A Ballot Committee of Citizens for Limited Taxation

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

June, 2000

In one-party system, taxpayer gets squished
By Barbara Anderson

Once upon a time there was a Governor who got along pretty well with the Legislature. As a conservative Democrat, he had allies from the conservative wing of the Democrat caucus and many Republicans, who liked his position on taxes and the death penalty. His positions were shared by the majority of voters as well.

However, Governor King lost his primary in 1982. When asked, voters explained that it was because he once served lobster to friends for lunch in his office.

Even in the beginning, his replacement was not very popular with the Legislature, especially with the conservative Democrats and Republicans. By the time Governor Dukakis' second term ended with a major fiscal crisis and accompanying tax hikes, most legislators and the public were happy to see him go.

Because of the fiscal crisis and desire to avoid more tax hike votes, the Legislature had to work with the next Governor, who agreed with the majority of voters on issues like tax cuts and welfare reform and was easily re-elected. His lieutenant governor took his place and continued the policies that kept the Massachusetts economy strong. Governor Cellucci was elected to his own term and is presently having trouble getting both parties' legislators to sustain his vetoes.

So do voters judge a Governor by his ability to get along with the Legislature? Not yet they haven't.

Personally, I think the commonwealth would be a lot better off in the long run in the Legislature didn't even get along so well with itself, never mind the governor. The only thing that makes the system work for the people is conflict among the politicians who otherwise would have the power to gang up on us. Let Democrats fight with Republicans, and vice versa, the way they're supposed to, while the Governor who is elected statewide takes his case directly to the voters with radio ads and an initiative petition.

On the all-important education issues, it would be easy for Governor Cellucci to respond to the demands of the teacher unions for more "education" money and early retirement for themselves. If all the politicians are saying the same thing, that it's "for the children," most voters wouldn't even notice that the children and real education reform aren't even at or on the table. Instead, the Governor has vetoed expensive "education" bills that threaten the long-term fiscal stability of the commonwealth; legislators who fear being labeled "anti-education" override his vetoes.

Yet most Republicans and a few independent Democrats support his income tax rollback. On my other hand, a brave minority of both parties oppose his gun control legislation, a few legislators voted against the fee hikes he supported, and it looks as if a majority might prevent the taxpayer support of a Red Sox stadium that the Governor wants. Sometimes on Beacon Hill you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug.

Party-oriented activists can get intensely angry with their party leaders when they aren't 100 percent supportive of the activists' agenda. Their involvement adds another important dimension to the political arena, but clearly no one politician can be everything each of us wants all of the time. Let the voters pay attention and decide which politicians they agree with most of the time.

I prefer to identify my enemies, and then live by the adage: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Generally, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts (TEAM), the Democratic legislative leadership: enemies. Governor Paul Cellucci, most of the Republican legislators, and a few independent Democrats: friends. And I don't really care what they eat or serve for lunch.

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