The Boston Phoenix
November 5, 1999
Spooky acts by Citizens for Limited Taxation
by Seth Gitell
This past Halloween may have meant fun and games for children, but to Citizens for
Limited Taxation (CLT) it was another opportunity to raise hell over taxes.
CLT, which is largely credited with the passage of Proposition 2 1/2 in the
Commonwealth almost two decades ago, is pushing for a rollback of the state income tax to
5 percent. A similar attempt in 1990 failed, and now, with the help of high-profile
Republicans including Governor Paul Cellucci, the group wants to get the rollback question
on the ballot for the 2000 election. CLT activists headed out over the Halloween weekend
to 14 shopping malls across the state, collecting signatures as part of their "taxes
or treat" campaign.
The goal, according to a CLT press release, "is to submit at least 100,000
'raw' signatures to the city and town halls on the November 17th deadline ... to avoid a
challenge from the goblins in the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Tax Equity
Alliance of [sic] Massachusetts."
Being characterized as "goblins" drew the ire of both groups singled out
"It's appropriate that CLT is collecting signatures on Halloween, because
their petition is truly frightening. If it passes, the real trick will be on the
public-school kids across the state, who will have fewer and fewer treats to look forward
to when they go to school," says Stephen Gorrie, the president of the Massachusetts
Teachers Association. "This ballot question would put a stake through the heart of
plans for smaller classes, alternative programs for disruptive students, safer and
more-modern buildings, and mentoring programs for new teachers. So who are the real
A TEAM policy analyst, Sarah Nolan, quips that a better analogy might be the
Wizard of Oz. Says Nolan: "There's nothing behind the curtain here. The Taxachusetts
image is rather outdated, and nobody seems to be crying out for this tax cut except for
the people trying to put it on the ballot."
The Best Legislature Money Can
The Continuing Saga
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, November 14, 1999
They always look out for themselves
Massachusetts legislators say they need more money.
Speaker Thomas M. Finneran was right to put a stop to their latest scheme.
How did they ever think they would get away with it?
Unbridled audacity, pure and simple.
The Massachusetts Legislature, just one year after passing a sneakily
worded ballot question that writes their automatic pay raises into the state constitution,
tried to slide through a proposal to give themselves even more money.
It took intervention by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran to put a
stop to the idea.
This is the same Legislature that has been AWOL while the state has
been operating without a budget for the past four months.
Last fall, voters approved a measure that tied legislators' pay to
the rise and fall in the state's median income. Legislators no longer have to debate or
vote on their pay raises and attract all that distasteful public attention. They're
Some voters feel the pols pulled another fast one on them.
Legislators wrote the ballot question as if an affirmative vote would bar them from voting
to raise their own salaries. That it did. The automatic increases were in the fine print.
So here we are one year later and some legislators are worried that
another ballot initiative that passed in that election will put the squeeze on their
pocketbooks. The Clean Elections Law offers public money for political campaigns provided
a candidate agrees to contribution and spending limits. That means every dollar in the
campaign war chests legislators routinely dip into for travel expenses, event tickets,
local offices and mailings with be more precious.
Their solution: Soak the taxpayers for some more money.
The House Ways and Means Committee proposed forming a special
commission to seek ways to supplement legislators' pay. One idea was to increase their
expense accounts. Rank and file legislators now get $46,410 a year plus $300 a month for
Rep. Finneran quashed the whole grand scheme when he issued a
statement questioning the judgment of the committee and criticizing the timing of the
proposal, but it shows clearly where legislators' priorities are. They have yet to keep
the promise they made a decade ago to restore the state income tax to 5 percent.
Let any threat be made to their precious pocketbooks and they will
fight for every dime, even if it means twisting the law.
As for the rest of us, they could not care less.
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, November 16, 1999
Haste still makes waste
A Boston Herald editorial
The legislative goof that appears to give the MBTA one penny from
every sales-tax transaction instead of the intended one fifth of the tax is good for a
laugh, but too much should not be made of it.
It can be quickly fixed. No doubt the pooh-bahs on Beacon Hill will
figure out whom to blame: A tired typist omitting a couple of words? A slip of the
calculator? It hardly matters.
But there is a point to consider. Too many laws are sloppily drafted,
giving rise to results that no one intended, and there appears to be a rising trend.
Sometimes somebody may have misunderstood a deal reached in a noisy hallway the evening of
adjournment and jotted down on the back of a matchbook. Sometimes it's simple haste, more
likely the cause here.
And it's true, too many lawmakers are voting on things they never
Haste makes waste, mother used to warn. This is not a bad thought to
keep in mind when making laws.