2008 Massachusetts Ballot Initiative ("Question 1") to End the Income Tax

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Question 1 in the News

    * Forbes Endorses Question 1
    * Wall Street Journal: "Boston Tax Party"
    * Boston Herald - Howie Carr: "Two Americas: One gets zilch and the other filches"
    * Glenn Beck, CNN: Massachusetts Group Calls for End to State Tax
    * NY Times - "Massachusetts Proposal Would Repeal Income Tax"
    * Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "A cutting mood"
    * Cape Cod Times: "Join anti-income tax campaign"
    * MetroWest Daily News: "Vote Yes on Question 1"
    * Boston Herald - Carr - Vote yes on Question 1
    * Wall Street Journal - Tax Report by Tom Herman: "A Tax Revolt Is Quietly Brewing In Some States"
    * Boston Herald - Howie Carr: "Convenient timing for phony Pike plan"
    * Boston Metro: Michele McPhee - "Time for the taxpayer to speak up"
    * The Daily Collegian Editorial-"Abolish the income tax"
    * Daily News Tribune: "Taxpayers win with Question 1"
    * Skip the propaganda on Question 1
    * TaxAnalysts.com: "Income Tax Repeal to Appear on Massachusetts's November Ballot"
    * The Salem News-Our View: "Brophy's claims turn outlandish"
    * Boston Globe: "Activists hope to abolish state income tax"
    * Boston Herald: "Voters to weigh in on income tax"
    * The Sun Chronicle: "So long, income tax?"
    * "Convenient timing for phony Pike plan" Howie Carr
    * MetroWest Daily News: "'Income tax cut unlikely', says DiMasi"
    * Boston Herald: Monday morning briefing - "perfect storm developing"
    * Metro International" "Fall ballot looking big"
    * AP: "Senate Pres attacks income tax question"
    * Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "Spending addiction"
    * SouthCoastToday.com-LTE: "Question 1 would cut wasteful public spending"
    * Boston Herald - "Faneuil Hall event set to rally campaign vs. state income tax"
    * WeeklyDig.com: "The ballot question to chop off a hunk of your taxes"
    * Oberdorfer: Vote Yes on Question 1
    * Letter-"Why I'm voting yes on Question 1"
    * Bailing out on taxes
    * "Same old story from No on 1 set"
    * Letter to the Editor -"Vote yourself a pay raise!"
    * The Boston Globe - Jeff Jacoby - A resolution: Abolish the income tax
    * MySouthEnd.com:  "Why this liberal supports repealing the income tax"

Forbes Endorses Question 1

Boston Tea Party II
By Steve Forbes

October 16, 2008

The Massachusetts political establishment is horrified--voters might actually pass a proposition abolishing the state income tax. The personal income tax rate is 5.3%, and the state capital gains levy peaks at 12%. Under the proposition the tax would be cut 50% on Jan. 1, 2009 and eradicated on Jan. 1, 2010. These exactions currently raise about 40% of the state's budget revenue--27% if you count all of the Bay State's off-budget spending.

A similar measure was on the ballot six years ago. With almost no promotion it garnered a 45% yes vote, stunning politicians. The measure got a majority in a third of Massachusetts towns. An earlier proposition--a mild one--had appeared on the ballot in 2000. It cut the income tax to 5% from 5.75%. It passed. But state legislators thumbed their noses at the voters, lowering the rate only to 5.3%--a graphic example of the growing disconnect between citizens and the political culture.

Naturally, opponents predict the direst of circumstances if the measure passes, even though the state legislature will probably treat the referendum the same way it did the previous tax cut initiative.

The reason the measure stands even a chance of passing is not that Bay State citizens are selfish (even though each would enjoy on average an additional $3,700 of income) but that they are angry. This is an attack on political establishments there and throughout the U.S. that routinely put their own interests above those of their constituents: lavish government pensions with payouts that would bankrupt private companies; resistance to genuine reform in Medicaid spending, which has become the biggest item on virtually every state's budget; ever more pork-barrel spending; and ever more obsequiousness to rapacious special interests.

It's telling when one of the most liberal states in the Union, with two extremely liberal U.S. senators and a House delegation with nary a Republican, is on the verge of a tax rebellion.

Bay State voters--go for your proposition. Your pols didn't enact your polite initiative of a small income tax reduction. Maybe they'll wake up when you whack them with a 2-by-4.

Wall Street Journal: "Boston Tax Party"

Wall Street Journal


Boston Tax Party
August 5, 2008; Page A18

Massachusetts is about the last place one would expect a tax revolt, but that's what's brewing in Beantown. The state board of elections recently certified that citizen activists have gathered the 125,000 signatures required to qualify an initiative for the November ballot to eliminate the state income tax.

The Small Government Act would repeal the 5.3% income and wage tax, as well as the state capital gains tax, which reaches as high as 12%. The ballot initiative would replace the $12.5 billion in taxes with . . . nothing. "One of the points here," explains Carla Howell of the Committee for Small Government that is driving the referendum, "is to force the state legislators to start cutting the bloated state budget." The political shock of having no income tax would force the pols on Beacon Hill to make the difficult spending choices they now refuse to make.

The referendum may seem the longest of long shots in a state represented by some of Congress's biggest spenders. But the same initiative was on the ballot in 2002, and though the political establishment roared with laughter through Election Day, the measure got 45% of the vote. This time pro-tax forces such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association are planning to spend millions of dollars warning of Armageddon.

They have cause to be worried. A Fabrizio poll for Citizens for Limited Taxation discovered that the average Massachusetts voter believes that 41 cents of every state tax dollar are wasted. Coincidentally, that's the share of the state budget funded by the income tax. One big drain is a pension program that doles out billions each year to double-dipping pensioners and state workers retiring at taxpayer expense in their late 40s or 50s.

Nine U.S. states have no income tax, including such economic climbers as Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas. These states are doing fine funding schools, hospitals and police without the income levy. Over the past decade 330,000 Massachusetts residents have packed U-Haul trailers and left -- more
than have even fled Michigan -- and many have gone to no-income-tax New Hampshire.

"The idea here is to stop being on the defensive in fighting against big government and to start taking the political offensive," says Ms. Howell. She says the tax repeal would give every Massachusetts worker a 5% after-tax pay raise, or about $3,000 extra income per family. That's attractive when Census data show that, after inflation, state budgets nationwide are up 18% since 2005 while paychecks have remained flat.

The forces of the tax-and-spend status quo will descend on this initiative like British troops after the original Boston tea party, but somebody has to make an effort to stop the relentless growth of government.

Boston Herald - Howie Carr: "Two Americas: One gets zilch and the other filches"

Boston Herald.com
Two Americas: One gets zilch and the other filches

By Howie Carr | Wednesday, August 20, 2008

John Edwards was right: there are two Americas. They’re just not the two he was talking about.

The two Americas are Public Sector America and the Dreaded Private Sector America.

In DPS America, it’s not the Great Depression, but things are not good. Workers are being laid off, bought out, cut back, outsourced and RIFed. Those who remain are getting hit with higher health-insurance premiums, discontinued retirement plans, a deflated stock market and ever-rising property taxes on plummeting property values.

But it’s still morning In Public Sector America. Let the good times roll. Nine percent pay hikes, free cars and gas, endless overtime, a three-day weekend every month, fake disability pensions, plus you get to steal everything that’s not nailed down.

This isn’t a democracy we’ve got in Massachusetts, its a kleptocracy.

Memo to the public-sector unions: forget $5 million to defeat Question 1. You may need $10 million to buy enough ads to keep the hackerama going in November. Either that, or instruct your members not to keep getting arrested at the rate of one a day.

Question: how do you tell a public employee in Massachusetts?

Answer: the red dye on his hands.

It’s not just the daily rip-offs, it’s the size of the thefts. It used to be, whenever a T employee got caught stealing, the scandal was called “Quartergate,” because they were grabbing change. But this guy Gilberto Carrasquillo, the T’s hack du jour, was allegedly pocketing 10s and 20s at Kenmore Square. This $70,000-a-year parasite was so flush with dirty money that he could even leave behind a marked sawbuck or two, just for appearances sake.

Back in the 1940s, a mayor got indicted for taking 10 bucks for a curb cut. Now the perps can’t be bothered with anything less than a double-sawbuck.

Oh, and it appears that Carrasquillo is related to one of those crooked cocaine cops now cooling his heels down in the federal pen down in Oklahoma City. You remember those guys, the boys from the Boom Boom Room. They were taking tens of thousands of dollars to protect drug dealers who turned out to be undercover feds.

Again, consider the unprecedented levels of corruption. Twenty years ago, the feds bagged BPD detectives for grabbing a few free meals at Cafe Budapest. These filthy cops were getting filthy rich on a protection racket that wasn’t paid details.
But at least the G-men threw the book at Nelson Carrasquillo. Check him out on the Bureau of Prison’s Web site and you’ll see that they don’t even have a release date listed for him. That’s heavy.

But did Nelson Carrasquillo’s kinsman learn anything? Hell no. Because this is Massachusetts, the Grease-A-Few-Guys state. Until he got fired Monday, Gilberto had 22 years in - one more, baby, and he could have hit the road too. But no, he had to stick his hand in the till.

Gilberto Carrasquillo had an excuse, of course, an alibi. They all do. He “only” robbed the fare box four times.

They can’t help themselves. None of them. Same with Sen. Marzilli. The district attorney brooms his first sex-assault case, and a couple of days later, he drives his Prius to Lowell and pervs four women in two hours.

I am still perplexed by John Buonomo, the reprobate register of probate in Middlesex County. As I’ve told you, we here at the Herald literally tipped him off that we’d been told there was a crime wave going on in his office. After receiving two tips about rampant thievery in his office in East Cambridge, we called and asked him if he knew anything about it.

No, he said. Then he tiptoed down the hall to steal some more money, some of which he then cleverly stashed in a box under the desk in his own office.

He couldn’t help himself.

Here’s another difference between the Public Sector and the Dreaded Private Sector:

In the DPS, everyone is acutely aware of surveillance cameras. Buonomo, Carrasquillo, the indicted Mass Pike toll takers - not so much.

Or maybe they think the hacks have figured out that if you’re connected, you can always get everything straightened out, no matter how sordid it is. Am I right, Carl McGee? Hey, look at all the state reps who’ve been bagged for OUI and then re-elected. Hey, look at the city councilors who’ve been arrested and then elected to the state Senate.

Not only that, but you serve in the Legislature while not even living in the city you’re supposed to be representing. You can go for a tax break in some other town, and nobody indicts you, or even hits you with a fine, you’re just allowed to announce that you won’t be seeking reelection.

Glenn Beck, CNN: Massachusetts Group Calls for End to State Tax

Massachusetts Group Calls for End to State Tax
Aired August 5, 2008 - 19:00:00 ET

BECK: ...First, let me -- let me put this in a way that Frankenstein and politicians can both understand. Low taxes good. High taxes bad. The people in Massachusetts just seem to get that, and I never thought I would say that, but they have figured it out in Massachusetts. I swear, it slipped through a worm hole earlier today.

Citizens have now gathered in Massachusetts 125,000 signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot that would eliminate the state income tax. It would repeal 5.3 income and wage tax. It would also cut the state capital-gains tax that can get as high as 12 percent.

So how do they plan on replacing the 12.5 billion dollars in lost tax? They don`t. This is a crazy notion. This is Massachusetts. They have this crazy notion that they can cut their government`s allowance, and the political geniuses will then have to think a little harder and a lot smarter before they go spending anybody`s money. Wait a minute, hang on. Oh, yes, Frankenstein. Remember, low spending good. Overspending bad.

Carla Howell is the president for the Center for Small Government and chair of the Committee for Small Government, a group behind the initiative. What the hell are you doing? It`s Massachusetts. I mean, this makes sense to me but not in Massachusetts. This doesn`t -- does this have a chance of succeeding?

CARLA HOWELL, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SMALL GOVERNMENT: It made a lot of sense to 885,000 voters when we ran this ballot initiative to end the state income tax back in 2002. This year there could be a lot more who say they`re fed up, they`re going to the polls and voting yes on Question One in Massachusetts to end the state income tax.

BECK: OK. I mean, you should be canonized if you can pull this off in Massachusetts. But let me just -- let me just say this. You -- you`ve tried this before. It didn`t succeed. But since that time, people have been leaving the state -- it`s like New Jersey. People are leaving the state in droves. Who`s left there? All the people who are like, "Oh, the income tax is insane here." Who`s left? It`s like you and the Kennedys.

