence against you!

Speak now, or forever hold your peace -- and silently pay their "temporary" temporary tax increase.

Chip Ford


Ottaway News Service
(Essex County Newspapers)

Monday, November 12, 2001

Some legislators eye delay in tax cut
By Jon Chesto

BOSTON -- As leaders on Beacon Hill piece together ways to fill a nearly $1.4 billion hole in the state budget, a proposed delay in last year's voter-approved income tax cut appears to be gaining momentum.

The proposal, which is getting a mixed response among North Shore lawmakers, was one of the most controversial topics raised when legislators met Wednesday to discuss the long-overdue state budget.

Legislative leaders may include a tax cut postponement plan in a state budget package they hope to ship to acting Gov. Jane Swift sometime this month.

The income tax is currently slated to drop from 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent Jan. 1. Delaying the reduction, which was approved as a ballot initiative last year, could save up to $200 million.

Swift is expected to veto any plan to thwart the tax cut, so efforts to override her veto would require two-thirds of each chamber of the Legislature.

Many observers say that level of support hasn't been reached yet.

Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, said she is inclined to vote against delaying the tax cut. She said the savings from avoiding the full income tax cut planned for next year would only represent a small fraction of the gaping hole in the state budget.

Stanley also said the Legislature should respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the tax cut last fall.

However, Rep. Paul Tirone, D-Amesbury, said he could support a delay in the tax cut.

He said the weakened economy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have significantly hurt the state's revenues.

"We're in untested waters right now," Tirone said. "Ever since Sept. 11, the whole game has changed."

"It should be off the table," said Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, one of the lawmakers opposed to delaying the tax cut. "The people spoke very loud and clear (last year). I'm not ready to hit the panic button."

Many lawmakers back plans that would delay the cut for a year or tie future reductions to signs of improvement in the state's economy. Some have talked about simply dropping the income tax from 5.6 to 5.5 percent in 2002.

Rep. Anthony Verga, D-Gloucester, said that given the difficult financial situation facing the state in recent months, he may consider voting in favor of a delay in the income tax reduction.

"It has to be looked at, but it ought to be the last thing you look at," Verga said. "The people did vote for it. But when circumstances change things, you have to look at everything."

Senate President Thomas Birmingham said there's no question the Legislature will have to make dramatic budget cuts -- with or without the freeze on the income tax cut. Those cuts, he said, will probably hurt more without the extra money saved from delaying the tax cut.

Although Birmingham was among the many prominent Democrats who opposed last year's ballot question, he said the latest proposal isn't a way to ambush the voter-approved initiative. Instead, Birmingham said Senate leaders are reviewing the income tax as the state's economic picture grows darker than previously envisioned.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran said he could consider a possible slowdown in the tax cut, which is eventually supposed to drop to 5 percent. He added, however, he's going to wait for action in the Senate before moving such a plan forward in the House.

Area legislators who appear most willing to vote for such a move include Rep. John Slattery, D-Peabody, Rep. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn and Sen. Frederick Berry, D-Peabody.

"We're talking about massive cuts that are going to affect cities and towns," McGee said. "We have to take a look at how we can minimize those cuts."

Berry said the Legislature needs to use a combination of money from the state's "rainy day" reserve fund, its surplus from last year, tobacco settlement cash and savings from the income tax freeze to lessen the pain of the pending cuts.

Berry, a member of the conference committee charged with writing the state budget, said cuts will probably hurt hospitals, nursing homes, and group homes for the mentally ill.

"Some of the most needy people in the commonwealth are going to feel the chills of this cut," Berry said.

Slattery said most voters understand that the state's fiscal picture has changed dramatically in recent months, particularly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said rearranging the income tax cut's schedule is a responsible move considering the hardship the state is facing.

Rep. Douglas Petersen, D-Marblehead, said he doesn't want to counter the tax cut until he receives a clear message from voters that they want to reverse the decision they made at the polls last November.

Rep. Theodore Speliotis, D-Danvers, said he wants to give Swift a chance to fix the problem without relying on postponing the tax cut.

"We've already said no to the people for Clean Elections," said Speliotis, referring to the voter-approved initiative that has yet to be funded by the Legislature. "It's a wrong message to send them to say no on another question."

Other North Shore lawmakers -- such as Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Rep. Michael Cahill, D-Beverly -- aren't willing to rule it out.

Cahill said postponing the tax cut should be on the table, but he said he hasn't received enough information about the delay's potential impact to make a decision.

Like many other legislators, Tarr said lawmakers should be looking at other ways to save money first.

"Even if we delay it, it's not going to produce the dollars we need to fix our problem," Tarr said. "(But) we're living in extraordinary times and we need to think about everything to meet the needs that we have."

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