A Ballot Committee of Citizens for Limited Taxation


The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, October 14, 2000


Ballot initiatives started in Midwest
with the Progressive Movement 

By D.A. Mittell, Jr.

Ballot initiatives are a form of direct democracy first introduced in midwestern states during the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century. In recent years they have been used for great causes and narrow ones with increasing frequency. Proposition 21/2, which stabilized property taxes, was actually Question 2 in 1980. So were term limits (later overturned in court), campaign finance reform and many others.

This year there are eight ballot questions -- perhaps too many for the public to address on an informed basis, but a fraction of the 50 or more that new-age Californians put before the people every two years. Here is a run-down of the first seven Massachusetts questions. No. 8 -- a deadly serious matter that deserves comment in a separate column -- will be dealt with next week....

Question 4 is rather more important that the first three combined. It would return the state income tax to its 1989 level of 5 percent from the present 5.85 percent. In 1989, and when it was raised again the following year as the "Massachusetts miracle" collapsed in recession and red ink, the preponderance of legislators voting for the raises solemnly promised the rate would return to 5 percent as soon as the recession ended.

Come 2000, half a generation has been born that doesn't remember there was a recession, yet legislators still have a shopping bag full of excuses why dire things will happen if a state government awash in money is deprived of .85 percent of people's income. Those looking for goodies in the state's shopping bag will want to keep the higher rate. Those looking to promote economic growth -- and through growth, more tax revenue -- will favor people doing the Legislature's duty for it by cutting the rate....

David A. Mittell Jr.'s column appears regularly in Weekend editions of The Patriot Ledger.

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