HOWELL: We lost some good people. That`s for sure. But really there are still quite a few people here. There`s 3,400,000 workers and taxpayers in Massachusetts who stand to benefit tremendously if we end the income tax. They`ll each get back an average of $3,700 every year when we end the income tax.

BECK: OK. So how are you seriously going to sell this to one of the most socialist states in the union? I mean, you know, next to California. You just put in universal health care, that Romney-care, which is just a nightmare mess now. How are you going to convince people to take less from the government and give less to the government?

HOWELL: Most people don`t need to be sold. It`s a matter of just letting people know that it`s on the ballot, to make sure they go to the polls and vote. I have absolutely no doubt that a majority of people, even in Massachusetts are in favor of this. There`s no question in my mind about that. It`s a question of whether they`re going to go to the polls and vote on November 4. I hope they do.

BECK: So what is the -- what is the opposition like for this? I mean, seriously, in Massachusetts you`ve got to be a pariah in the power centers. You know what I mean? You`re in the state with the Kennedys.

HOWELL: Well, the opposition is going to be substantial. They`re going to spend millions of dollars trying to defeat our initiative. But the good news is that, first of all, most people want to end the income tax. You don`t even have to sell them on it. But also there`s been a lot of publicity in Massachusetts about government waste. Unbelievable story after story of government waste.

BECK: Give me some -- give me some of the waste.

HOWELL: And people are fed up.

Well, the Big Dig they said was going to cost $2.3 billion. It ended up being ten times that amount. It`s now over $22 billion.

The government employee pensions are absolutely out of hand -- out of control. A lot of people in the private sector aren`t even getting pensions anymore except for what piddling annuities they can expect, maybe, from Social Security some day, whereas the government employee pensions are guaranteed. They`re retiring in their 40s and 50s. Some of them are double dipping, getting a pension and then working for another government agency and collecting two salaries.

BECK: Oh, my gosh.

HOWELL: And people are disgusted with this. They just signed off another $3 billion in spending for more government employee pensions. That`s just one example. There`s been a long list of them, and people are getting fed up. And they should.

BECK: Carla, I have to tell you, I think while our government is still ready to go off the deep end with bigger government, socialized programs, everything else, I have a sense that more and more states are starting to say, "You know what? I don`t think so."

I think the cure, as it always does, the cure is going to come from the local and state as the people just try to fix their own state and say, "This is insane. I`ve seen this enough." And then the government`s in real trouble if they don`t follow what`s happening in these states.

Best of luck to you, Carla. We`ll follow up.

Link to transcript

NY Times - "Massachusetts Proposal Would Repeal Income Tax"

NY Times

September 28, 2008
Massachusetts Proposal Would Repeal Income Tax


GRAFTON, Mass. — Given the opportunity to get out of paying state income tax, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?

Certainly Ruth Gregoire would. Ms. Gregoire, 71, a retired employee of a fire sprinkler company, dipped into chocolate ice cream at Swirls and Scoops and pronounced the no-tax idea “very nice.”

Lakis Theoharis, 56, the owner of the nearby Pepperoni Express, said: “I’m for the repeal of the tax. To me, the smaller the government, the better for the citizens.”

And Rich Masterson, 39, a trucking company supervisor, said, “I would love to see that!”

That view is exactly what most state and local officials in Massachusetts are afraid of. Amid the whirlwind presidential election, Massachusetts has a ballot contest of its own this November that could drastically alter — some would say cripple — state government.

At issue is Question 1, which would eliminate the state income tax. It would save the average taxpayer about $3,600 a year. Annual revenue from the tax is about $12.5 billion, roughly 45 percent of the state’s budget of about $28 billion.

“These are tough times for everyone as it is, and if Question 1 passes, things will become exponentially more difficult,” said Leslie A. Kirwan, the Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance.

Ms. Kirwan added that because some state programs cannot legally be cut, others would face cuts of 60 percent or more. The loss of billions of dollars from Question 1, she said, would devastate state services.

Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has called the ballot measure “just a dumb idea.”

And elected leaders across the state are worried.

“The knee-jerk reaction would be, ‘That’s a great idea because it means more money for me,’ ” said Brook Padgett, chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Grafton, a town of about 17,000 near Worcester, which he said would lose 25 percent of its budget because of state cuts. “It would affect everybody — schools, police, municipal services, snow plowing. I couldn’t begin to tell you what we would do.”

Although Massachusetts is still often tagged with its “Taxachusetts” reputation, its recent history is more nuanced.

In 2000, voters approved a phased rollback of the income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent. The Legislature froze the rate at 5.3 percent in 2002, permitting further reductions only if economic conditions allowed.

In 2002, a ballot measure to scrap the income tax received hardly any public attention. But to the shock of elected officials, it netted 45 percent of the vote statewide and a majority in nearly a third of towns.

Now, with the withering economy, opponents fear that Question 1 will have even more traction.

Health care workers, small-business owners and unions are especially concerned about that prospect. A new group, the Coalition for Our Communities, has raised $1.3 million, about $1 million of that from national teachers’ unions, and plans television advertisements and direct mail campaigns against the repeal.

Karen White, director of campaigns and elections for the National Education Association, which has given $750,000, said the “reckless proposal” would have “dire consequences that will put education at risk, health care at risk, public safety at risk.”

She added: “We’re prepared to commit more money if we need to. We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure that we win this one.”

The pro-repeal effort, which gathered 11,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, has much less money — about $25,000 left to spend, disclosure reports show.

“Politicians at the state and local level are overwhelmingly against us,” said Carla Howell, chairwoman of the Committee for Small Government, who ran for governor in 2002. “Everyday voters are much more inclined to end the income tax.”

Question 1 would cut the tax by half the first year and eliminate it the next year, and Ms. Howell said the state could compensate by cutting lucrative employee pensions, paring bureaucracies and spending wisely.

“We don’t have to cut any essential services or any government programs that are providing a benefit to the people of Massachusetts,” Ms. Howell said. “All we have to do is cut government waste.”

Some voters who wanted taxes lowered to 5 percent have decided to support Question 1 to show their anger at the state, said Barbara Anderson, director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which advocated 5 percent but is now producing bumper stickers that read “Hell Yes! Question 1.”

“It’s the only game in town, it’s the only question on the ballot, it’s the only chance for us to express our outrage,” Ms. Anderson said. “The more we looked at it and realized that other states get along very well without an income tax, like New Hampshire, you start dreaming.”

The 5.3 percent income tax rate is far from the nation’s highest, and, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan group, Massachusetts, which used to rank second in combined local and state tax burden, now ranks 23rd.

Only seven states have no income tax, but while ballot questions on sales and other taxes are common, those proposing income tax repeals are rare, said Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, which supports the Massachusetts measure. North Dakota has a ballot measure this year to halve the state income tax.

“There aren’t many places where you can initiate an income tax repeal from the citizens that haven’t already done it,” Mr. Sepp said.

Still, even before the anti-repeal campaign has begun in earnest in Massachusetts, there are many voters who think Question 1 is a bad idea.

One poll, conducted by 7News/Suffolk University, found 36 percent in favor of eliminating the tax and 50 percent opposed. Another poll, conducted by WBZ-TV, was closer: 45 percent favored scrapping the tax, 47 percent wanted to keep it.

“If it passes, you’re looking at least double or triple whatever your property taxes are now,” said Mike Kozlowski, who owns a garden store in Worcester.

Beth Piknick, a Cape Cod nurse who is president of the state nurses’ association, said: “This is really, really dangerous and extremely short-sighted. Unfortunately what happens is the populations that are most vulnerable get it first — the disabled, the elderly, the poor.”

In Grafton, where voters were evenly divided on repeal in 2002, people like Henry Cyr, 63, a retired Air Force officer, said, “The trauma to our financial system would just be too great.”

And Marcia LeBlanc, 66, a school bus driver, said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea. How are they going to pay for state services?”

State Representative George Peterson of Grafton, a Republican who voted for repeal in 2002, declined to say how he would vote this time.

“If we lose $12.5 billion, can I build a responsible budget with that loss in revenue?” Mr. Peterson asked. “No, I can’t.”

But he suggested that if the repeal passed, even though it is technically binding, the Legislature might be forced to find a way around it and pass a new law setting taxes at the 5 percent rate voters asked for eight years ago. “I’m telling my constituents, if you want to send a message that we have a budget that is out of control, send me that message.”


Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "A cutting mood"

Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Editorial Jul 6, 2008 Telegram.com

A cutting mood

Income-tax abolition move should be taken seriously
As the Legislature scurried to put the finishing touches on its $28 billion spending plan for fiscal 2009 last week, a move to cut off state government’s principal source of revenue, the income tax, was getting under way. The possibility of the initiative swelling into a full-blown taxpayer revolt is one lawmakers should not take lightly.

An initiative petition with more than 15,000 certified signatures, modeled on a similar measure in 2002, would end the state income tax. The signatures, certified by local city and town officials, were filed with the secretary of state on Wednesday by Carla Howell, erstwhile Libertarian Party candidate for governor.

The petitioners’ assertion that a “yes” vote on the ballot question would result in an average annual tax windfall of $3,600 per taxpayer and create “hundreds of thousands of new jobs” in the next two years may be pie in the sky, but some taxpayers may find it a tempting dish. In 2002, an abolish-the-income-tax ballot initiative came within 5 percentage points of passing.

If the petition were to succeed, the impact would be felt in virtually every aspect of state and municipal finances. Because a large proportion of state spending is for locked-in expenses — debt service, Medicaid obligations, negotiated salaries and benefits and the like — a variety of other revenue sources certainly would be tapped. Even Proposition 2 1/2, which for a generation has kept regressive property taxes in check, would be at risk.

While some state budget trimming likely would ensue, the first items on the chopping block would be apt to be state aid on which municipalities and school districts depend, in some instances, for more than half of their annual spending.

This year, the feeling of economic uncertainty — prompted by a chaotic housing market, soaring gasoline and heating fuel costs and steadily rising municipal tax bills and fees — is if anything more intense today than it was six years ago. Moreover, the fast-tracked $1 increase in the cigarette tax hustled through the Legislature last week may be seen by some taxpayers as another harbinger of many “revenue enhancements” to come.

As in 2002, Massachusetts voters may conclude that speculative reductions in their tax obligations are not worth the fiscal chaos in state and local government that would ensue. But taxpayers need concrete evidence that their representatives at the Statehouse are serious about cutting duplication and bureaucracy, developing efficient ways to deliver services, ending unsustainable personnel and pension policies and rooting out waste. In the end, the most valuable ally of the anti-income-tax group could be the politics-as-usual crowd on Beacon Hill.

Cape Cod Times: "Join anti-income tax campaign"

Cape Cod Times
Join anti-income tax campaign

May 29, 2008 6:00 AM

Persistent people are effective out of all proportion to their actual numbers. A fine example of this is Carla Howell, former Libertarian candidate for governor, and her ballot campaign to end the Masssachusetts income tax.

I freely admit I am becoming confused by the array of petition drives available to Massachusetts voters, but here's how this one works. Howell's "TaxEnders" submitted about 100,000 signatures to the secretary of state for the first phase of signature collection. Of those, 76,084 signatures were valid, exceeding the required 66,593, triggering the next step, which was for the Legislature to take up the measure before the first Wednesday in May. No vote was taken, so now the TaxEnders must collect an additional 11,099 valid signatures by June 18 to put the measure on the November ballot — and these signers must be different from those who signed the petition the first time.

If the question passes, it goes into effect without any action by the Legislature. The lowest estimate of taxpayer average savings by the department of revenue is $3,180 for a family of three that owns a home.

State income tax — and the accompanying revenues — would not disappear overnight. The rate would be cut to 2.65 on Jan. 1, 2009, and then eliminated Jan. 1, 2010.

This is not the first time such an initiative has been tried. In 2002, Howell's Committee for Small Government had a similar ballot initiative, which received an unexpected 45.3 percent, helped by the anger of the voters over the failure of the Legislature to comply with the 2000 rollback of the income tax rate to 5 percent.

Ending the income tax wouldn't leave the state penniless — out of the $28 billion budget, about $19 billion would remain. At that, the legislated budget is only a fraction of the true state spending. The CAFR — Consolidated Annual Fiscal Report — which accounts for all state spending, including federal, bond and other funds, pegs the annual state budget at about $40 billion.

