Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Wednesday, July 14, 1999

"Un-happy birthday to you,
"un-happy birthday to you,
"un-happy birthday, Tem-po-rar-y,
"un-happy birthday to you."

CLT's Birthday Song to the "Temporary" Tax Increase

CLT's "The 'Temporary' Tax Hike is Ten Years Old" commemoration went over big-time at the State House yesterday!

The seats and area in front of the Grand Staircase were packed with reporters and supporters. Some CLT members like Byron Roscoe and Doug Krick -- who got our last minute e-mail invitation -- showed up for the event, along with Gov. Cellucci, Lt. Gov. Swift and many Republican legislators.

House Minority Leader Fran Marini (R-Hanson) and Rep. Ron Gauch (R-Shrewsbury) played Pin The Tail On The Donkey, on our donkey game board that read "Legislators Against the Rollback," and they came pretty close!

Speaking of donkeys, also present was Jim St. George of the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts, serving the interests of his masters, the teachers union. He told the AP (report below) "a rollback of the state's income tax to 5 percent would hurt the state, in particular public schools. 'Do you want to manufacture a fiscal crisis or do you want to be able to improve the education system?'"

He means, of course, hoarding more of our money to fill his union bosses' wish list. The teachers union already has its hands deep enough into our pockets and its members' dues. When will they accept that we've squandered more than enough of our hard-earned money on a gold-plated but dysfunctional education system that's proven itself to be a disastrous failure for the children?

Standing alongside Barbara at the podium at the bottom of the Grand Staircase, Gov. Cellucci again declared his commitment and determination to lead a petition drive and ballot question campaign to put the "promised" rollback to 5 percent before the voters to decide.

Rep. Marini also pledged to continue the good fight to keep the promise, and to oppose the proposed change in the capital gains tax phase-out and the Registry fee increases.

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

State House News Service
July 13, 1999

Cellucci, Swift Attend
Anderson's Unhappy B-Day for Tax Hike

SHNS ... CRS ... JULY 13, 1999....Gov. Paul Cellucci and Lt. Gov. Jane Swift sang "UnHappy Birthday" today to mark the 10th anniversary of a tax hike that was supposed to be temporary.

The pair accepted Citizens for Limited Taxation's invitation to an UnHappy Birthday party as part of Cellucci's campaign to lower the state's income tax rate to 5 percent from 5.95 percent.

Ten years ago today, the Legislature raised the income to 5.75 percent to issue bonds so the state could pay off old Medicaid bills. At the time, legislative leaders said the hike would be rolled back as soon as the bonds were paid off. That was done in 1995.

Barbara Anderson used a meat cleaver to cut a birthday cake that, she said, was reserved for legislators who voted to roll the income tax back to 5 percent.

Anderson introduced Rep. Ronald Gauch (R-Shrewsbury), who won a CLT contest in which legislators were challenged to read a montage of 1989 press clippings and count the number of times the word "temporary" occurred.

"It's easier to win a contest on counting in this building, because there aren't a lot of people who know how to count," Gauch told a crowd of about 30 at the foot of the Grand Staircase.

The anti-tax rally had something of the trappings of an official event. As she touted CLT's upcoming referendum to roll back the tax rate, Anderson stood at a podium emblazoned with the seal of the Commonwealth, and the governor's official photographer was on hand.

Cellucci and Swift joined in the singing of "UnHappy Birthday," led with surprising tonal command by Chip Faulkner, Anderson's long-time aide. But, the governor told the audience, "I'm very proud to be standing here with Barbara Anderson but I'm not putting on one of those hats."

Cellucci said the referendum will pass next year, after a signature gathering campaign led by CLT. The group put Prop. 2 and a revenue cap on state lawbooks in the 1980s, but failed in a 1990 drive for a billion-dollar tax rollback. "We'll be taking nothing for granted" in the 2000 ballot campaign, Cellucci said....

Associated Press
Wednesday, July 14, 1999

Anti-tax group commemorates 10 years of tax hike
By Jean McMillan

BOSTON (AP) An anti-tax group threw a birthday party, but there was nothing celebratory about it.

