A Ballot Committee of Citizens for Limited Taxation


The Boston Herald
Sunday, October 22, 2000

Cellucci-Finneran tax debate low-key
by Cosmo Macero Jr.

Gov. Paul Cellucci and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran squared off last night over a move to roll the state's income tax back to 5 percent.

But in contrast to two prior debates Cellucci had with opponents on the measure, the cordial discussion with Finneran on WLVI TV-56 focused mostly on how much the two agree, evolving at one point into what the speaker called a "love fest."

"I'm thinking five years down the road, 10 years down the road," said Cellucci, who argues that across-the-board income tax relief will keep the Bay State's economy humming. "You have to protect the economy."

Finneran agreed the state's 5.85 percent income tax rate should be returned to 5 percent, where it stood before the recession of the late 1980s forced tax hikes to rescue the state budget.

But the speaker, sounding his lone true point of disagreement with Cellucci, urged caution in the face of volatile financial markets, unrest in the Middle East and spiking fuel prices.

"A good leader has to ask what-if," Finneran said, calling for the tax cut to be linked to economic indicators rather than being implemented automatically over three years. "Why risk everything we've achieved? We've got a great thing going. I don't want to roll the dice."

Cellucci said tax relief can only be assured by passing Question 4, noting that Finneran's House-supported tax cut plan is expected to die in the Senate. [It already was killed in the Senate -- CLT Editor]

"You trust the Legislature, I trust the voters," Cellucci told Finneran.

The two briefly jousted over Cellucci's contention that the state's $4 billion in reserves can help offset the tax cut's $1 billion cost in revenues.

"That's a fatally flawed argument," Finneran said, saying Cellucci himself has called the unemployment insurance trust fund "sacred."

Moderator Jon Keller also put Cellucci on the spot when he referred to Big Dig cost overruns and Cellucci's own personal debt, asking the governor: "Why should we trust your budgetary forecasting skills?"

Finneran may have done the most damage to Question 4's hard-core opposition when he scoffed at arguments that the estimated $200 to $470 annual savings for the average household is meaningless.

"That's a lot to any ordinary person," Finneran said. "Two hundred bucks is pretty good dough."

Cellucci's rhetoric was toned down measurably from his first two debates, in which he aggressively took on Democrat Steve Grossman and state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien.

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