At first, this seems extreme, but the first state budget I worked on in 1999 was $19 billion. That was the tail end of the dot-com boom in the 1990s — as our then-Sen. Henri Rauschenbach was fond of saying, money came over the transom faster than they could spend it. To prop up the higher tax rate, Tom Finneran created the Rainy Day Fund, fully funded it and still had money left over. So Senior Pharmacy, day care slots, and myriad new programs were created — never to go away. One year the state actually increased the personal exemption on the income tax to return tax revenues, as it hadn't found a crevice to hide it. Next year, they raised the cap on the Rainy Day Fund so that wouldn't happen again!

What if the Legislature had been honest and admitted that the emergency was over and the rate could be reduced? Perhaps when the crisis did come in 2002, after the dot-com boom collapsed and they really were out of money, they could have gone back to the voters to say: "We kept our word. We raised the rate, the emergency ended and we lowered it back. Now, times are hard again, and we need another temporary hike." Instead, we had terrible cuts, forcing the state to tell people that MassHealth could no longer pay for dental fillings, only extractions, so please call back after your tooth abscesses.

I worked on six state budgets, beginning at $19 billion and finishing at $25 billion. Now, we're at $28 billion, the Life Sciences bill has been gutted and filled with pork, and the governor just asked for his staff to be increased by 80 percent.

Abolition may seem extreme, but self control is absent, with casino gambling proposed instead. Howell's TaxEnders need your signature to let you vote in November, so sign the petition and let's see how both fare.

Cynthia Stead's column appears on Thursdays. She serves as Cape and Islands State Republican Committeewoman. E-mail her at cestead@gmail.com.

MetroWest Daily News: "Vote Yes on Question 1"

The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Aug 12, 2008 @ 12:16 AM
'If Massachusetts voters vote "Hell, Yes" on Question 1 on November 4 and it passes, the state income tax will drop to 2.65 percent on January 1, 2009 and then to 0 percent on January 1, 2010. This gives the state a year to adjust their budget.

While many state employees will lose their questionable jobs, millions of taxpayers will have an easier time paying their mortgages, their car payments, their weekly fillup at the gas station, and most importantly in Massachusetts, they will be able to afford to heat their homes this coming winter.

The average savings for taxpayers is $3,700. Divide the state income tax of $12.7 billion for 2009 by the 3.4 million taxpayers. It has been estimated that the cost of heating your house this winter will be about $3,000.

State expenditures have become so onerous that it has really begun to hurt the average citizen's ability to afford the basics of life. I spent five months examining 10 years of Massachusetts budgets and have documented my findings at: http://www.abetterframingham.org/state-finances.html

The 2009 state income tax revenues represents only 40 percent of the $32 billion state budget. If you add in other state revenues and the quasi-independent state agencies (MBTA, MWRA, MCCA, Mass Pike, etc...), you have to ask yourself why we pay over $5,000 per capita (6.4 million men, women and children) for state government and is this enough state government? Where does this money go? How is is spent?

Ax The Tax: Vote Hell Yes on Question 1.

HAROLD J. WOLFE, Framingham
Copyright © 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.

Boston Herald - Carr - Vote yes on Question 1

Flip Swan the bird: Vote yes on Question 1
Ben Swan’s song plays like broken record

By Howie Carr  |   Sunday, October 19, 2008  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Columnists

Come on down, Rep. Ben Swan of Springfield!

Rep. Swan owes more than $33,000 in property taxes to his hometown, some dating back to 1991.

For his achievements, Rep. Swan is today’s poster boy for the Vote Yes on Question 1 campaign to abolish the state income tax. As you know, Question 1 is endlessly described in TV spots and newspaper editorials as “reckless” and/or “risky.”

Giving yourself a 5.3 percent pay increase - how reckless is that? Putting an end to the kleptocracy that is Massachusetts state government - who needs that kind of risk?

Rep. Swan, who is 75, is extremely concerned about the lack of revenue in his hometown. It’s for the children, you know. On Friday, Swan even attended a meeting in Springfield to discuss the dire revenue situation.

Swan brought his concern to City Hall, but apparently what he did not bring was a check for the $33,395 he owes in property taxes. Calls were placed Friday to Rep. Swan’s offices in Springfield and Boston, but they were not returned.

During the primary, the Dem promised to begin paying down his debts, but since winning he “has yet to turn over a dime,” as the Springfield Republican newspaper put it last week.

Try not to let it destroy your faith in the integrity of the Massachusetts General Court.

Now, I know that in modern journalism, you’re not supposed to ever criticize a liberal. Instead the pack goes after such guys as Joe the Plumber. Joe the Plumber owes $1,100 in taxes - now there is a national story, unlike the hundreds of dollars in unpaid parking tickets Barack Obama owed Somerville for 20 years, until he began running for president in 2007.

So here’s Swan, using the traditional deadbeat Democrat defense.

“I was under the assumption I was paying the taxes,” he told the Republican. “That’s how I got behind.”

So he “assumed” he was paying, even though he wasn’t. The city didn’t send him a bill so he figured, don’t worry, be happy. Hey, if you’re in the Legislature, you don’t have to pay taxes. If they don’t pay their “fair share,” the hacks call it an oversight. If you don’t pay, you have the right to remain silent.

During rush hour tomorrow, as you drive to your real job, in the rotaries you’ll see gangs of pinky-ring public-sector union thugs holding Vote No on 1 signs. God forbid the hacks should be stopped from stealing $12.5 billion from us every year - there won’t be enough money to pay for their phony-disability pensions.

Vote Yes on Question 1.

Wall Street Journal - Tax Report by Tom Herman: "A Tax Revolt Is Quietly Brewing In Some States"

A Tax Revolt Is Quietly Brewing In Some States

August 20, 2008; Page D1 Wall Street Journal

And to think they used to call it "Taxachusetts."

On Election Day, Massachusetts will vote on whether to eliminate its state income tax. Advocates hope victory in a place long thought of as a free-spending liberal bastion will pave the way for similar initiatives in other states over the next few years. Critics insist a yes vote would lead to fiscal disaster.

    Tom Herman discusses dozens of state tax and spending proposals that could be on the plate this fall and some Web sites that monitor their progress.

While Americans are focusing on the presidential and congressional races, voters in Massachusetts and other states will decide the fate of dozens of state and local tax and spending issues.

It's still unclear precisely how many of these issues will be on ballots on Nov. 4. Some still haven't received final approval from state officials or may face challenges in court. But Kristina Rasmussen, director of government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit group based in Alexandria, Va., estimates there are more than 60 ballot measures that would have "some significant impact" on taxpayers.

Oregon voters, for example, will decide whether to allow taxpayers to deduct an unlimited amount of their federal income taxes on their state returns. Nevada is expected to vote on a constitutional amendment that would restrict property-tax increases. North Dakota voters may vote on whether to chop the state's personal income tax in half. And Minnesota will vote on a proposed amendment to its state constitution to raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percentage point, with the money going to protect the environment and to benefit the arts.
These and other battles come at a time when many states are struggling to cope with tough economic times. As the national economy's growth rate has slowed to a crawl, growth in state tax collections generally has withered, intensifying budget strains. "Many states have reduced their revenue forecasts, some many times," said a recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a Denver-based group. "In a number of states, collections are even below the lowered expectations."

Since that report was issued last month, "the news has gotten even worse" in several states, says Arturo Pérez, fiscal analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A recent report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public-policy research arm of the State University of New York, paints a similarly gloomy picture. The report said state tax revenue rose only 1.7% in this year's first quarter from the same quarter in 2007. That was the third quarterly growth-rate decline in a row -- and the slowest pace in five years.

Besides tax and spending issues, voters will pull the lever this fall on a wide range of questions involving social issues, including abortion, affirmative action and same-sex marriage, says Jennie Drage Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures. She says more than 123 questions already have qualified for ballots around the nation, with many others awaiting final approval. Most have come from state legislatures or from citizen initiatives.

Here is a look at a few of the most high-profile tax battles:

Massachusetts. The issue is whether to erase the state's income tax in two phases. The 5.3% tax would be sliced in half next year and then disappear entirely the following year. Advocates of repeal are hoping for support from voters worried about tough economic times and angered by bloated government spending. Six years ago, a similar proposal attracted 45% of the vote.

Eliminating this tax "will mean less money in the hands of politicians and will give back an average of $3,700 to each of 3.4 million workers and taxpayers in Massachusetts -- not just once but every year," says Carla Howell of the Committee for Small Government, a nonprofit citizen group battling to repeal the tax. "There are tax-cut activists around the country who are very interested in what we're doing here," she says. "If it does well, we may see copycat initiatives in 2010 and 2012 across the country."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups opposed to tax increases, agrees. The Massachusetts vote, officially dubbed "Question One," "could be a model for the future" in many other states, he says.

Critics of the proposal say passage would be a major blow. "It would be an absolute disaster for the state," says Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a Boston public-policy research group funded primarily by employers.

If adopted, "this extreme measure would throw the finances of state and local governments into chaos and inevitably lead to major increases in property and sales taxes," Mr. Widmer says.

The state income tax in Massachusetts generated about $12.5 billion in the latest fiscal year, out of a state budget of around $28 billion, says Bob Bliss, a spokesman for the state revenue department. State officials haven't said what they'll do if the repeal proposal wins approval and becomes law.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has been "very clear" in his opposition to repeal of the state income tax, says Rebecca Deusser, a spokeswoman. "A cut of this magnitude would severely reduce the ability of the Commonwealth to provide the services that citizens and taxpayers have come to expect from their state government," she says.

"Best guess: It will go down" to defeat because of voter fears that approval would lead to "evisceration of key programs," says Douglas Schoen, a political consultant and author based in New York.

Most states have a state income tax. Seven, including Florida, Texas, Washington and Nevada, have none. Two other states -- Tennessee and New Hampshire -- don't tax wages and salaries but do tax investment income, such as interest and dividends.

Oregon. Few states allow taxpayers to deduct federal income taxes on their state income-tax returns. Oregon is one of them, but it imposes limits on the amount that can be deducted. On state returns for 2008, that limit is generally $5,600 (or $2,800 for a married couple filing separately), says a revenue department spokesman.

In November, voters will decide whether to remove those limits and allow unlimited deductions of federal income taxes on state returns.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, is opposed to the measure, a spokeswoman says. Other critics say the measure, if enacted, wouldn't benefit most Oregonians and would blow a big hole in the budget.

Nevada. Voters are focusing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a new cap on property-tax increases. Generally, the measure would cap property tax at 1% of the taxable value of the home for the 2003-04 fiscal year, and would also limit property-tax increases to only 2% a year (or the cost of living, whichever is less), until the property is sold.

Voters would have to approve the proposal not only this year but also in 2010 in order for it to become effective. Nevada's secretary of state recently certified the proposal for inclusion on the ballot, but it still may face a legal challenge. A spokesman for Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, says the governor "hasn't taken a position at this point" on the proposal.

"We need stable and predictable property taxes," says Sharron Angle, a former state legislator who heads We the People Nevada, which drafted and is advocating passage of the amendment. She says many voters have complained that their property taxes have risen even though home values have declined. She also says there is interest in several other states, including Arizona, in proposing similar property-tax caps.

Other states. In North Dakota, efforts are being made to place a proposal on the ballot that includes cutting personal income-tax rates by 50%. Colorado will vote on whether to increase the state's sales tax to fund services to people with "developmental disabilities." The state may also vote on major changes to its taxpayer bill of rights law and the manner in which the state funds public education through 12th grade.

In Maine, voters may decide on whether to roll back new taxes on beer, wine and soda. And in Allegheny County, Pa., Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation, a group led by restaurant and bar owners, is trying to place on the ballot a proposal to substantially reduce a stiff tax on alcoholic drinks, dubbed the "drink tax."

"This is as many serious tax measures on the ballot as we've seen" in many years, says Americans for Tax Reform's Mr. Norquist. For more information, see the Web site of the National Conference of State Legislatures (http://www.ncsl.org/). Also check out http://www.stateline.org/, a nonprofit online news site that reports on state policy and politics and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization.

Boston Herald - Howie Carr: "Convenient timing for phony Pike plan"

Convenient timing for phony Pike plan

By Howie Carr | Friday, September 19, 2008

Gov. Deval Patrick is becoming to state government what the cartoon character Wimpy was to Popeye. He will gladly fire a Mass Pike toll hack next year, or maybe in 2010, for a “No” vote on Question 1 today.

We’re expected to believe that Deval is serious about getting rid of toll takers at the Pike. Please, Deval, we were born at night, but not last night.

Odd, isn’t it, how state government suddenly comes up with these reforms now that there’s a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot to abolish the state income tax. And that the proposals are all aimed at wildly unpopular public-sector abuses. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call these phony pre-election crackdowns “boob bait for the bubbas.”

