JAN. 7, 1999 ... MPN/ESB ... Beacon Hill
leaders and political observers characterized the inaugural as a safe speech, devoid of
emphasis on issues that separate Republicans from the Democrats, who overwhelmingly
control the House and Senate as the 181st session of the General Court gets under way.
The lack of Republican representation in
the Legislature was evident when only a small band of GOP lawmakers and Cellucci
supporters jumped out of their seats to applaud his call to reduce the income tax from
5.95 percent to 5 percent. Most Democrats just sat, waiting for his next line.
[. . .]
House Speaker Thomas Finneran wasn't too
surprised that Cellucci didn't mention his "no new taxes" pledge, although
Finneran said capital spending could require a dedicated tax.
"His decision not to emphasize 'no
new taxes' is probably really just a recognition of a reality that the only debate on
taxes that will be on the table over the next two years, given the strength of our
economy, are likely to be tax cuts," Finneran said. "Nobody is proposing tax
increases. So 'no new taxes' would be really an extraordinary waste of time. It's really a
[. . .]
advocate Barbara Anderson predicted this year's surplus is going to be $1 billion. She
said it will be much higher than the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation's current
prediction of $350 million to $500 billion. "I don't know how they can justify not
rolling the rate back to 5 percent," she said. "Every tax cut is a pay raise for
the working people of the Commonwealth."
have to mention 'no new taxes,'" Anderson said. "That is the wonderful thing now
... It is given. There will not be new taxes. Paul Cellucci will never allow new
with [Sen. Marc] Pacheco that Cellucci, by not mentioning his call for teacher testing,
may be rethinking that issue. She said she wished he had proposed the use of vouchers to
allow the state's parents to use their tax dollars to send their kids to whatever school
[. . .]
As is often the case, tax issues proved
divisive. "Where I think he has put a contradiction into play is in the call for an
immediate reduction in income tax from 5.95 to 5 percent," Finneran said. "It's
more than a billion dollars, on top of a cumulative two billion in tax cuts we've done
over the last seven years in different ways. And it's impossible, I think, to sustain
progress that we want to make, and progress that he advocates in other areas, and at the
same time you're ripping another billion dollars out of the revenue base...."
Finneran will deliver his own annual
speech to the citizens on Wednesday, Jan. 13, in the House chamber. As the new session
gets started, Finneran is generally viewed as more powerful than the governor.
[. . .]
Sen. Robert Hedlund (D-Weymouth) said
... he was the only legislator to file the 5 percent tax bill last year.
"I just hope he uses his position
as governor as a bully pulpit to help swing public opinion and put pressure on my
colleagues in the Legislature to advance that," Hedlund said. "As you can see
from the reaction in the House chamber, it doesn't appear to have overwhelming support on
the part of many of my colleagues."