Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Sunday, November 21, 1999

Tomorrow at 5:00 PM is it for collecting signatures, and in Boston only. The outcome is looking pretty good, though we've still got to get through the city and town clerks' voter certification (where we'll likely lose 15-20 percent of our "raw" signatures), then the new hurdle of the Secretary of State's inspection for any "extraneous marks" that could disqualify entire sheets (where we'll reportedly lose another 20 percent).

All in all, though, I think we may have made it (I've got my fingers crossed!) -- and hopefully with enough signatures left over to discourage the teachers union from squandering another $2 million of its members' dues on yet another protracted challenge.

The optimists, uninitiated, and uninformed already are calling it a win, but we're not there yet by any means. Our drivers still have to go out again to every city and town hall and pick up all the certified petitions. Then the real counting begins.

We're far ahead of where we were two years ago, when we barely squeaked by the Secretary of State with some 80 signatures more than was required, leaving us wide open for a challenge. After the give and take before first the state Ballot Law Commission, then Suffolk Superior Court, where we picked up a couple thousand signatures that we identified which town clerks should have certified but didn't, and lost a couple thousand challenged by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, ultimately we lost by a mere 26 signatures.

Again, thanks so much to each and every one of you who contributed to this effort, which this time appears will be successful. You have truly earned the respected title of Activist; wear it proudly! But we would be nowhere near a reasonably comfortable position were it not for the governor bringing in the paid professionals and their 50,000 "raw" signatures. That has always been our cushion of assurance.

It is truly sad to see a process, originally intended to provide us citizens with a means of circumventing an intransigent legislature, hijacked by the powers that be, hell bent on having their way at any cost. But that being the sorry state of affairs, we're just thrilled that our side for once was able to afford the admission price to play by the new rules.

We couldn't have done it without the bought signatures, and we couldn't have done it without the strong volunteer effort. CLT and its members alone turned in over 50,000 "raw" signatures that we know of (petitions that came to us and didn't go directly to the city of town clerks). With the ridiculous new obstacles that have been erected in the way of the initiative petition process, without the assurance of that 50,000 paid-signatures base, we wouldn't have even attempted it.

Still, it's a sad day when the people's historic process has been corrupted by the powers that be, made so unreasonably difficult that citizens by themselves no longer can fall back on it as their desperate course of last resort, as was intended by the drafters.

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

[Note 1] CLARIFICATION: The "5.85 percent" in the below report refers to the revised income tax rate, down from its current 5.95 percent after the Legislature's token tax rollback takes effect next year, whoopdeedoo.

[Note 2] CORRECTION: In the story below, Globe State House bureau chief Frank Phillips reported: "Antitax activist Barbara Anderson said the key this year was Cellucci's decision to raise $100,000 to hire a Nevada firm to collect signatures." While the 50,000 additional signatures provided by the paid professional collectors is greatly appreciated, Barbara never said this. We have no idea how much money Gov. Cellucci and his Tax Rollback Committee decided to raise or in fact raised for the petition drive. This information must have come from the irrepressibly over-confident "sources working on the tax-cut campaign" for the governor.

The Boston Sunday Globe
November 21, 1999

Cellucci's tax cut may be assured ballot spot

By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

Governor Paul Cellucci may have been steamrollered in this year's budget battle by the Democratic Legislature, but he is emerging with a political ace in the hole: a spot on next year's ballot for his $1.4 billion tax-cut plan.

Initial reports compiled by Secretary of State William F. Galvin from city and town clerks indicate Cellucci's petition -- a unique political effort by a sitting governor -- is all but guaranteed to be on the ballot.

The tax-cut drive appears to have gained more than double the required 57,100 certified voter signatures, a level that probably would insulate it from a legal challenge.

The news comes just in time for Cellucci, who emerged last week bruised from the bitter budget struggle that culminated when the Democratic leadership, backed by most of his Republican colleagues, led a drive to override two-thirds of his vetoes.