Remember, these trial balloons are being floated by the same guy who just two years ago was promising you “property tax relief” if you elected him governor. How’s that one working out for you?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

A few days ago, Deval was holding a public hearing on police details. Granted, the use of civilian flagmen would be restricted to state roads, which are only 10 percent of the total, and just on the ones with lower speed limits. And then of course the flagmen will have to be paid “prevailing wage” to minimize any real savings.

But rest assured that you will see at least one civilian flagman, on at least one state road, before Nov. 4. They need a photo op for the media, to show how “serious” they are about doing something.

The cops, of course, are in on this police-detail gag. Deval pretends to crack down on them, and the cops pretend to believe him. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. In a few weeks, the hack unions will start running TV spots saying Vote No on Question 1.

There’s no need to abolish the state income tax, the TV spots will say. Your state government has heard you. Look at what we’re trying to do with the toll takers (B roll of Allston and 128 toll plazas) and police details (fat cops yelling in Gardner Auditorium).

Taxpayers, your state government gets it. Vote No on Question 1. It goes too far. And what about the children? This ad authorized by Local 782, the International Pinky Ring Brotherhood of Payroll Patriots [team stats] for Phony Disability Pensions at Age 45 PAC.

Stand by for more insincere cosmetic gestures. At the State House these days, it’s all about Question 1, and how to stop it. Next they’ll be unveiling some phony reform proposal on state pensions.

The reality is, there’s only one way to really do something about any of the above abuses, and that’s by voting Yes on Question 1.

Take $12 billion away from the hacks and you wipe the smiles right off their puffy faces. Spending money is fun. Spending other people’s money is even more fun. No money - that’s like being in the Dreaded Private Sector, which is definitely no fun.

Even if Deval et al. wanted to crack down on the toll hacks, do you really think the Legislature would permit a hack holocaust at the Pike? Do you know how many relatives and friends of State House politicians are or have been employed at the Pike, not just at the tollbooths, but at 10 Park?

If the administration was really interested in putting an end to this nonsense, they would tear down the toll booths and propose an increase in the gasoline tax. It costs less than a penny to collect a dollar in tax at the pump. At the tollbooth it costs maybe 30 cents to collect a dollar.

But what do you expect when your toll takers are making $70,000-plus with overtime and health benefits and a pension for the exact same unskilled job that a 16-year-old at the supermarket is paid minimum wage to perform?

That’s “public service,” baby. I just hope if they ever do fire the toll hacks, they don’t forget to pat ’em down on their way out the door.

Boston Metro: Michele McPhee - "Time for the taxpayer to speak up"

Boston Metro

Published 2008-08-18 04:07

McPhee: Time for the taxpayer to speak up

What does it take for the Massachusetts taxpayer to say enough is enough?

Does our outrage come when the Middlesex County Clerk of Probate Courts is caught red-handed, on camera, allegedly pocketing dollar bills he stole from the copy machine? That suspect, John R. Buonomo — who earns a measly $111,000 a year — is facing misdemeanor theft charges but declared that he plans to run for re-election.

Do we stamp our collective feet when a Democratic Senator like Jimmy Marzilli is accused of being a sexual predator who physically and verbally assaulted at least a dozen women — on taxpayer time — but continues to collect his full pay check two full months after he allegedly gave cops in Lowell a bogus name (I’m Representative Marty Walsh) and took off running. Hey, it’s the Massachusetts way. Marzilli’s pals, like Governor Deval Patrick, are helping him bolster his taxpayer-funded pension.

Do we protest when MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas — who has now earned the moniker Dan “Grab-Our-Cash” — gives his fat cat executives a 9 percent raise just two weeks after he groused that the T is in such tough shape commuters are looking at a “hefty” fare hike? Two weeks after he told the lawmakers on Beacon Hill that he is going to have to insist on a bailout package to fix the $8.2 billion deficit. Grab-Our-Cash also thinks it’s a terrific idea to commute to the Transportation Building from his tony Ipswich home in a Ford SUV hybrid.

Guess those delays on the commuter rail these days are too much for Grab-Our-Cash to bear.

Come on Massachusetts. We have now slipped into a mode that victims of domestic violence find themselves after they have been repeatedly beaten and berated. We accept the unacceptable; make excuses for our elected officials and clench our eyes shut to the abuse inflicted on us by the people responsible for managing our money.

Repealing the state income tax come November may not be the solution. After all, we are the Bay State and the folks in charge will find new and innovative ways to stick it to us. But it would certainly send a message that enough is enough. Remember that old slogan “Make It In Massachusetts?”

Well, I think we should invest in a new one. “Bend Over and Take It in Massachusetts.”

The Michele McPhee Show can be heard on 96.9 FM WTKK weeknights 7 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon.

The Daily Collegian Editorial-"Abolish the income tax"

The Daily Collegian
Abolish the income tax

By: John Glaser, Collegian Columnist

October 16, 2008

A recent New York Times article on the coming Massachusetts ballot initiative to repeal the state income tax quoted the Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance as saying, "These are tough times for everyone as it is, and if Question 1 (the income tax repeal) passes, things will become exponentially more difficult."

This staggeringly foolish argument belies the facts and is based upon the premise that the Mass. state government is the singular reason any citizen is on their feet at all.

It presumes that the state is one of the leaders of the nation in prosperity and progress due only to the beloved, beneficent governing institution presiding over it. The idea that excessive and increasing government revenue is what keeps the citizens of Massachusetts afloat is simply unsupported by the evidence.

The annual revenue from the state income tax is about $12.5 billion and the passing of this initiative would ostensibly eliminate that amount of the annual budget. Many in opposition to this repeal say it would be a devastating loss in essential governmental services, but these claims are far from realistic.

While the official budgetary documents claim the annual budget is currently $28.5 billion, that number is inaccurate. State government expenditures also include non-budgeted spending, capital spending, expendable trust spending and others that are excluded from the statutory budget.

With these taken into account, the budget elevates to about $47.3 billion. The repeal would thus leave $34.8 billion in the annual budget, which is comparable to what it was in 1999 (that chaotic era of medieval anarchy). Which essential governmental services can't be taken care of with $34.8 billion?

On the other hand, the repeal would leave the average Massachusetts taxpayer with an average $3,700 of their own money left in their own pockets; a potentially dramatic difference in yearly income at a time when people are strapped for cash.

But even this is a distraction from the overall point. The notion that higher government spending is a causal factor in a stable and well-serviced public is fundamentally flawed. It can easily be exposed as such with an objective surveillance of the hindrances that excessive government intervention confers on the people.

With an overly interventionist state government driving the cost of living up with programs like urban rent control, which the overwhelming majority of economists agree is harmful and drives up costs, and the monopolization of the inner-city schools, which leaves the youth in a dreadful state of educational underachievement, cutting spending can only help.

Additionally, a 2007 Census Bureau revealed that between 2000 and 2007 the rate of poverty in Massachusetts remained virtually flat, despite the broader declining economic circumstances on a national scale.

It takes examples of government waste like the Big Dig, excessive pensions for government employees and the multitude of bloated bureaucracies in the Commonwealth to see how dispensable the state income tax is.

Police details at construction sites (Mass. being the only state in the Union that has deemed this an essential governmental service) cost $94.3 million annually. Cut the fat, and we can comfortably afford the elimination of the income tax.

The budget is not taken up with money spent on essential government services, but rather an impressive amount of pork.

Aside from wasteful spending, a more precise understanding of the system would lead people to realize that the government rarely has "the children" and "the needy" as high priorities.

Rather, government employees, lobbyists, special interests groups and the like subsume the bulk of budget allocation, despite the idea of many that the state government is wholly a manifestation of charitable public endeavors.

Seven other states in the Union have no income tax and two apply the tax only to interest and dividends. And, while the naysayers in Massachusetts would have you believe otherwise, those states are not struggling to get by. Massachusetts should follow suit this November.

An elimination of the state income tax in Massachusetts is not only the logical, pragmatic thing to aim for, but it is the moral, just thing. Help minimize the adverse effects of the heavy hand of government and give the people back what they earn each year. Vote Yes on No. 1.

John Glaser is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at jwglaser@student.umass.edu.

© Copyright 2008 The Daily Collegian


Daily News Tribune: "Taxpayers win with Question 1"

The Daily News Tribune
Wolfe: Taxpayers win with Question 1

By Harold Wolfe

Sept 16, 2008

Opponents of Question 1 (the net consumers of our tax dollars) miss the whole point behind Question 1 and erroneously believe that we should somehow replace the state income tax with other monies.

The state loses $12.7 billion of OUR monies that they would have spent as they pleased and we the taxpayers gain back $12.7 billion of OUR monies to spend as we please. This is not a trade or a swap.

The state government LOSES, the taxpayers GAIN. Period. End of discussion.

Why is this difficult to understand? We are overburdened.

Given the high price of oil, people complain about the cost of heating their house and filling up their car. But please take a few moments to add up all your annual taxes. Your federal income taxes, state income taxes, local property taxes and all the sales taxes and gas taxes you paid. Divide this number by 12. Compare your MONTHLY TAX BILL with your monthly heating bill or gas bill.

Public sector unions (the losers) will try to compensate with requests for overrides against the taxpayers (the winners). Good luck to them.

We taxpayers outnumber you public sector people who ravenously spend our hard earned $12.7 billion in your frivolous ways.

In 1904, NINE years before the federal income tax was created, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

In my humble opinion, there was more civilization back then.

Vote "Hell Yes on Question 1" (axe-the-tax.org)

HAROLD J. WOLFE, Framingham


Copyright © 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.
Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted.

Skip the propaganda on Question 1

Letter to the editor: LWV should skip the propaganda on Question 1

October 20, 2008

To the editor:

There's not much surprise in the letter from the League of Women Voters urging us to vote "no" on Question 1.

The nearest of the non-income-tax states is neighboring New Hampshire. The letter from the League does not help us understand how it is that the sky-is-falling consequences sure to follow from an abandonment of an income tax in our commonwealth are not to be found in New Hampshire or in any of six other states that rely on other sources of revenue to survive, and indeed sometimes to thrive.

The League writes, for example:

"Infrastructure will deteriorate further with less money for roads, bridges and public transportation systems. This means more crumbling roadways, potholes, and repair bills for drivers and a greater risk of train derailments and unsafe bridges."

I have often driven in New Hampshire, and I have noted, with some chagrin, that the quality of the roads there, subjected to worse weather than our own, is almost invariably superior to that of our own. Indeed, the difference is noticeable as soon as the state line is passed. I do not typically read newspapers from those other states, and that may be the reason I have seen no reports of train derailments or unsafe bridges there. I have read of such things occurring in Minnesota, most recently and dramatically, which is perplexing because of state income tax rates there of between 5.35 percent and 7.85 percent.

Nor have I seen any such reports of out-of-the-ordinary civic chaos in Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Washington or Wyoming.

My point is a simple one.

Spare us, please, the lurid descriptions of the prospects for a civic Armageddon if we vote to declare our independence from state income taxation. Give us some credit for understanding that it is up to us to decide, on the rare occasion when we have something to say about the taxes imposed upon us, whether we want a government of yes-we-can or of no-maybe-we-shouldn't. It is right and just for us to question whether we want to have our hard-earned dollars taken from us to support feel-good programs that, while offering some benefit to society as a whole, inevitably involve mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility and overpayment to and for the financial advantage of those who are supposed to be our civil servants but who think of themselves instead as our masters.

The League of Women Voters has a proud, if sometimes uneven, tradition of trying, at least, to promote our education on civic matters. It is disappointing to see it so readily abandon that fine tradition in favor of talking-points memos in the transparent disguise of a concerned letter to the editor.

We deserve better of the group. Education, yes. Shrill propaganda, no.

Ed McCabe

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

TaxAnalysts.com: "Income Tax Repeal to Appear on Massachusetts's November Ballot"


State Tax Today and State Tax Notes August 13, 2008

Income Tax Repeal to Appear on Massachusetts's November Ballot

by Karen Setze

Proponents of a Massachusetts ballot initiative (Question 1) to repeal the individual income tax say its passage in November would cut government waste, but opponents counter that it would decimate public services and potentially lead to a constitutional crisis.

Date: Aug. 13, 2008

In addition to helping select the next U.S. president, Massachusetts voters in November will determine whether their commonwealth continues to collect individual income taxes.

The initiative, which will be labeled Question 1 on the ballot, would reduce the personal income tax rate to 2.65 percent for 2009 and end the tax completely beginning in 2010.

