Limited Taxation
Post Office Box 408     Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (508) 384-0100
E-Mail:       Web-page:

CLT Update
Thursday, April 29, 1999

Surprise, surprise -- The Promise was not kept, again, and instead Speaker Finneran's idea of a tax cut yesterday was adopted by the full House.

The Republicans and a few Democrats fought hard to keep the promise and roll back the rate to 5 percent, but again to no avail in Finneran's House.

In introducing his amendment that would roll back the rate to 5 percent, House Republican Leader Fran Marini (R-Hanson) sarcastically pointed out: "We have low unemployment, hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus, a stabilization fund brimming over with money and now the people say, can you now afford to keep your word and restore the historic 5 percent tax rate? We answer by saying we can afford to, but we are not so inclined. Since we've turned the state around and everyone is working and crime is down, we have thought of a bundle of new things to do with your money and very little of it involves giving back anything to you."

"People are cynical about government," he added. "They don't think we as a profession are very trustworthy. You know what? They're right. We aren't very trustworthy. Through their hard work, we enjoy unparalleled prosperity in the Commonwealth. They ask, return the tax rate to 5 percent like you said you would. If you want to keep your word, you will vote yes on this amendment."

Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams) was there in 1989, but again denied that a promise was ever made; but Rep. Phil Travis (D-Rehoboth), who also was there back then, said "In politics, the only thing you have is your reputation and I made a promise."

Freshman state Rep. Ruth B. Balser (D-Newton) gave her maiden speech during the debate, and announced that she did not feel at all compelled to keep a promise made by a former Legislature, but instead she apparently intends to do her best to spend every cent of the surplus. "I promised to fight for education funding, for technology in the schools. I also promised to help fund capital projects across the state and to help those in need. I also made campaign promises about health care. In fact, there's no end to the promises I made," she proclaimed. "That's why we run for office," she added. "By cutting the income tax to 5 percent, what would happen to those programs? ... The fact we have a surplus means we can do more."

It was funny though watching the liberals get snuffed when they tried to substitute their "working families" tax cut for Finneran's! Now, all of a sudden, they wonder where the Democracy and deliberation has gone that they long ago surrendered to the Speaker.

Chip Ford --

For the entire debate text, click below:
Go to House Debate page

The Boston Globe
Thursday, April 29, 1999

House votes to cut income tax to 5.75%
By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff

Mindful that the state's booming economy might have crested, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to trim the income-tax rate to 5.75 percent and to spurn Republican calls for a much more drastic cut.

The action, a victory for House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, fell short of Governor Paul Cellucci's call for a 5 percent rate that would plow more of the budget surplus back to Massachusetts residents.

The action, approved by a 122-24 vote, has a $275 million price tag. The move came in the face of the governor's threat that, if defeated in the House, he would take his campaign to the voters and put the 5 percent rate on the ballot.

The current income tax rate is 5.95 percent.

The House also rebuffed an attempt yesterday by a group of liberal Democrats to substitute a less-expensive package of tax breaks targeted at "working families." The lawmakers blasted the House leadership for squelching debate on their proposal, which they said would have cost the state only half of Finneran's plan and helped residents most in need.

Representative John H. Rogers, a Norwood Democrat who is House chairman of the Taxation Committee, praised lawmakers for their vote. The tax cut, he said, would "begin to impose the same notions of fiscal discipline upon state government in economic good times that we are forced to embrace in economic dire times."

Republicans vowed to fight again. "We'll take this tax cut; it's better than nothing," said Paul K. Frost, an Auburn Republican. "But it's not enough."

The state's string of large budget surpluses produced the momentum for a cut. In fiscal 1998, the state recorded a $600 million surplus. When the 1999 fiscal year ends June 30, state finance officials expect a surplus of $250 million to $300 million.

With such a cushion, House Minority Leader Francis L. Marini of Hanson argued that legislators should keep the promise they made a decade ago to return the tax rate to 5 percent.

But Democrats such as Representative Daniel E. Bosley of North Adams, who served in the House when the rate was raised to help erase state deficits, said no such promise was made. The call to honor such so-called promises, Bosley and others said, is a red herring.

To become law, the 5.75 percent rate also would have to be approved by the Senate, which has not acted on the tax cut.

The action to cut off debate on the "working families" tax break, a proposal that would have provided relief through a series of deductions, was based on a ruling that the amendment was not germane to the tax-rate proposal.

That rationale was blasted by the amendment's supporters. "There's been a policy of obstruction," Representative John P. Slattery, a Peabody Democrat, said.

"This is a sad day," said Representative Jay R. Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat.

"The people who are voting for us think we are leaders," said Christopher J. Hodgkins, a Lee Republican. "We don't effectuate change anymore. We are giving away our vote by proxy."

The disappointment also was echoed by Representative James J. Marzilli Jr., an Arlington Democrat. "You can do Speaker Finneran's tax cut or none at all," Marzilli said of House Majority Leader William P. Nagle Jr.'s ruling that the "working families" package could not be considered.

The "working families" tax break has four components. The $150 million plan would increase the deduction for child-care expenses to $8,000 per child, double the $2,500 deduction for renters, double the earned-income tax credit, and provide $45 million in refunds for senior citizens who pay more than 10 percent of their income for property taxes, water, and sewer fees. The tax rate cut would save a family of four $135 a year.

Supporters of the plan pledged to reintroduce the package during the budget debate next week.

Marzilli asked how Finneran could argue that the state cannot afford a large tax cut, but then back a reduction to 5.75 percent at a cost of $275 million. Marzilli said those revenues should be used to provide even greater benefits for prescription drugs for elders, home health care, and road and bridge repair.

The House also defeated a Republican amendment yesterday to attach a "trigger" to Finneran's plan that would decrease the income-tax rate by .1 percent for each $2.5 billion of personal-income growth in Massachusetts. In this way, Marini said, the tax rate would decrease only in good economic times.

For the entire debate text, click below:
Go to House Debate page

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to:

Return to CLT Updates page