Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Friday, December 17, 1999


The state is "awash" with surplus revenue -- our tax overpayment -- yet Jimmy St. George still whines "it's the wrong time to pass a tax cut." This clearly proves beyond even the most unreasonable of doubt that for Jimmy and the rest of his Gimme Lobby ilk there is just no good time for a tax cut, ever.

Doesn't he have the mental capacity to stop regurgitating that tired, worn out liberal dogma and at least come up with a fresh spin?

Jimmy's mantra, "More Is Never Enough: MINE, MINE MINE!" is not only wearing thin, it's becoming increasingly absurd and utterly indefensible. It's losing altitude and won't fly much longer; the facts are beginning to obstruct its scheduled non-stop flight path.

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Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Cellucci, Senate prez reignite bitter war of words
by Cosmo Macero Jr.

Breaking a month-long truce, Gov. Paul Cellucci and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham restarted their bitter political feud yesterday as Birmingham called the governor's tax-cut crusade "reckless" and Cellucci dubbed the senate president the leader of the "liberals' last stand."

The bruising battle over education spending also rose to the fore, as Cellucci explained why he intends to blow off the Legislature en masse as part of his strategy for the year 2000.

"This is the liberals' last stand," Cellucci said, ridiculing lawmakers as the "do-nothing Legislature." "They're pushing for more money ... and they frame the issue in motherhood and apple pie. 'If you vote against this, you'll hurt the kids.'"

Cellucci was responding to a suggestion from Birmingham that Massachusetts taxpayers be ready to spend between $200 million and $250 million on education next year. And he was countering the Senate president's charge that a ballot petition Cellucci is leading to roll the state's income tax back to 5 percent is "reckless" and "not the most noble course to pursue."

"The last time, (Birmingham) was talking about $100 million" for education, Cellucci said, adding that his budget for fiscal 2001 will include about that much. "His solution to everything is to spend a lot more money."

But Birmingham said the governor, who is planning to reach out directly to voters next year in a populist revival of his administration, hasn't been listening to the pulse of the electorate.

"It's very healthy to go (outside the State House) and see what's working and ... what's not working," Birmingham said. "I dare say had the governor been doing this sort of thing this year, he'd have thought twice about vetoing $94 million to fully fund public schools."

That veto was unanimously overridden in an embarrassing rebuke of Cellucci, and it helped touch off a firestorm between the governor and Birmingham -- sinking both men low enough to challenge each other to lie detector tests over a dispute of what was said in a private meeting.

The two buried the hatchet after Thanksgiving, but the stinging rhetoric returned yesterday.

Birmingham said $100 million is merely the "bare minimum" that Bay State schools need to build on the seven-year commitment of education reform. And he called Cellucci's pitch for the tax cut "dishonest," saying the state can't slash $1.5 billion in revenue and still adequately fund education, health care and other programs.

"From my journeys around the state I hear very little demand for a tax cut as aggressive as the governor proposes," said Birmingham, who is weighing a gubernatorial run himself.

Still, as Cellucci prepares to plug himself in to a more direct vibe with citizens, it appears the tax cut has strong voter approval.

Polls have shown that both the governor -- and a tax cut -- enjoy high favorability ratings among voters.

Cellucci, meanwhile, suggested Birmingham hasn't been paying attention since he and former Gov. William F. Weld first took office in 1991.

"This is what the liberals say all the time. They say you can't set priorities and cut taxes at the same time," Cellucci said. "We've done it. The liberals are pushing back. This is their last stand, and we're going to fight them all the way."

Cellucci accused Birmingham of trying to score "political points" by trumping the governor's office and the House on education spending, health care and other initiatives.

"He basically threw money at education, and a lot of it won't be spent on education," Cellucci said, defending the $94 million veto, which even his fellow Republicans in the Legislature rejected. "People can see right through that."

While the governor's slap at the Legislature hit hardest against Birmingham, Cellucci gave House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran a noticeable pass from his harshest criticism, at one point praising the powerful House leader for his fiscal conservatism.

"He's like the little boy with his thumb in the dike, trying to hold (excessive spending) back," Cellucci said of Finneran.

Finneran responded in kind, calling Cellucci "a very popular figure," praising his "good political judgment" in reaching "outside Beacon Hill," and suggesting Birmingham went too far in calling the tax cut reckless.

"In theory it's very hard to quarrel with the governor's notion of the lowest possible tax rate," Finneran said, cautioning that he prefers a phased-in approach versus Cellucci's one-time reduction to 5 percent. "That's a goal I share with the governor. Reckless might be a word that I wouldn't use. It's maybe a little bit strong."

Still, the governor said both Finneran and Birmingham must share the blame for a four-month budget delay which halted any meaningful legislative business.