The Committee for Small Government sponsored the ballot question. One of the founders of the committee is former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Carla Howell. Howell and the committee put a similar question on the 2002 ballot, which was defeated, but by a margin much narrower than expected. (For coverage of that election, see State Tax Notes, Nov. 11, 2002, p. 369, Doc 2002-24874 [PDF], or 2002 STT 216-18 2002 STT 216-18: News Stories.)

To get the current proposal on the November ballot, the committee first had to submit petitions with more than 65,593 validated voter signatures. When the legislature declined to consider the question, proponents had to submit an additional 11,099 signatures by June 18. More than 15,000 signatures were submitted, ensuring the question would appear on the ballot.

The larger purpose for ending the income tax is "to make government smaller," Howell told Tax Analysts. "This will take $12 billion out of the hands of the politicians up on Beacon Hill and provide an average of $3,700 to each of the 3 million workers and taxpayers in Massachusetts."

Essential services won't have to be reduced if the government cuts waste and overspending, Howell said. "What the politicians need to do and refuse to do is go over the budget line item by line item" to trim the waste. "It's reasonable to assume," she added, that there's waste in every department and every level of government.

Also, the money not sent to the commonwealth's treasury as income tax will be spent and invested in Massachusetts, which will stimulate the economy and create more jobs, Howell said.

"We've already seen evidence that our proposal is cutting spending," she said.

The legislature had passed a measure (H 4959) to spend $3 billion increasing the pensions of state employees, and Gov. Deval Patrick (D) had planned to sign it, Howell said. But the bill's passage came "on the heels of story after story about abuses in the pension system," she said. The Boston Globe reported on the generous amounts of the pensions available to state employees, and about "double-dippers" -- employees who had retired and were drawing their pension while also working at a second state job, Howell said.

Ultimately, the governor vetoed the bill.


Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said voter approval of the income tax repeal would be "catastrophic. The individual income tax provides $12.5 billion of a $30 billion budget." Eliminating the income tax "would decimate state and local government, requiring drastic, drastic cuts" and many layoffs, Widmer said.

The commonwealth's annual spending totals $47 billion, since there are whole categories not included in the official budget, Howell said, so income tax revenue represents a smaller share than sometimes portrayed.

"If every state employee was eliminated, and all of their salaries and benefits were ended, it would save $5 billion, meaning you'd still have to find $7.5 billion to cut," Widmer said.

If approved by voters, the question would become commonwealth law, which could be repealed by the legislature, Widmer said, though he doubted that lawmakers would fully restore a tax ended by the voters. "They would probably increase other taxes," he predicted. The other taxes and fees would be less progressive, and "harder on low- and middle-income taxpayers," Widmer said. "You would likely see major increases in property taxes" as local governments try to make up for the loss of commonwealth grants.

Passage of the question could even bring on a constitutional crisis, since some commonwealth functions like public education are "constitutionally mandated," Widmer said. "It would be a virtual blood bath."

Also campaigning against the ballot question is the Committee for Our Communities, whose backers include prominent business people such as Peter Guzzi of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, along with the Massachusetts Teachers Association and other public employee unions, said committee spokesperson Stephen Crawford. "Things are tough, but this proposal would make it worse."

The official language of the current ballot question "has yet to be drafted," but it will be done as a joint effort by the offices of the attorney general and secretary of the commonwealth, said Brian McNiff, spokesperson for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin (D).

Karen Setze

The Salem News-Our View: "Brophy's claims turn outlandish"

The Salem News Online

Our view: Brophy's claims turn outlandish

Tue, May 20 2008

Perhaps Peabody's John Brophy is simply misunderstood. Maybe he has larger ambitions than simply returning to his job at fire headquarters.

Certainly by his recent actions — refusing to submit to a physical exam and claiming he needs more time to complete a plumbing job in Malden, after having won a long legal battle to get his firefighter's job back — it would appear Brophy has other plans.

He already has a colorful nickname — "the dozing dispatcher" — as a result of his having slept through a 911 call back when he was on the job. But even greater celebrity is within his grasp.

Why, Brophy could easily become the poster child for Citizens for Limited Taxation, the Committee for Small Government and other organizations that believe government spending, particularly when it comes to wages and benefits, is out of control. It's a major reason the Committee for Small Government, headed by former Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Carla Howell, is collecting signatures in an effort to get an initiative petition on this November's ballot calling for the abolition of the state income tax.

With $12.7 billion less to spend, Howell and her supporters figure, the commonwealth would have no choice but to drastically reform its current personnel practices.

What personnel practices? Well, there's the language in the Peabody firefighters' contract that allowed Brophy to get his job back even after falling asleep on the job, failing a drug test and getting in a fight with a superior officer at the scene of a fire. (Of course, Brophy's defenders as well as an arbitrator found there were mitigating factors in all those incidents; but shouldn't Peabody taxpayers be able to expect more of those in public-safety positions?)

Fire Chief Steve Pasdon, who'd accepted the courts' decision ordering Brophy restored to his job with back pay, is understandably running out of patience with his renegade firefighter. And he'll ask Mayor Michael Bonfanti, at a hearing scheduled for today, to uphold the most recent suspensions he's handed Brophy for his refusal to report for duty. If there are grounds for termination, the mayor should exercise that option.

Meanwhile, Brophy has filed an action in Superior Court seeking to block the latest disciplinary actions and give him three months to report for duty so he can complete a plumbing job for which he contracted at the Malden Senior Center.

Brophy's latest actions are nothing short of outrageous. Should he win this round, however, we suspect it will only hasten the day voters decide to finally call a halt to the giveaways that some on government payrolls regard as their due.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Boston Globe: "Activists hope to abolish state income tax"


Activists hope to abolish state income tax

As lawmakers prepare to ratify the second-largest tax increase this decade, activists hoping to abolish the state income tax have secured a spot on November's ballot for a binding initiative petition. With 11,099 certified voter signatures needed, activists led by Carla Howell have turned in 12,771 and plan to submit more to Secretary of State William F. Galvin's office before today's 5 p.m. deadline. "It looks like they're going to be on," said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin. (State House News Service)

Boston Herald: "Voters to weigh in on income tax"

Voters closer to weighing in on income tax

By Hillary Chabot Boston Herald
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A measure to repeal the state income tax vaulted another hurdle yesterday after the state verified enough signatures to place it on the ballot.

“In the face of $4.50-a-gallon gasoline, skyrocketing heating oil costs, exploding home foreclosures and 28 straight years of property tax increases on Massachusetts homes, ending the income tax will give desperately needed financial relief to Massachusetts families,” said Carla Howell, chairwoman of the Committee for Small Government.

The group gathered more than 15,000 signatures so voters could weigh in on the question on Nov. 4.

Secretary of State William Galvin’s office certified more than 12,000 signatures yesterday, topping the 11,099 needed to get on the ballot.

Howell said the group will turn in more signatures tomorrow. According to Howell, the measure would save the average taxpayer $3,600 a year.

Voters nearly passed a similar measure six years ago, and they succeeded in passing a ballot question in 2000 to gradually roll back the income tax. The measure up for vote is meant to prevent lawmakers from stopping the repeal like they halted the rollback in 2002.

The Sun Chronicle: "So long, income tax?"

So long, income tax?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Massachusetts' voters will be asked Nov. 4 whether to eliminate the state income tax. Until then, opponents and supporters will be campaigning hard to convince voters.

With ballot signatures certified last week for the proposal initiated by the libertarian group Committee for Smaller Government, the push to repeal the state income tax is officially on. And it creates a lot of opposition.

If the proposal passes, the state would lose $12 billion a year, a 40-percent cut in annual revenue that opponents say would gut local aid to communities across Massachusetts.

"We already have a $1 billion shortfall in the budget with the state income tax," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which opposes the repeal. "Without the tax, it would be a $13 billion shortfall."

If local legislators, cities and towns and major interest groups are opposed to it, they all concede there is a good chance the proposal will be approved by voters fed up with rising living costs and gasoline prices.

"This is a very difficult time for many people," Widmer said. "And that's the problem. I take it very seriously because if it passes, it will be a huge problem." A similar proposal in 2002 got 45 percent of the vote.

Widmer said that even if there was also a recession that year, there was not the surge in prices that people face today. And that could make a difference.

Geoffrey Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said repeal of the income tax would have an "extraordinary impact," especially on cities and towns already struggling with their budgets.

"It would make a very bad situation an unimaginable one," he said.

But Carla Howell, president of the Committee for Smaller Government who filed the petition for the second time, said the state will survive without the income tax.

"When we end the income tax, politicians on Beacon Hill will still be collecting $17 billion in other taxes and revenues," she said.

Her group collected more than 20,000 signatures to support the proposal, far more than the 11,099 needed to place it on the state's general election ballot in November.

Howell said she is optimistic about the vote's outcome.

"We have a good chance to get it passed," she said. "We've been hearing from people collecting signatures that a lot of people are enthusiastic about that."

Howell said hundreds of volunteers will focus on a grass-roots effort.

"We encourage volunteers to go to our Web site, send links to their co-workers and friends to learn about the state income tax and our campaign, write letters to newspapers editors, call and talk on the radio, put up yard signs," she said. "We don't have a specific plan yet, but we'll be calling out to volunteers to end the state income tax."

It's shaping up to be an epic battle.

Already, opposition is mobilizing in the state, led by the Coalition for Our Communities, a group comprised of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, several communities, non-profits, businesses and individuals.

The AFL-CIO is calling on all unions to join the coalition and urges on its Web site to oppose "the decimation of local aid to cities and towns, and the inevitable property tax increases to provide the necessary funding for our schools, police and fire protection, emergency medical services and transportation infrastructure."

State officials and legislators also vowed to fight against the repeal, along with interest groups such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Beckwith said that although the municipal association won't directly campaign against the proposal because it is not a political organization, it will comment on implications of the repeal.

"We'll do educational work on it," he said. "We will be informing anyone interested in listening about the impact of such a measure."

Widmer said his organization will start work on an analysis on the impact of the measure as soon as the state budget is complete next month.

"Convenient timing for phony Pike plan" Howie Carr


Gov. Deval Patrick is becoming to state government what the cartoon character Wimpy was to Popeye. He will gladly fire a Mass Pike toll hack next year, or maybe in 2010, for a “No” vote on Question 1 today.

We’re expected to believe that Deval is serious about getting rid of toll takers at the Pike. Please, Deval, we were born at night, but not last night.

Odd, isn’t it, how state government suddenly comes up with these reforms now that there’s a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot to abolish the state income tax. And that the proposals are all aimed at wildly unpopular public-sector abuses. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call these phony pre-election crackdowns “boob bait for the bubbas.”

Remember, these trial balloons are being floated by the same guy who just two years ago was promising you “property tax relief” if you elected him governor. How’s that one working out for you?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

A few days ago, Deval was holding a public hearing on police details. Granted, the use of civilian flagmen would be restricted to state roads, which are only 10 percent of the total, and just on the ones with lower speed limits. And then of course the flagmen will have to be paid “prevailing wage” to minimize any real savings.

But rest assured that you will see at least one civilian flagman, on at least one state road, before Nov. 4. They need a photo op for the media, to show how “serious” they are about doing something.

The cops, of course, are in on this police-detail gag. Deval pretends to crack down on them, and the cops pretend to believe him. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. In a few weeks, the hack unions will start running TV spots saying Vote No on Question 1.

There’s no need to abolish the state income tax, the TV spots will say. Your state government has heard you. Look at what we’re trying to do with the toll takers (B roll of Allston and 128 toll plazas) and police details (fat cops yelling in Gardner Auditorium).

Taxpayers, your state government gets it. Vote No on Question 1. It goes too far. And what about the children? This ad authorized by Local 782, the International Pinky Ring Brotherhood of Payroll Patriots [team stats] for Phony Disability Pensions at Age 45 PAC.

Stand by for more insincere cosmetic gestures. At the State House these days, it’s all about Question 1, and how to stop it. Next they’ll be unveiling some phony reform proposal on state pensions.

The reality is, there’s only one way to really do something about any of the above abuses, and that’s by voting Yes on Question 1.

Take $12 billion away from the hacks and you wipe the smiles right off their puffy faces. Spending money is fun. Spending other people’s money is even more fun. No money - that’s like being in the Dreaded Private Sector, which is definitely no fun.

Even if Deval et al. wanted to crack down on the toll hacks, do you really think the Legislature would permit a hack holocaust at the Pike? Do you know how many relatives and friends of State House politicians are or have been employed at the Pike, not just at the tollbooths, but at 10 Park?

