Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Saturday, October 2, 1999


I hope you had a good day collecting signatures out there at the supermarkets and post offices in your area! We couldn't have a much nicer fall weekend for petitioning, and it's smart to get it done now, instead of in chilly November with time limited and the deadline looming!

Chip Faulkner's out there, Barbara's in Dracut speaking to a group of Republicans who are helping, and I'm stuck here manning the phones, responding to requests for more petitions or questions about the petitioning process.

Every time I think of the horror experience at the end of our last drive, all I can do is shiver and pray we don't need to go through that again. I recall only too vividly the day of the deadline -- after our count the night before, then count again -- knowing we were 600 signatures short, in blind panic scrambling to find them somehow, calling every city and town clerk searching for that stray sheet, the uncollected dozen signatures halfway across the state, sending out a volunteer to pick up two sheets with ten signatures down on the Cape, seventeen more out in Worcester.

By the 5:00 PM deadline that afternoon, incredibly we'd made up the shortage and raced to the Secretary of State's with a mere 86 signatures over the required 64,928. Five months later, after putting in around-the-clock seven-days-a-week of teachers union challenges, we lost by that lousy, crummy TWENTY-SIX signatures. All those long hours, all those weekends from August through May, those thousands upon thousands' of dollars of member contributions, all that work, all that sacrifice ... all for nothing.

Twenty-six signatures short.

Twenty-six lousy signatures.

Any one of us could have gotten another twenty-six signatures if we'd only known, only had it to do over again, only started just a little sooner, put in just an hour or two more!

Each one of us knew this. We heard it over and over again from so many of you.

That's why we know that we can count on you and all our other volunteers this time.

You don't want to put us through all that work for nothing again, that depression in the end -- and you don't want to let yourself down again either!

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
Friday, October 1, 1999

Tax fighters off to an early start
By Kelly Winget
Eagle-Tribune Writer

[Photo: Ellen M. Bahan, an area coordinator for CLT,
is working to get Massachusetts residents lower income taxes.]

They've had lawmakers ignore their pleas and seen the state's highest court throw out petitions they worked months to get signatures for.

But the people who want the state to make good on its promise to roll back the "temporary" income tax hike are back again, petitions in hand, and this time they think they will be able to make it past the opposition they've faced in the past.

Members of the group Citizens for Limited Taxation have started combing the area, trying to get signatures for a petition that would decrease the state income tax rate to 5 percent. It is currently 5.95 percent.

That decrease would give a taxpayer who earns $50,000 a year a break of about $450. Supporters say the money is important, but far more important is making the state live up to a promise it made during the dark days of the late 1980s when the state was hemorrhaging money.

Ellen M. Bahan of Methuen is determined to help obtain 100,000 signatures. She is an area coordinator for towns including Methuen, Andover, North Andover, Haverhill and Lawrence. One of her volunteers has already received 500 signatures and sent them in to his town clerk's office.

"I think the Legislature must be made to keep its promises or they should be voted out," said Ms. Bahan. "I am confident we will get enough signatures. People's awareness has gone up, people's taxes have gone up and the government has way too much of a surplus."

Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government has been fighting for almost a decade to restore the 5 percent income tax rate.

"The Legislature, like it does so often, wanted something, and this time it was the temporary income tax," said Steven Cool, an area volunteer coordinator for the petition drive. "This is 10 years after they promised voters it would only be a one-year tax hike. This money should be in your hands, so you can go and make your own spending decisions."

During the past few election cycles, CLT has organized a petition drive and garnered enough certified signatures to earn the tax cut measure a spot on the ballot, but successful legal challenges have kept it from going before voters.

This year, Mrs. Anderson is planning on a different outcome.

"I am more optimistic this time. We need fewer signatures this year to get it on the ballot, and now we have the governor's help," said Mrs. Anderson. "I knew with his assistance we could do it despite the challenges."

The challenges include getting 57,100 certified signatures, or signatures of registered voters, to bring the question before the Legislature for a vote. In order to guarantee the right amount of certified signatures, Mrs. Anderson plans on obtaining at least 100,000 signatures from communities across Massachusetts. As of Sept. 21, 700 volunteers had pledged to make that happen. All petitions must be turned in to the town or city clerk by Nov. 17 in order to be certified.

The state has a surplus that some say exceeds $500 million, the largest ever, but legislators have not kept their promise to drop the income tax rate back to 5 percent.

One challenge facing petition organizers is to adhere to the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that no stray marks of any kind could appear on the petition. That means if someone goes to sign the petition and makes a mistake, it would invalidate the entire petition. Because of the severity of the court's ruling, Mrs. Anderson said it would be considered sabotage and a criminal offense for someone opposed to the petition to make a mark on one of the papers.

If the petition makes it to lawmakers, with its exact wording, and is approved, it becomes a law. If the Legislature votes no, 9,500 additional certified signatures, different from those on the original petition, must be obtained in order for the question to come before voters next November.

"I think the legislation clearly acted under the premise that when the financial crisis was over, we would get back to a 5 percent income tax. That little bit adds up over time," said Steven S. Epstein, a Georgetown lawyer based in Lawrence and one of the petitioners. "I personally think the government has been stealing money from me since the day I started working."

The main opponent of the tax cut is the Massachusetts Teachers Association, according to Mrs. Anderson and Francis J. "Chip" Faulkner, the associate director of CLT. On every previous attempt to bring this question to the voters, the MTA halted it before it could get on the ballot. The last time CLT organized a petition drive, the MTA spent $2 million fighting to invalidate the petition signatures.

"Last time, the MTA spent all this money trying to invalidate a constitutional right. They are abusing the rights of those who disagree with them," said Steven Cool. "I hope it comes back around and bites them back. Everyone gets their just desserts."

This is the first time CLT has had the governor on their team.

Gov. A. Paul Cellucci and his coordinators are responsible for obtaining approximately half of the signatures. A report put out by the Cellucci administration demonstrated that a tax cut would help Massachusetts withstand a recession as well as convince more companies to locate in Massachusetts. This has given the CLT volunteers the boost they needed.

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