A Ballot Committee of Citizens for Limited Taxation


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Pols held to promise as tax cut measure passes
by Eric Convey

Rhetoric will give way to budget arithmetic following last night's decision by voters to cut the state income tax to 5 percent over the next three years.

"Everywhere we went during the petition drive and during the campaign, we kept hearing that people remembered there was a promise," said Barbara Anderson, who led the drive for Question 4 as executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

"God was on our side," said Chip Ford, co-chairman of the A Promise to Keep coalition. "We were telling the truth. I think the people of Massachusetts believe in keeping promises."

The ballot measure led by 60 percent to 40 percent with 78 percent of ballots counted last night.

Taxes will fall to 5 percent in three years from 5.85 percent today -- a decline of about 15 percent.

The proponents' main theme was to make the Legislature keep a 10-year-old pledge to roll back what was then described as a "temporary" hike, but Anderson also attributed the win to help from Gov. Paul Cellucci.

The Question 4 advocates, led by the state Republican Party, argued the cut was necessary to keep the state competitive with neighbors that have lower (or no) income taxes.

The GOP used what Executive Director John Brockelman called "an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign."

While complete financial reports are not due until after the election, supporters of Question 4 expected to spend about $1 million on the effort. Contributions came in part from business leaders such as EMC Corp. founder Richard Egan.

Organized labor -- especially public-employee unions -- pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless man-hours into an anti-4 effort.

Leaders countered Cellucci with arguments that Question 4 would hurt education and health care and that the $1.2 billion could be better spent.

The points were well-received by some voters, like Harry Ming of Boston.

"I wanted to vote 'yes' on Question 4, but my daughter's a teacher. I had to vote 'no,' " he said as he left a Chinatown polling place yesterday.

Nevertheless, it was a case the anti-activists conceded was hard to make -- especially when voters could all but put money in their pockets by voting for 4.

"We certainly had a harder question to deliver ... the governor's message was 'Do you want free ice cream?' " said Jack McCarthy, who managed the anti-4 Campaign for Massachusetts' Future.

Opponents planned to spend about $3 million -- including an October donation of $350,000 from the National Education Association -- a teachers union.

While arguing against Question 4, state Senate President Thomas Birmingham cautiously said in the weeks prior to the vote that state finances could weather a 'yes' vote. Yet it would still make it tough to fund important programs, he said.

Cellucci estimates the effect will be to remove $1.2 billion from the state budget annually.

Voters also appeared on track to reject Question 6 -- a measure that would have given some commuters a tax break. The vote was 57 percent against the measure to 43 percent in favor with 60 percent of precincts reporting last night.

Question 7, which will let income-tax filers deduct charitable contribution, won overwhelmingly.

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