House debate on proposed amendment
to resurrect Tax Rollback "freeze"

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Transcription by the State House News Service


CONVENES: The House convened at 10:06 am, Speaker Thomas Finneran presiding. Chaplin Quinn offered a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.


RECESSES: The House recessed at 1:01 pm, intending to return at 1:30 pm.

RETURNS: The House returned at 2:04 pm, Rep. DiMasi presiding.

QUORUM CALL: A quorum was doubted and Rep. DiMasi ordered a quorum roll call.




REP. MARZILLI offered an amendment regarding consideration of the income tax cut on Dec. 5.

REP. MARZILLI said sometimes the biggest issues come up with obscure parliamentary procedures. The amendment allows us to take up the issue of the income tax reduction that takes effect Jan. 1. The amendment does not require us to do so. It would be up to the speaker to determine what if any tax-related issue would go on the calendar. Thatís the technical part.

But this is really about whether we are satisfied that the budget reflects the values of each of us and the people. A straight delay for a year means retaining $205 million this year, $420 million in the next fiscal year.

We have $650 million in cuts in this budget and will have about the same in next yearís budget. I donít value those cuts. We have a moral, political and social obligation to provide funds for schools and public safety, and to care for people who are mentally ill and retarded and for no fault of their own are going to be denied services this year and next year.

You will hear we are forced to make cuts by economic conditions. We are only forced to make cuts if we choose not to delay the income tax cut. I know itís a tough vote for some of you to allow us to even consider this Dec. 5.

We will be in twice a week through November and December. All this allows is for us to take up an issue with a roll call vote in a formal session. It doesnít mean weíre going to do huge amounts of new business. The new business will continue regardless.

You will hear that if the governor vetoes, we gain nothing and have to come back in January. Thereís the question of who will act first between the House and Senate. We were elected to lead. We should.

A tax change must be initiated in this chamber. I am prepared to vote for cuts and am not suggesting we vote for taxes now. I am talking about next yearís cuts of a half a billion on top of this. We can at least mitigate $400 million in cuts.

Rep. Marzilli asked for a roll call and there was support.

REP. FAGAN said the realities of the budget crisis have been a long time coming and must be dealt with. We do have a responsibility to lead and describe problems now and in the future. Rep. Marzilli does not have a monopoly of concerns for less fortunate citizens. We all share the same concerns.

We adopted a rule calling for an end of the session. We are calling to suspend it for a unique purpose. It is our duty to address vetoes. Itís a constitutional responsibility to meet for that purpose and that purpose only.

REP. PAULSEN said we can decide on Dec. 5 whether to retain more revenue to help the needy. Last year they said Question 4 will have no effect on programs and services. There is nothing to worry about, we were told. What a difference a year makes.

We should worry about cuts in services. Very little analysis has been done about the cuts and very few people in Massachusetts know about the cuts. We can take another look and listen to analyses and if necessary, think about freezing the tax cut to get us through this economic downturn.

Without more retained revenue, next yearís budget will be even more difficult. Out of justice and fairness, we should retain the opportunity to at least examine and have the discussion about retaining some revenue to offset some of the cuts. We have not had the time for full analysis. We have not seen the details. We do not even have full copies at our desks to look at.

REP. STRAUSS said he opposes the amendment. I understand the concern but the problem is the reality of the budget cycle and what are we really saying. The case has been made that if we vote to freeze, there will be no suffering. The truth is our deficit this year is $1.3 billion. A freeze might retain something like $200 million.

This is not our choosing that cuts have to be made. The most important commodity we can offer to the public is candor and truth and being straight with them.

We have a conference report with a balanced budget. If we vote to freeze it will have no impact on this budget, which may be adopted today. The program cuts in the budget would not be altered. Itís not fair to the public to have them think otherwise. Itís time to make the tough decisions that we have to.

REP. TEEHAN supported the amendment. This is an important thing to consider after we consider the overrides.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and we are going to vote on a $22 billion budget that we received online at midnight and in print at 2 pm this afternoon. Constituents need time to look at this and we as members need more time.

We suspect we already have a $300 million deficiency in the revenues to take care of this budget. We need to just pay the bills in the budget, nevermind restoring cuts. We are spending more than we planned on public safety, for airports, trains, along our coasts. We will need more for the Department of Public Health so we can deal with any kinds of situations.

Even if a vote goes through, it doesnít mean weíll restore cuts. But going into debt to pay for pensions and bonds and leaving this for our children is not responsible and goes back to the way things were dealt with in the previous recession.

REP HYNES said it will take us some time to deal with vetoes. Two years ago we began deliberation after 2 pm and concluded a little after midnight. We had 96 roll call votes. And we have congressional redistricting, which is going to take some time even if thereís resolution between now and then.