If the administration was really interested in putting an end to this nonsense, they would tear down the toll booths and propose an increase in the gasoline tax. It costs less than a penny to collect a dollar in tax at the pump. At the tollbooth it costs maybe 30 cents to collect a dollar.

But what do you expect when your toll takers are making $70,000-plus with overtime and health benefits and a pension for the exact same unskilled job that a 16-year-old at the supermarket is paid minimum wage to perform?

That’s “public service,” baby. I just hope if they ever do fire the toll hacks, they don’t forget to pat ’em down on their way out the door.

MetroWest Daily News: "'Income tax cut unlikely', says DiMasi"

Income tax cut unlikely, says DiMasi

By Lindsey Parietti/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jun 11, 2008 @ 12:46 AMLast update Jun 11, 2008 @ 12:50 AM

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi said he does not see the state carrying out a repeal of the income tax - even if voters approve the binding ballot measure in November.

"I'm against doing it and I find myself hard-pressed to say that I would try to completely implement an elimination of the income tax," DiMasi told a Daily News editorial board yesterday.

"I can't see myself doing that in the future, but I know people are hurting and I know people want to send a message maybe at some point in time that their taxes are too high."

The citizen-sponsored initiative to repeal the state's 5.3 percent income tax has cleared the initial hurdles and will appear on the ballot this fall as long as its sponsor, Wayland-based Campaign for Small Government, collects 11,099 signatures by next Wednesday.

Voters narrowly defeated a similar proposal in 2002, with 40 percent voting for the repeal and 48 percent voting against it.

DiMasi called ending the income tax, which would take $11 billion away from the state's $28 billion budget, a Draconian move. He said he did not know how the state would avoid implementing the repeal, if it passed.

"I'm hoping that the people of Massachusetts don't vote that way, and I'm asking them not to vote that way. ... It would devastate the services the state provides as well as services that the cities and towns provide," he said.

As the two-year legislative session nears its end - lawmakers wrap up official business on July 31 - DiMasi said the he expects the House to take up legislation that would have states cast their Electoral College votes for the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. When enough states pass the the legislation to control the Electoral College then the interstate compact takes effect.

The House will also authorize environmental, transportation, information technology and a handful of other borrowing bills in this session, he said.

DiMasi said he wanted to reform mandatory minimum criminal sentencing, but doesn't expect it to happen this session because "a lot of people don't want to be that aggressive."

Instead, the Legislature is likely to pass some form of Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to reform criminal background checks by limiting employers' access to an offender's record, DiMasi said.

The House may or may not take up a campaign finance reform bill that would decrease from $200 to $100 the maximum campaign contribution that lobbyists are allowed to make, he said.

Despite butting heads with Patrick on casinos, local meal and hotel taxes, ending a telecommunication tax exemption and many of the governor's other proposals, DiMasi said he was happy with the accomplishments this session.

"I think we accomplished a great deal," he said, naming legislation that awaits final approval including a green energy bill, a $1 billion life sciences bill and education reforms.

"We have many things that we can be proud of," he said. "I have like 10 or 15 pages that I could give you."

When asked if the improved relationship between DiMasi and Patrick could be attributed to Patrick's silence on recent ethics allegations that the speaker has used his influence to benefit friends, DiMasi said, "No, no I don't think that at all."

"I thought we got along at the beginning and I think we get along now," he said.

DiMasi has come under fire for accepting a $250,000 mortgage, which he recently repaid, from friend Richard Vitale, who was allegedly paid by ticket brokers to push a ticket resale bill through the house without registering as a lobbyist.

The state GOP has also asked the Ethics Commission to look into reports that DiMasi pressured administration officials to award a state contract to software company Cognos, and that he killed legislation blocking a Fall River liquefied natural gas project, which his friend Jay Cashman later benefited from by selling the property for $14 million.

DiMasi wasn't shy about calling Patrick out on his early missteps such as expecting taxpayers to foot the bill for costly drapes and the lease for his new Cadillac.

DiMasi waved a mock-up of Car and Driver magazine featuring "Cadillac Deval" at last year's St. Patrick's Day political roast and, a month later, showed reporters the worn furnishings in his own office. "That was fun," DiMasi said yesterday. "Well, ... it wasn't fun. It was poking fun, that's it. It wasn't serious." "We're very supportive of each other. I really feel that way. We personally like each other very much. There's no question in my mind. The only issue that really caused a problem was the casino issue."

Lindsey Parietti can be reached at lindsey.parietti@cnc.com.

Boston Herald: Monday morning briefing - "perfect storm developing"

Boston Herald - The Monday morning briefing
By Casey Ross Monday, June 23, 2008
The Lone Republican

by Holly Robichaud

A perfect storm is developing for passage of the income tax repeal. People are feeling the pinch at the pump and are angry. With the Legislature consistently failing to roll back the income tax to 5 percent as promised, no sales tax holiday in August, no property tax cuts and no reforms passed for pensions or police details, you can expect that Massachusetts voters are going to repeal, repeal, repeal. New Hampshire has been able to survive and thrive without an income tax. We can do it as well.

Metro International" "Fall ballot looking big"

Fall ballot looking big

Pot fines, income tax, dog racing to likely be voted on in November

Campaigns to end the state’s income tax, ease marijuana laws and phase out commercial dog racing have all gathered enough signatures to earn binding questions on the November ballot, officials said yesterday.

Today is the deadline to file 11,099 signatures of certified voters with town and city hall offices, which must validate the authenticity of the voters and their addresses before turning them over to the state by July 2. Groups also had to submit signatures last year to trigger hearings and debate over the issues at the Statehouse.

The Committee to Protect Dogs, which is seeking to ban Greyhound racing, announced yesterday it had filed 45,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, has turned in more than 20,000 signatures. The measure would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by only allowing adults caught with up to one ounce of it for personal use to be hit with a civil infraction and a fine. The move would save $29.5 million in law enforcement costs and prevent at least 7,500 new CORIs every year, according to Whitney Taylor, the committee’s campaign manager.

“I am confident we should be making the ballot,” Taylor said yesterday.

On the income tax question, Carla Howell, chair of the Committee for Small Government, said more than 22,000 raw signatures were being counted and filed yesterday.

Metro Published 2008-06-18 05:12 Greg St. Martin

AP: "Senate Pres attacks income tax question"

Senate President Murray attacks proposed income tax question

By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer | June 12, 2008

BOSTON --Massachusetts is marching through the nation's fiscal storm, but its progress and future are threatened by a November ballot question proposing to eliminate the state income tax, Senate President Therese Murray said Thursday.

The Plymouth Democrat told a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast that repealing the 5.3 percent rate -- a proposal from Libertarian Carla Howell that nearly won approval in 2002 -- would trigger property tax increases and sharp local aid cuts.

"People have to realize that it is a binding initiative that would lead to debilitating cuts in local aid, including education and public safety. That would mean laying off teachers, police and firefighters, closing schools and shutting down road projects," Murray said.

"All we have to do is look at Florida, for example: no income tax, but their property taxes are a cause for revolt," she added.

Chamber President Paul Guzzi quickly signaled his support, saying his group and others from the business community would voice their opposition to the question. The state derives $12 billion out of its roughly $27 billion budget from income tax receipts. Eliminating the income tax would cut the budget back to its 1995 level.

"It's irresponsible and it goes too far, and reasonable people understand that," Guzzi said.

Anti-tax activists are working to gather 11,000 signatures needed to get the question on the fall ballot after gathering 66,000 to clear a first legal hurdle. A similar question got 45 percent of the vote six years ago.

The question proposes to eliminate taxes on wages, interest, dividends and capital gains. Supporters say that would give 3 million taxpayers an average of $3,600 annually.

In a statement on the Web site of her group, the Committee for Small Government, Howell wrote: "This $3,600-a-year increase in your take-home paycheck means more family money to spend, save and invest. And, statewide, it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Howell did not immediately return an e-mail seeking reaction to Murray's criticism.

In her speech, Murray revealed the Senate would pass Gov. Deval Patrick's $1 billion life sciences initiative Thursday, allowing him to sign it before he, Murray and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi travel to San Diego next week for a national biotechnology conference.

"This is a very competitive business and I think we've got the best package," she said. "We have cash and we have bonds."

She said $120 million in film industry tax credits are generating about $500 million in business for the state, and she expects Massachusetts to be the site of at least one Hollywood sound stage soon. But Murray said she would not support any more tax breaks until construction has been completed and work is under way.

"I think if they get in the ground, they get up and running, they want to come back to us and talk about post-production tax breaks, I'll be all ears," she said.

On a political note, the state's first female Senate president gave voice to a challenge confronting Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting, as he seeks to gain votes from supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Murray, a staunch backer of Clinton, said she was disappointed Clinton had failed to become the nation's first female president.

Asked by Guzzi who she would support now, Murray refused to even utter Obama's name as she gave him a lukewarm endorsement.

"We thought that certainly in my generation that that glass ceiling would have been able to break by now, and it looks like certainly in my lifetime, I will not see a woman president, and that is not lost on me or on many other women of a particular age group, or younger, or men," she said. "So, yeah, I'm disappointed -- but I'm a Democrat."

Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "Spending addiction"

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Aug 13, 2008,
Spending addiction

Question 1 might have been avoided

Whichever way voters lean on Question 1 — the proposal to eliminate the state’s income tax — it’s important they have a clear understanding of the state’s fiscal landscape. It has been clear for some time that Massachusetts’ problem isn’t raising revenue, but spending it wisely.

A recent report by the National Tax Foundation appears to show the state’s 5.3 percent tax on personal income is not so heavy. The report notes Massachusetts ranks just 23rd in the nation in combined state and local taxes.

But that is only part of the story. The Bay State’s relatively high incomes mean that per-capita individual income tax collections for 2005, the last year in the study, stood at $1,506 per person, third highest in the nation.

Math alone ensures that this state’s highly paid workers will pay more in taxes of all kinds. Nationwide, after all, the IRS reports that the top quarter of earners pay more than 86 percent of all income taxes. The more pertinent question is whether those taxes are spent wisely.

The picture must also consider the business community. Massachusetts, with the fourth highest rate of corporate taxation, and ranked 34th for overall business tax climate, can clearly do more to encourage commerce. Given high energy costs, the state must further streamline permitting procedures and emphasize the advantages of a highly educated and productive work force. Such investments will pay off handsomely in valuable jobs and tax revenues.

For voters, Question 1 comes down to hard questions. Those embittered by the Legislature’s long refusal to return the income tax to 5 percent must consider the risks of eliminating it altogether. But those who blithely assume tax revenues will always find a way to catch up to Beacon Hill spending should take a careful look at the state’s debt obligations, and the billions in bond issues authorized in the past Legislature session.

Massachusetts may no longer merit the moniker “Taxachusetts” but that only reinforces the need for fiscal discipline. Lawmakers and the governor must move away from budgets that routinely outstrip revenue projections. Had such thinking ruled Beacon Hill in recent years, voters would not be facing the all-or-nothing choice of Question 1.

Copyright 2008 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

SouthCoastToday.com-LTE: "Question 1 would cut wasteful public spending"

LETTER: Question 1 would cut wasteful public spending

August 13, 2008 6:00 AM

After reading The Standard-Times editorial promoting fear and hysteria over Question 1 on the November ballot to eliminate the state income tax, let us explore why there is strong support to repeal the state income tax. Low taxes good. High taxes bad. Low spending good. Overspending bad.

In 1999 the state budget was $35 billion. In 2007 it was $49 billion. Repealing the state income tax will roll back the state budget to the 1999 level. To the 3.4 million workers and taxpayers this will mean an average of an extra $3,700 in their pockets each year. It takes billions out of big-government Massachusetts and puts it in the hands of people who earned it. In productive hands, this excess could create thousands of new jobs in Massachusetts.

The Legislature will be forced to streamline and cut waste. For example, one big drain is the state pension system that doles out billions each year to double-dipping pensioners and state workers retiring at taxpayer expense in their late 40s and 50s. There is no plan to reform. Government employees must utilize 401(k) plans like the private sector.

Nine U.S. states have no income tax, including economic leaders Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Florida. These states are doing fine funding schools, hospitals and police without the income tax levy. Over the past decade, 350,000 Massachusetts residents have packed up and left, many to no-income-tax New Hampshire.

Question 1 will make the Legislature be accountable to Massachusetts taxpayers, not to government employees, lobbyists or special interest groups that profit from high government spending. People are realizing that "the children" and "the needy" are not high government priorities.

Less government and no income tax will attract private, productive businesses and individuals to our state. Pro-tax forces will spend millions of dollars to warn voters of the coming Armageddon. But let us realize a vote for Question 1 is an effort to stop the relentless growth, waste and corruption of big government.