"It's a do-nothing Legislature," Cellucci said, explaining his year 2000 plans to push for a new Logan Airport runway and other priorities. "While they are paralyzed I'm going to keep pushing my agenda."

The Boston Herald
Tuesday, December 28, 1999

Bay State awash in $$ for a rainy day
By Martin Finucane
Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) Just like the average person who sees an increase in his or her paycheck, the state has been spending more and socking more away for a rainy day.

With tax dollars gushing in to state coffers because of the booming economy, the state has now piled up mountains of money in trust funds that are meant to help the state if times turn bad.

The state now has:

$1.8 billion raised through the unemployment insurance tax to pay for unemployment benefits for laid-off workers;

$1.4 billion raised through general taxes in the state's "rainy day" fund; and

$131 million in reserve funds in case the welfare caseload grows.

And the state will soon be filling up another trust fund, with 70 percent of the money flowing in annually from the state's $8 billion share of the national tobacco settlement.

"Not only do we have balanced budgets now, not only do we maintain fiscal discipline, we have built up reserves," said Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci. "These are significant cushions should there be an economic downturn, should there be a significant shortfall unexpectedly of federal revenues."

"That's something we've worked very hard on and we are well-protected," he said.

Both the rainy day fund and the unemployment fund were empty when former Gov. William F. Weld and then-Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci took office in 1991.

Cellucci administration officials point with pride to a national study from earlier this year that said Massachusetts was one of only eight states in the nation that could weather a recession of the same length and severity as the recession of the early 1990s.

The report, "When it Rains, it Pours," was issued by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, a liberal budget think tank in Washington.

Governments are faced with tough problems in recessions because tax receipts decline just as the demand for services such as welfare or unemployment checks increases. Rainy day funds are designed to get the state through those times.

Cellucci administration officials say that, beside being handy for tough times, the trust funds show Wall Street that the state is in good financial shape and could help get the state better bond ratings.

To anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson, the existence of the trust funds is just more evidence that the state's taxes need to be cut.

"They've got more money than they need so they're trying to stash it in places where it will be if they ever come up with a bright idea to spend it," she said.

Cellucci has joined Anderson in the drive for a $1.4 billion tax cut proposal on the November ballot.

But Jim St. George, executive director of the liberal Tax Equity Alliance, said it's the wrong time to pass a tax cut.

Taxes have already been slashed last year and this year by a total of more than $1.3 billion, he said.

He also doubted whether the unemployment insurance trust fund had enough money in it.

"The last thing anybody wants is a situation where people are losing their jobs through no fault of their own and there's no money in the trust fund to pay their benefits with," he said.

The Boston Herald
Monday, December 27, 1999

Populist appeals: How to make them
A Boston Herald editorial

So Paul Cellucci, a fairly popular governor if the polls are right, plans to reinvent himself and his administration on "populist" lines next year.

Well, good luck to the governor. But please, spare us a Clintonian "permanent campaign" and the pit-bull politics of personal destruction so often the tactic of reflex in the White House.

It'll be essential that the governor remember that his adversaries, however crafty and misguided, are not the embodiment of evil, and that he target their policies and deeds, not their personalities (the major adversaries are interesting people and would be so even if they had jobs in the dreaded private sector).

They say the governor is going to try to appeal to the people over the head of the Legislature. To do that you have to get the people's attention.

The rollback of the state income tax rate to 5 percent via a vote of the people in an initiative campaign Cellucci will lead is a pretty good way to start. That's because this issue honestly can be cast in stark black-and-white terms.

The Legislature promised that the increase from 5 percent to 5.95 percent a decade ago was "temporary" to get the state through a true fiscal crisis. This year they rolled the rate back to 5.75 percent. Failure to provide for rolling it all the way back is simply a breaking of a promise, no matter what technical objections today's legislative leaders trot out, and everybody can understand breaking promises.

But where does the governor go from there?

Many of the frustrations of his administration are not the result of ignorance or frivolity on the part of lawmakers or their leaders, or somebody's ambition to be governor, or a desire on the part of Democrats to make a Republican in the corner office look ineffective (though that last item certainly plays a part).

These frustrations are simply what happens when institutions embracing many people have concrete interests as well as the political muscle to make life difficult for people who would enact measures that make life uncomfortable for them. The teachers' unions are good example. Of course members don't want to submit to competency tests. And there are teachers in every legislative district. And most of them are held in high personal regard in the community.

It takes more than sound bites and public appearances to overcome opposition like that. It takes a major shift in public opinion, and it takes reliable votes in the Legislature.

Bill Weld swept 14 Republican state senators into office in 1990, enough to uphold his vetoes. Everything Cellucci does ought to be done with a view toward eventually restoring his party's Senate delegation, now a sickly seven votes, to that healthy status.

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