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

CLT Update
Saturday, December 4, 1999

There seems to be some confusion, maybe even a difference, over exactly how many certified signatures we turned in to the Secretary of State on Wednesday. The State House News Service yesterday reported (below): "[Secretary of State] Galvin announced just how many certified signatures each group had filed. There were 116,039 on petitions to trim the income tax to 5 percent ..."

On Monday morning, I was told by a senior aide in his office that the statewide computer network, which connects all the town clerks and city registrars of voters to the Secretary's office, indicated that we had 115,090 signatures certified and sitting in the city and town halls, and that the certification process was still ongoing in some locations, particularly the larger cities like Worcester.

We logged in 122,432 certified signatures over the course of Wednesday as they were brought in to us by our volunteer drivers, sorted, then individually added up, totaled, and entered into our spreadsheet.

I suspect the discrepancy is due to the Secretary relying on his total number based on his computer network, instead of taking it from our stated tally. We know that some clerks still certify signatures the old-fashioned way (ie., the Town of Ipswich clerk refuses to use her computer!), so the numbers never get into the statewide computer system. We'll check on it with the Secretary's office on Monday, but that's my guess.

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

State House News Service
(Week of Dec. 6, 1999)

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON ... Those trying to derail efforts to place eight questions on next year's statewide ballot will be armed with magnifying glasses this week as they inspect tens of thousands of voter signatures in search of flaws. They will be looking for enough questionable names or tainted forms to challenge the forward progress of any proposal they oppose.

It won't be easy since local officials have already certified more than enough qualifying signatures for all the proposals filed last Wednesday with the office of Secretary of State William Galvin. Campaign advocates needed 57,100 voter names to remain on track with each of the eight petitions, along with a proposed constitutional amendment allowing for public aid to private schools. The latter proposal could not appear on the ballot until at least 2002.

Among those measures headed for voter consideration next year are two that would offer significant tax relief and which are unlikely to win legislative approval by early May. All of the petitions will be before the House and Senate in January. Sponsors of those that fail there must go out next spring and collect another 9,517 signatures to reserve a spot on the ballot.

Backers would prefer going the legislative route since ballot campaigns can be even more difficult and costly than the signature gathering efforts that launched them. For instance, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group hopes lawmakers will pass a stalled bill protecting youngsters in public schools and day care centers from pesticides. Final passage of the proposal would mean MassPIRG could abandon its ballot campaign, and the 72,509 people who signed their petition would have accomplished their goal.

Last week, Galvin announced just how many certified signatures each group had filed. There were 116,039 on petitions to trim the income tax to 5 percent; 70,756 to offer tax credits to motorists using the Massachusetts Turnpike and other roads; 69,688 for a universal health care law; 67,071 to promote competition in the cable industry; 88,935 to ban greyhound racing; 76,523 to use forfeited illegal drug assets for treatment programs; and 68,015 to offer tax breaks for charitable giving.

Along with the 80,000 filed for the constitutional amendment on private schools, Galvin's office will spend the next 10 days or so reviewing more than 800,000 signatures on petition forms that fill 60 boxes. Some groups collected more than twice the amount needed in order to prevent successful challenges in the wake of a court ruling that has created nothing but headaches for signature gatherers.

SJC RULING/GALVIN ... The SJC's "bright line" ruling of last summer sparked consternation among ballot activists and caused headaches for Secretary of State William Galvin.

"It's made the process more cumbersome without a doubt, more cumbersome for the gatherers, more cumbersome for us," Galvin said.

Early in the season, Galvin re-designed the petition forms to help activists cope with the court ruling. But the strict prohibition on extraneous marks on the petitions -- including pen doodles and coffee stains - led many campaign workers to only allow one signature per page, and some to hire professional signature gatherers.

A record number of signatures flooded into Galvin's office on roughly 750,000 sheets of paper, forcing Galvin to pull employees from other departments to help the Elections Division staff sort and process the "boxes and boxes and boxes" of petitions.

Galvin said it's going to take longer than usual to tally the sheets this year, at least another couple of weeks. That pushes close to the Dec. 31 deadline for filing challenges of individual signatures with the state Ballot Law Commission. Meanwhile those scrutinizing the petitions will take up residence in Galvin's office trying to find some way to legally challenge ones they oppose.

ACTIVISTS ... The people on the streets who found themselves subject to the SJC ruling lambasted it with near unanimity.

"The single most undemocratic act that we have ever witnessed in Massachusetts politics," declared ubiquitous ballot campaigner Harold Hubschman, who this year worked on petitions to grant tax credits for tolls and auto excise taxes, to give Internet providers access to cable lines, and to offer a charitable giving tax break.

"There's no doubt it was a terrible decision -- a strained interpretation of the law," said MassPIRG environmental attorney Paul Burns, who spearheaded a campaign to crack down on pesticide use in schools. He added, "We instilled a sense of paranoia in anybody who gathered signatures on this petition. You really had to watch (signers) like a hawk."

Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation said the high court ruling flies in the face of the state Constitution, rendering "obsolete" the 57,100-signature threshold. "You've got to go out and collect twice what the Constitution requires in order to fulfill a Constitutional requirement," Ford said. "They're going to have to revisit this."

But Boston attorney Thomas Kiley, who organized a petition drive to reform the state's drug laws, said the "end of the world" mentality is nonsense. Kiley was also one of the lawyers in the original court case that was upheld in the SJC's decision. "We had to, of course, instruct our people not to put such things on the petitions," he said.

TAX CUTS ... Two years ago, the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Teachers Association challenged the Citizens for Limited Taxation petition to roll back the income tax and disqualified enough signatures to keep the question off the ballot. But the same groups this year are not expected to challenge the same question because, they say, there are too many signatures and there is too little time.

But TEAM's James St. George worries about what it means down the road if voters should approve both the income tax cut and the proposition to grant further cuts to toll road users and auto excise payers.

If their value is added to other tax cuts just approved by lawmakers and Gov. Cellucci, state coffers will be $2.7 billion lighter in 2003, St. George predicts. That fear comes at a time when revenue growth is slowing.

Tax cuts critics in the coming months will warn of the likely "devastation" of public education, health and safety programs should the massive tax cuts be enacted. Supporters, led by Cellucci, will contend tax cuts have fueled the existing economic boom and are integral to its continuation. ...

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Department of Revenue

December 2, 1999

November 1999 Revenues Total $1.04 Billion

Revenue Commissioner Frederick A. Laskey today announced that revenue collections for the month of November totaled $1.04 billion, up $67.2 million or 6.9 percent from last November. Year-to-date revenue collections totaled $5.59 billion, up $159 million or 2.9 percent above last year. Collections for FY2000 are $171 million above the midpoint of the revenue estimate range.

"November revenues, driven by strong sales tax collections, reflect a healthy economy. Overall revenue collections remain strong as we move into the holiday season," said Laskey.

Income tax collections for November totaled $604.1 million, an increase of $1.0 million or 0.2 percent when compared to November 1998. Withholding tax collections totaled $630.2 million, up $24.5 million or 4.0 percent. Sales and use tax collections totaled $291.9 million, up $41.4 million or 16.5 percent. Corporate collections totaled $24.9 million, up $21.4 million compared to last November.

Year-to-date income tax collections totaled $3.16 billion, up $100.6 million or 3.3 percent. Withholding collections totaled $2.85 billion, up $165.1 million or 6.2 percent. Total sales and use tax collections totaled $1.46 billion, up $121.6 million or 9.1 percent. Corporate collections totaled $229.2 million, down $20.9 million or 8.4 percent.

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