And this matter, delaying or adjusting Question 4 -- how we deal with tax reduction on Jan. 1 -- if that is before us and we change the present law it in reality will take two thirds in this chamber and in the Senate. The governor has affirmed that she will veto any change to the present law, which requires the rate to go from 5.6 to 5.3 percent on Jan. 1.

We could have done this a week ago but two thirds vote was not found. So why take it up? Are things to change substantively in the next several weeks? I donít think so.

Do not presume to eviscerate Article 48 of the Constitution, which allows people to go to the ballot box and make changes. Yes circumstances have changed after Sept. 11. But how do we presume to know what is best and tell the people they donít matter? So we eviscerate Article 48.

I suggest that everything to date indicates that there arenít enough votes in either chamber. So I would argue that the realities of passing a bill make it so we shouldnít adopt this. We donít even have a bill before us relative to Question 4. If a bill is admitted, will a hearing be held in public? I would hope so. But that is incidental to the practical realities of what would happen in this chamber if we chose to take it up. So I would urge my colleges to reject the amendment.

REP. BOSLEY said I hope the amendment is adopted. The gentleman from Marshfield has talked a lot about the merits of Question 4. I would like to discuss the merits also, but not today.

Rep. Marzilli feels the same way. What we are debating today is the option to discuss Question 4 on Dec. 5. Heís saying can we keep our options to debate Question 4 on Dec. 5.

If we started on vetoes on Dec. 5 we can get a lot of vetoes done, but we want the option to debate this. We may not have two-thirds today but things will change between now and Dec. 5.

This is an ugly budget. It makes lots of cuts and has low spending limits in a lot of programs. The public is going to see that and so will we.

When we do overrides, it is the last step we have in our budget process. The process is a reflection of how we feel. It is based on revenue and spending. I would suggest that if we are going to close this budget, we may have to address the revenue side of things.

It may be that we decide on Dec. 5 that the budget is just too ugly and we need more revenue. At that point, we will have seen how the shopping season is shaping up, how the market is, how revenues look -- factors that could help us decide Question 4.

Thatís an option we should have. If we donít do anything, the tax will decrease. We will lose $425 million next year. What we need to do is have that discussion. Just the option. Please adopt the amendment.

REP. SCACCIA said thank you I hope this is rejected. If we vote on Dec. 5, I would vote to freeze the income tax, but thatís not the solution to the problem.

Sept. 11 changed our world. The effect could be long-term. We could have to change our tax structure. We could cut more programs. We could be, but right now we donít know. My advice is to wait.

But taking up Question 4 is not going to change the hard ugly budget we just did. If we are going to solve the issue, weíre going to have to look at revenues. Just freezing Question 4 at this time will not solve the problem -Ė but it might.

If we wait, we may have a better picture. But right now Question 4 is not going to solve the ugliness. What about Question 7, the charitable giving question? The liberals havenít looked at that. Should we not look at that question?

Should we not look, Mr. Speaker, at the giveaways to corporations for keeping jobs here in the state? What about capital gains? Why do we favor one over the other? We have lost a billion dollars in these areas.

I canít predict the future but if we continue to slide, Question 4 and 7 and capital gains and those 51 tax cuts are not issues. Maybe if they were all combined, they would be an issue.

I take issue with the liberals who say they will freeze Question 4 in December, but not in January, because then itís a tax increase. Shame on them.

Have some courage. Most of the people in here, want to protect Chapter 70 and local aid and they won, for whatever reason. I disagreed with that. I have items that have been uglyinized in this budget. I have items that were murdered in this harm. Why didnít we spread the harm and ugliness a little wider?

So I say to the liberals -- and itís very serious -- we may be in for a time in the future that could be worse than it is today and we are going to have to rally around Question 4 and all tax items. And we will have to have the guts to increase revenues.

If you freeze Question 4, you canít go to the well too often. You must wait, as I have told the speaker. I suggest we wait until we have seen the depth of the problem and then change the tax policy.

REP. STORY said I agree with some of the words that my liberal friend Rep. Scaccia has just said. We should look at many of the tax breaks we have given.

But the question today is on Question 4. One: as my good friend from North Adams said, we are only voting for the option to take a look at this on Dec. 5. We should keep all our options to deal with this wretched budget. MTF has told us it would be wise to take a look at delaying Question 4.

REP. MARINI said this is like Alice and The Looking Glass. Itís hard to figure out what theyíre saying up here. So let me make clear my position. I am against this. I donít think we should freeze the tax rollback. If you favor the freeze, vote yes on this. If you oppose the freeze, vote no on this. Itís as simple as that.


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