Stop being defensive in the fight against big government.


Boston Herald - "Faneuil Hall event set to rally campaign vs. state income tax"

Faneuil Hall event set to rally campaign vs. state income tax

Boston Herald

By Associated Press | Monday, September 29, 2008 |

A campaign to scrap the state income tax is planning to launch a series of rallies to drum up support - and cash - at historic Faneuil Hall this weekend.

The Committee for Small Government, which supports a ballot question that would end the state income tax, hopes to kickstart its campaign with the rally Saturday.

Even though the committee has the easiest political pitch of the election - a promise of an average $3,600 back in the pockets of each Massachusetts taxpayer - it has only $8,000 in its war chest as of Sept. 22. Its opponents, the Coalition for Our Communities, on the other hand, boasted more than $1.2 million cash on hand, including $1 million from national teachers unions based in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no question that it is David vs. Goliath. Our opposition is going to spend millions on advertising against us,” said committee leader Carla Howell, who debated former state treasurer Shannon O’Brien in Weymouth last week.

The coalition is holding its own series of statewide rallies, said spokesman Steve Crawford.

“We are trying to get the message out and build support for a campaign to fight this reckless proposal,” Crawford said, adding TV advertising will play a part in the campaign.

Critics say the question, which would eliminate about 40 percent of state revenues, would have disastrous results, particularly when the state is already facing tough fiscal times.

WeeklyDig.com: "The ballot question to chop off a hunk of your taxes"

The ballot question to chop off a hunk of your taxes


By Alyssa Martino

So maybe the push for a state income tax repeal doesn't look quite as captivating or gutsy as its counterpart campaigns to end dog racing or legalize marijuana. But this seemingly dry topic, with its arguably devastating or revolutionary consequences, might just steal the spotlight of this year's Massachusetts ballot questions.

It would give, on average, a $3,600 tax refund to 3.4 million Massachusetts workers. The ballot question is binding, so if the majority of Massachusetts residents vote in its favor, the tax relief would begin immediately, with a 50-percent decrease in the income tax rate beginning on January 1st, 2009, and the remaining 50-percent abolished one year later. As a result, Massachusetts would join nine other states that don't tax paychecks: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, with New Hampshire and Tennessee taxing only dividend and interest income.

Efforts to halt the income tax in Massachusetts have been spearheaded by the Committee for Small Government. Chaired by Michael Cloud (a senatorial candidate on the Libertarian ticket in 2002) and Carla Howell (the Libertarian senatorial candidate in 2000, and the gubernatorial candidate in 2002), the group is no stranger to the ballot. Though their 2002 tax repeal initiative ultimately failed—with 885,683 voters for the repeal and 1,070,668 against it—its capture of 45.3 percent of the vote made the measure a closer call than expected. "Many believed there wasn't any support whatsoever for our ballot initiative," says Cloud of this previous attempt. Yet both sides of a widening divide seem to take this year's tax repeal efforts much more seriously after the question's 2002 results.

Despite opposition from legislative leaders, the income tax question was added to the ballot after the Committee for Small Government collected 76,084 signatories certified by the state Elections Division in December '07, and another 15,913 in June '08. The ballot question, if passed into law, would decrease current state revenues by at least 40 percent, since income tax will account for roughly $12.7 billion of the $28.1 billion state budget in 2009.

These numbers are staggering to the Coalition for Our Communities, a group of municipal organizations, labor unions and businesses who seek to defeat the referendum. Steve Crawford, the coalition's spokesperson, warns that "The magnitude [of the tax repeal] is such that it'll have a devastating impact on our state's future."

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, adds that the $12.7 billion from income tax revenues are not directed toward any particular program, but go toward a variety of infrastructure needs, including public education, prisons, police, state parks, Medicaid and human services, to name a few.

Proponents of the repeal argue that the initiative is especially necessary given today's struggling economy, and this may improve the bill's chances with voters who are financially struggling. "Taxpayers really need a tax cut! This is not, 'Gee I wish I had it,'" Cloud says. "We need to recognize how bad things are ... A lot of families are just a few thousand dollars from losing their homes. The tax refund money would go to pay off credit card debt, student loans, foreclosures. This money could be used to pay for $4.50-a-gallon gas!"

Widmer strongly opposes the repeal, yet worries that unhappy citizens may vote for it merely to "send a message" of dissatisfaction to the government. "When the conditions are such that people are being squeezed, as they are today in most every aspect of their lives, the conditions are right to support something like this," he explains.

Other benefits boost the bill's appeal, explains Howell. "Businesses—unless they profit from state government spending in some way—are more inclined to set up shop in a state like Texas, with no income tax, than they are in Massachusetts," she says. As a result "ending the income tax will create hundreds of new jobs, it will stop the exodus of tax payers to other states, and provide an opportunity for workers and businesses to stay in the state."

One study done by the Beacon Hill Institute in 2000 estimated that cutting the state income tax rate from 5.8 percent to 5 percent over the course of three years (the current rate is 5.3 percent) would have resulted in 75,000 new jobs. Cloud himself believes that since the 2008 proposition would cut the income tax by a significantly larger percentage (seven times this number by his calculations), it would result in several hundred thousand new jobs over time.

The Massachusetts communications director for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) , Tim Sullivan, laughs openly at the claim that a tax repeal would increase jobs, proclaiming that the Beacon Hill Institute's research has a politically conservative slant. "That is absolutely backasswards logic," he says. "They haven't had an objective, fact-based study in their history!" The Beacon Hill Institute's mission, as cited on its website, is "grounded in the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets."

The AFL-CIO is a member of the Coalition for Our Communities, but Sullivan insists this isn't simply a union issue. "We're citizens first and taxpayers first. The fact that we're union members means that we kind of understand that we're all in this together ... we believe in collective bargaining, and that's what government is," he says. "Obviously, police officers, firefighters, teachers and municipal employees all rely on taxes for their salaries and benefits."

But Cloud suggests some of these government-funded jobs are unnecessary, citing the price tag on public school systems. "We believe these prices are ridiculously high," says Cloud, offering private education and homeschooling as better alternatives. "A parochial school gives a better education, has a lower dropout rate, but only spends $3,100 per year."

Howell and Cloud's fight for the tax repeal is centered around their faith in small government. "Big government often harms the very people that it is intended to help," says Howell. "It forces people to give up hard-earned income to pay for wasteful bureaucracy." Howell and Cloud also view small government as an opportunity and incentive for people and businesses to grow, and save their money to support their families, pay off debt and live "the kind of lives that they want to," says Howell.

Crawford is less optimistic. "The impact that this would have on our state's economy is frankly unknown," says Crawford. "But it's certainly not good."

Widmer is slightly more apocalyptic. "This is so sweeping, this would create political and fiscal chaos," he says. "In simple terms, this is 40 percent of your budget, so every agency would sustain a 40 percent cut." Opponents of the bill see a lose-lose situation, with only two courses of action upon its passing: dramatically reducing all programs across the board, or raising property or sales tax in order to make up the difference.

Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray attacked the initiative to abolish income taxes in her June 12th Chamber of Commerce speech, looking to Florida's high property taxes and their effect on the real estate market there. "According to a Zogby poll conducted last year," she said, "unreasonable property taxes are the major reason why 37 percent of Floridians are considering moving out of the state." In some districts, where Floridians have yet to qualify for state property tax-caps, residents have seen their property taxes increase more than 100 percent over the past several years. But to make up for an income tax repeal with a property tax increase, the Massachusetts Legislature would have to address Proposition 2 1/2—a ballot initiative that went into effect in 1982—which currently limits the state's property tax increases.

Murray also voiced concerns about the inequity of those who might profit if the ballot passes. "By eliminating the income tax and destroying services, or by raising property and sales taxes—low-and mild income residents suffer the most."

The ballot question's defenders are convinced that the legislature can find money elsewhere to make up for the repeal. "The state spends $8-$14 billion off-budget ... this is the dirty little secret the state legislators don't want to talk about," Cloud says. MassINC—a public policy think tank—confirms that off-budget spending occurs, with findings that in 2006, the state's budget was $25.6 billion, while state spending totaled $37.5 billion.

Cloud believes that taxpayers' dollars subsidize unnecessary spending, including the expansion of state tax breaks for the film industry. "They're squandering money on a scale that's unheard of!" he exclaims.

Howell agrees, claiming that "government agencies, by their nature, are wasteful and unaccountable."

Cloud calls for more government transparency to stop off-the-books spending. "If there was a corporation who engaged in these practices, legislatures would call for hearings and transparency. They ought to be doing the same thing with themselves! Taxpayers should be able to look and say—'Oh, this is being well-spent.' That's how you get people involved and have practical democracy."

Cloud cites a 1978 California law, Proposition 13 (aka the "People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation"), as a successful example of transparency eliciting government efficiency. After reducing property taxes by 57 percent on average, Cloud states that "everyone watched the state and local government with careful eyes"—as a result, police facilities and other services were not impacted, he explains.

But Murray argues that tax money is not wasted, but that it's important in sustaining and improving necessary public services. "Municipalities are already struggling to maintain their local budget. Rip out 40 percent of the state revenues they rely on and watch our schools and local services fall apart. It's really that simple." Sullivan concurs, saying, "There isn't an enterprise in the world that has 40 percent frivolous waste." Bob Bliss, communications director at the state's Department of Revenue, adds that "cities and towns get about $5 billion in various forms of state assistance."

The Committee for Small Government faced a challenging timeline of gathering signatories in order to make their way onto the ballot. However, the group may still face an uphill battle till Election Day concerning money. "We've spent everything we have to-date just to get on the ballot," says Howell. Despite likely fundraising and donations, the Committee for Small Government will be hard-pressed to generate an advertising campaign budget that is comparable to their opponents.

Sullivan knows that the decision is ultimately up to voters. "The Legislature doesn't get to vote on this, the people do. And I think people are going to choose schools and clean drinking water and parks that are clean and safe for our kids to play in," Sullivan says. "Taxes are like the membership fee to society, and as long as they are fair—which they are—people will understand that they get a lot in return."

Nonetheless, Cloud believes that voters "are hungry for some breathing room" in today's economy. The deadline to register to vote is October 15th. "Hungry" or not, cast your ballot on November 4th.

Oberdorfer: Vote Yes on Question 1

Oberdorfer: Vote Yes on Question 1

Belmont Citizen-Herald

By Tony Oberdorfer

Tue Oct 14, 2008, 06:00 PM EDT

Belmont, Mass.-

The case made by Phyl Solomon in last week's Belmont Citizen-Herald against repeal of the state income tax would have more credibility if she and others hadn't consistently fought against any and all attempts made over the years to restrain the unhealthy growth of government spending. Our new Senior Citizen center boondoggle is a wonderful recent example at the local level.

The misleadingly-named Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, headed by Belmont's own Michael Widmer, is also spreading untruthful scare stories of what will happen should Question 1 be approved. Their analysis is flawed, to say the least.

While Gov. Patrick now talks about cutbacks in the state budget, he has regularly come up with unsound new spending schemes since taking office.

Let's not be taken in by unscrupulous politicians whose main interest is their own reelection. There is a huge amount of fat that can and should be removed from the state budget without people dying in the streets. Eliminating the state income tax seems to be the only way to force the issue.

Tony Oberdorfer
Fletcher Road

Letter-"Why I'm voting yes on Question 1"

Why I'm voting yes on Question 1

Daily News Online

October 16, 2008 03:57 am

To the editor:

After reading Carey Lambert's letter (Oct. 7) urging a "no" vote on Question 1, I am more energized than ever to vote "yes."

His main argument, it seems, is that if we take away the revenue that the income tax generates, then the politicians, given a choice between essential services and their own perks, will keep the perks.

That is a sad commentary indeed — not on the politicians, but on us. We are the fools who keep putting the same scoundrels back in office. In a one-party state, that ruling party — whether Democrat, Republican or Communist — is going to prove the truth of Lord Acton's dictum about the corrupting influence of absolute power.

Imagine if the colonists who staged the Boston Tea Party had harbored second thoughts: "If we deprive the British of this revenue, they will cut services. I'm all in favor of freedom, but ... ."

Well, there should be no "but"; it is time to take action to cast off our dependence and reclaim our economic liberty. As long as the spigot of state income tax revenue remains wide open, our state legislators have no incentive to make wise choices.

There is plenty of money for services, favors and perks, which means there is too much money flowing out of our pockets and into state coffers. Mr. Lambert's "better start" entails a demand for "transparency and accountability" from state government officials, but without an accompanying decisive action, such a demand is as toothless as a U.N. resolution.