Barbara Anderson, head of The Citizens for Limited Taxation, served cake and sang "Unhappy Birthday" at the Statehouse on Tuesday to mock the 10th anniversary of what the group said was supposed to be a temporary increase in the state income tax to 5.95 percent. A decade later, the tax is still in place.

Anderson said lawmakers passed the tax increase in 1989 during a financial crisis, but now that the economy is booming and the state has more than $1 billion in its rainy day fund, there is no reason not to return the rate to 5 percent.

Joining the party was Gov. Paul Cellucci, who reiterated his pledge to take his proposed income tax rollback to 5 percent to the ballot if lawmakers refuse to approve it.

"We'll not only get the signatures, we'll make the argument around the state as well. But I think it's a very easy argument to make," Cellucci said.

"Massachusetts did fine with a 5 percent income tax for many years. It was only when the Democrats in the Legislature kept spending money beyond our means that we had a problem," he said.

Among those opposed to a tax rollback is the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts.

Executive Director Jim St. George said other approved tax cuts have helped people, but said a rollback of the state's income tax to 5 percent would hurt the state, in particular public schools.

"We have shown that we can cut taxes. The tax cut (Cellucci's) talking about would all but guarantee the same kind of fiscal crisis that we had," St. George said. "Do you want to manufacture a fiscal crisis or do you want to be able to improve the education system?"

Anderson, wearing a party hat, offered cake to supporters, but joked that those lawmakers who only supported lowering the income tax to 5.7 percent would get a smaller piece.

The CLT said it was also standing ready to oppose and go to court again if necessary to block attempts to raise Registry of Motor Vehicle fees.

Some lawmakers have suggested reinstating or raising some auto fees to pay for road and bridge repairs, but the CLT said a court's ruling on a previous case it initiated said that user fees cannot exceed the amount of expenses they are designed to cover.

The Eagle-Tribune
Lawrence, MA
Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Tax group will challenge Registry
By John Macone
Eagle-Tribune Writer

BOSTON -- The Registry of Motor Vehicles is breaking the law by collecting $14 for every $1 it spends on service, says a taxpayer group that is threatening to sue to stop the practice.

"I don't know how they can get away with it," said Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation, who cited an Eagle-Tribune report on the registry.

The report found the registry has become a "cash cow" for the state, collecting $807 million in revenues last year, including $375 million from license and registration fees.

Under state law, fees can be charged only to offset the cost of the service provided. Massachusetts is spending registry fees to help offset the cost of Boston's Big Dig, among other things.

Citizens for Limited Taxation sued the state once before over registry fees. The case was settled out of court when the state agreed to grant "lifetime" driver's licenses and registrations.

But some legislative leaders are now mustering support for a plan to squeeze another $100 million in fees out of drivers by going back to the system that made motorists pay $33.50 for registrations every two years and $35 for licenses every five years.

Rep. Joseph Sullivan, D-Braintree, says the extra fees are needed to provide a "revenue stream" to pay for other projects.

Mr. Ford said that would violate the out-of-court settlement and would force his group to go back to court.

But he said this time the group would target the entire registry budget.

Since it now costs about $60 million to run the registry, Mr. Ford argued fees would have to be cut to that figure from the current $375 million.

"If we win, they lose everything," he said. "They've got to be out of their minds to put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk to get $100 million they know they can't get."

Mr. Ford said he had tried to find out how much money the Registry of Motor Vehicles was bringing in through license and registration fees, but officials there would not provide the figures he requested.

He finally found some of those figures in a story published in The Eagle-Tribune last week.

He said the story showed him the state "is violating the law and ignoring our out-of-court settlement."

Top lawmakers on the Joint Transportation Committee have argued the state faces financial troubles ahead due to the cost of the Big Dig and other road projects.

More money needs to be brought in to pay for them, and registration and license fees are a logical place to start.

Drivers should be paying for the cost of providing roads through their license and registration fees, argued Chairman Robert A. Havern, D-Arlington.

But Mr. Ford argued that is a misuse of the fees and a violation of the state constitution. Specific taxes, such as the one paid on gasoline at the pump, are meant for roadway projects.

Four members and leaders of the Joint Transportation Committee did not returns calls from The Eagle-Tribune. No Merrimack Valley lawmakers serve on the committee.

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