Cellucci had cut $250 million from the legislative budget plan, but the lawmakers restored $190 million. His most humiliating defeat came when every Republican in the House and Senate abandoned him and voted to restore $94 million for education reform.

Cellucci last week insisted that the final $20.8 billion budget contains some major victories for him, including $300 million in tax cuts and a restructuring of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority financing, which he has sought for several years.

The governor also noted that his vetoes killed an attempt by Democrats to halt the phaseout of the capital gains tax and stopped an expensive early retirement plan for teachers.

But the tax-cut question, which would trim the income tax rate to 5 percent from 5.85 percent [1], could give him leverage. It would force Democratic lawmakers to curtail state spending, and lay out budget plans that account for the potential loss of $1.4 billion in tax revenue over three years.

"This will absolutely reframe the debate," said the Senate Ways and Means chairman, Mark Montigny, a Democrat from New Bedford. "This is especially good for him after his administration woke up this morning with a huge hangover. This will make it go away more quickly."

Montigny said the potential tax cut will force legislators and voters to make a difficult choice, but also will test Cellucci's long-held claim that you can cut taxes and still provide program expansion.

With the tax cut as a political cudgel, some State House Republicans also hope they can gain a toehold in the budget debate next year.

"This changes the discussions when the Democrats know they may be facing a different bottom line," said the Senate Republican leader, Brian Leas of East Longmeadow. "Paul Cellucci has a lot more clout now."

Indeed, Cellucci will face a strong campaign from Democrats and public sector interests to defeat his tax rollback, at a time when polls show voters split over whether to spend surplus money on programs such as education or to reduce the tax levy.

"This will tee up a very dramatic political confrontation between the parties," said House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran. "It's like the weeks before the Super Bowl when there will beall kinds of analysis and comments on the strategies and strengths and weakness of each side."

Signature sheets for a range of ballot questions were required to be submitted last Wednesday to city and town clerks. The Suffolk County deadline, the final one, is tomorrow.

Sources working on the tax-cut campaign say the drive has collected more than 120,000 signatures, and much of the credit is due to the Cellucci political organization.

Antitax activist Barbara Anderson said [2] the key this year was Cellucci's decision to raise $100,000 to hire a Nevada firm to collect signatures. That gave the campaign a comfortable cushion of signatures that probably will protect it from a challenge in the courts and the ballot law commission.

A similar income tax reduction pushed by Anderson for the 1998 ballot failed to gather enough signatures.

A recent decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that initiative petition signature sheets must be free of stray pen marks or other blemishes, has concerned some grass-roots groups who fear that earning a spot on the ballot will become even harder.

But Cellucci operatives say the professional signature gathering firm is skilled at avoiding invalidations.

The signatures of the tax-cut supporters will be reviewed by Secretary of State Galvin.

Galvin has said previously that the SJC decision has resulted in as many as 20 percent of signatures being tossed out. But even at that rate, the tax-cut question would be safe.


"A voter might be intrigued by any one [ballot] question but it takes a legislator who's cognizant of all the other factors in state government to evaluate it in context."

Imperious Maximus
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran
November 12, 1999
Assaulting the Initiative Petition Process

The Boston Sunday Globe
November 21, 1999

Big budget holds little surprises
By Michael Crowley
Globe Staff


Don't think for a minute, however, that the legislators are versed in every obscure detail of the budget. On Wednesday, the House and Senate overrode a veto of a school breakfast program that the governor had never cut in the first place.

And when a vote came up Wednesday night on an arcane measure affecting the finances of Quinsigamond Community College, Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees of East Longmeadow pointed out that lawmakers were casting dozens of votes on items they knew nothing about.

"Could [you] at least tell us what this would do?" Lees, a Republican, asked of the measure's sponsor, Senator Robert A. Bernstein, a Worcester Democrat.

Bernstein's answer: "This is a good thing for Quinsigamond Community College."

The measure passed without further debate, 34-3.

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