Let's make a fresh start: abolish the state income tax and watch closely what the pols do. If any, even all, behave according to Mr. Lambert's prediction, vote them out.

It is time to take back our government.

John Lahoud

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

Bailing out on taxes

from Bailing out on taxes

North Adams Transcript

By Matt Kinnaman
Thursday, October 16

Each dollar a person earns is available for three possible positive dispositions. The earner can spend it, invest it or freely give it away.

All three choices drive economic growth.

Here in Massachusetts, protests against Question 1, an initiative to eliminate the state income tax, hinge almost exclusively on one static number, 12 billion, as in the number of dollars the state will "lose" if the initiative passes.

But those dollars will not be lost. They will be found, by the people who earn them.

Matt Kinnaman of Lee writes his column every week for the Transcript.


"Same old story from No on 1 set"

Same old story from No on 1 set

By Margery Eagan

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It’s always the same story around here. First to take it on the chin in tough times are housebound seniors who need Meals on Wheels, the legally blind, the mentally ill and, of course - pardon the expression, Howie - the children.

In other words, those who can afford it least get hit hardest.

But we never get any systemic reform of what’s truly costing us. And it’s not the old, the blind or the preschoolers - not 18 years ago when the public sector unions warned against cutting back the state income tax rate, saying “It goes to far!”

Not today, when the anti-tax cut crowd has another catchy slogan: “Vote No On Question 1 (to end the income tax). It’s a risky idea.”

Yesterday I asked “No on 1” spokesman Stephen Crawford if the group has any reform suggestions.

“That’s not our role,” he said.

Why not?

Yesterday, after testifying on Beacon Hill about budget cuts after the Wall Street disaster, tax watchdog Michael Widmer said he thinks this fiscal mess is a perfect “opportunity for real reform,” particularly of major budget-busters such as pension and health care costs. They account for a whopping 70 percent of local budgets, he said.

Question 1, if passed, would take more than $12 billion from the state’s budget. Yet cities and towns joining the state’s health insurance pool could save $2.5 billion over 10 years. But almost none of them have joined the pool because local unions don’t want to. The state won’t make them (why not again?) and local leaders are stuck.

In fact, part of the selling point in Brookline, which just passed a Proposition 2 override, was the expectation that local unions would buy into the state pool and save the town $3 million. What happened? Guilt-fueled voters, already paying some of the highest property taxes in the state, passed the override to pay even more. And then? Guilt-free unions voted against joining the state.

Too late now, you gullible Brookline voters you.

The Vote No on 1 set has millions to fight the Yes on 1 crew - led by the ever-energetic Carla Howell, who has about 25 cents.

The Wall Street fiasco makes her chances of prevailing worse than they already were. Yet the same old story and refrain is wearing thin, isn’t it? Just keep on paying as the scams keep coming, no fixes in sight.

Asked how much of Vote No’s money comes from unions, Crawford would not say. The answer, as the Herald disclosed last month: two-thirds comes from two big teacher unions.

Enough said.

© Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Media.
No portion of BostonHerald.com or its content may be reproduced without the owner's written permission.

Letter to the Editor -"Vote yourself a pay raise!"

Vote yourself a pay raise!

Letter to the Editor

Lexington Minuteman

Wouldn’t you like to choose how to spend the thousands of dollars the state takes from you every year?

Back in 2002, 45 percent of the electorate voted to repeal the state income tax. This Nov. 4, we get another chance to keep our hard-earned money and send a message to our state government to reduce spending, increase transparency, and set priorities that are in the best interest of all residents.

The doomsayers predict Armageddon if Massachusetts loses its income tax. Last time I checked, nine states, including New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, and Washington, do not have income taxes. They have not fallen off the edge of the earth. Neither will Massachusetts.

In 2007, commonwealth economic output was $360 billion. Income tax collected was $11.4 billion, or only 3.1 percent of state GDP, which covered only one quarter of Massachusetts’ $44.9 billion of spending (source: CIA World Factbook and Commonwealth of Mass. Statutory Basis Financial Report).

Lexington’s per capita household income is about $120,000. Repealing the 5.3 percent income tax would prevent the state from taking about $6,300 each year from the typical household. That’s a lot of money!

The fear-mongers say that this is reckless. Au contraire — the repeal phases in over two years, providing plenty of time to reprioritize.

According to the 2008 Lexington Financial Summit (http://tinyurl.com/6kq74e), we received about $9 million in local aid from the state, which covers only about 6 percent of the $146 million our town gorged on last year.

Even so, Lexington ran up a $4.7 million surplus in fiscal year 2008, expropriating an astonishing extra $16.2 million from Lexington taxpayers since 2004 (that’s $1,500 per household). There’s plenty of money sloshing in Lexington’s coffers, and it is not clear where it all is (see page 15 of the document above).

So, even if local aid were completely cutoff, which is highly unlikely because of Gov. Patrick’s campaign pledge to lower property tax burdens, the town could easily adjust by using the extra millions collected each year, and reducing the rate of budget growth to Proposition 2 1/2 levels (these combine to about $9 million annually). No cuts would be required, under sound fiscal policies, and certainly no overrides could be justified.

Don’t listen to the “Anti” people; all they want is your money. Vote yourself a pay raise. You earned it, you should keep it. Please vote “yes” on Question 1.

David Moschella

The Boston Globe - Jeff Jacoby - A resolution: Abolish the income tax

Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
A resolution: Abolish the income tax
By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / December 30, 2007

ON ELECTION DAY five years ago, 885,683 Massachusetts citizens voted for a ballot measure to abolish the Massachusetts income tax - a 45 percent level of support that shocked the state's political establishment, which had expected the question to go down to ignominious defeat, not come within a few percentage points of passing. So when Libertarian leader Carla Howell launched a new effort to junk the income tax earlier this year, the powers that be made it clear that this time they would do everything they could to discredit it.

In August, Howell's Committee for Small Government filed its updated ballot language, and Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation wasted no time pouring scorn on it. (Its name notwithstanding, the Taxpayers Foundation is a business lobby that often opposes broad-based tax relief.) Howell's proposal is "absolutely unreasonable," Widmer snorted. "Essentially she's trying to repeal the 20th century."

Undeterred, tax-repeal supporters collected 100,000 voter signatures on initiative petitions, well above the number required to move the measure forward. So Governor Deval Patrick is cranking up the rhetoric. He told the Associated Press last week that undoing the income tax is "just a dumb idea" that would utterly devastate Massachusetts.

"Patrick said he has lived in places with no taxes, including the time he spent in Darfur 30 years ago," AP's Steve LeBlanc reported. "He says there were also no bridges, no good roads, and no public safety there. 'Civilization costs something,' he said. 'If we could have something for nothing, which is the fiction that has been sold by the right for some time now, then we wouldn't have a $19 billion upkeep backlog for the roads and bridges.' "

If that is Patrick's best case for preserving inviolate the state income tax, maybe he shouldn't be tossing the word "dumb" around quite so freely.

To begin with, Massachusetts without a personal income tax would not be a "place with no taxes." It would be a place with corporate income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, meals taxes, hotel taxes, excise taxes, workers' compensation taxes, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, gasoline taxes, cigarette taxes, wine and liquor taxes, motor vehicle taxes, and real estate transfer taxes, not to mention the taxes ("license fees") imposed on a vast array of professions and occupations. The $11 billion collected in personal income taxes accounts for only 40 percent of state revenue. Take that away and the government of Massachusetts still helps itself to more than $16 billion a year. That's not exactly "no taxes."

It's not exactly Darfur, either. What a shameless comparison. Even Patrick cannot possibly believe that the misery and horror of Darfur is caused by insufficient taxation. A ballot initiative to repeal the state income tax is not an invitation to choose between life as we know it today or a life of poverty, lawlessness, and war. To suggest that those are the stakes is both ridiculous and disgraceful.

"Civilization costs something," the governor says, echoing the 1904 dictum of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: "Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society."

Maybe so. But in Massachusetts lately, taxes are also the price we pay for Big Dig corruption, for larcenous public-employee pensions, for state-owned golf courses, and for wretched public schools. Higher taxes are no guarantee of a more civilized society.

As a matter of fact, when Holmes defended taxes as the price tag of civilization, there were no federal and state income taxes. Massachusetts didn't begin taxing incomes until 1916, which means that for most of its history, the Bay State survived - even thrived - without an income tax. As Howell's ballot proposal advances, the fearmongers will shrilly warn that voting yes will plunge us into the Dark Ages. Like all addicts, those hooked on high taxes are terrified by the prospect of giving up their drug. They cannot imagine how much better they will feel when they learn to live without it.

Eliminating the state income tax would reduce government spending by about $11 billion, shrinking the budget to its 1995 level. But that $11 billion would not be lost. It would be back in the private sector - back in the hands of the men and women who earned it, and who are far more likely to spend, invest, or donate it wisely than the bloated state bureaucracy it goes to now.

Nine states - Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming - have no income tax. In 2008, Massachusetts has another chance to make it 10. Last time, the repeal campaign came close. Next year, let's put it over the top.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.


MySouthEnd.com:  "Why this liberal supports repealing the income tax"

Whether you think the Massachusetts state government is too big, too small, or the right size, this liberal makes the case for why Yes on 1 is needed to clean out the waste and "restart" state spending.

Shirley Kressel, MySouthEnd.com, Wednesday Oct 22, 2008

You are about to vote on Question 1: Elimination of the income tax. I am a card-carrying, unrepentant, far-left goody-two shoes bleeding heart liberal. Radical, even. Yet I plan to vote for Q1.

I am not a "small government" advocate. Nor is my aim to keep a few thousand more dollars in the taxpayers’ pockets (including mine) because "times are tough." Nor do I claim that taxpayers "know how to spend that money better than the government does." Nor do I believe we should force poor people to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps."
My motives are the reverse. I think our government is too small for the services we need, and must be funded to do all the socially necessary things individuals, and the so-called(until recently) "free markets," cannot do. But without some big change, we won’t get the government we need, no matter how much money we put into it.

In fact, I believe the state is awash in money. The endless media revelations (and we can hardly imagine what’s not being exposed) of waste, fraud and abuse ("WFA") show how much of our money our officials can throw away and still stay in office. Uncontrolled Big Dig costs. Billions in corporate welfare ("business incentives"), with no accounting, never mind disclosure, of how much they cost us and what they yield. Public land giveaways to developers. Shameless retirement-pay abuse, even after exposure. Cronyism in contracts, earmarks, and hiring. A growing hack-ocracy. One hundred fifty million dollars to a business lobby called the Greenway "Conservancy" for work that costs $12 million. One hundred million dollars a year to the film industry, although everyone knows it does nothing for economic development (It’s just a "fun thing," one high-level official explained to me). The I-Cubed program, giving $250million to mega-developers for construction loans on their "public infrastructure" - like parking garages, recreational facilities, and landscaping. And so on.

And this barely scratches the surface. I can’t vouch for the Q1 supporters’ opinion survey claiming 41 percent of our money is wasted - but I wouldn’t be shocked if a study confirmed it.

How do they get away with it, when we’re so "strapped" for money?

They collect vast pools of taxes without regard to documented needs, so they can burn huge amounts of money on WFA and still provide enough - just enough - public services to prevent open revolt.

Now there’s another crisis and the cuts have started. Of course, the first things to go are the services to the blind, the elderly, police and parks. That’ll teach you to cut taxes!

Candidate Patrick promised if elected to cut a billion in WFA to fund services. Why doesn’t he cut WFA first?

We are told that Q1 is risky.

We hear that our state credit rating could fall, making it hard to fund state capital needs. One local observer fears it might even have unintended ripple effects, potentially endangering the government credit system at large.

We hear that local aid will be cut, and local property taxes will go up. Well, not in Boston. Our property taxes are at the maximum allowed by law. (And Boston’s government WFA is a scandal in its own right.)

We hear that the most urgently needed human and infrastructure services will suffer most. Well, that’s the point. These needs are at the bottom of the legislature’s priority list. Not every legislator’s list, but this legislature as a whole. And that will be true no matter how much we give them in taxes: genuine public services will get crumbs. So we have to send a message that we’re not going to tolerate this outrageous misuse of our money any longer.

But, we’re told if we want to send a message, do it another way.

I think we’ve tried to do it another way. In 2000, we voted for a binding initiative to roll back the state income tax over three years from 5.75percent to 5 percent, the rate before the 1989 tax hike. In June 2002,the Legislature decided to freeze the rate at the current 5.3 percent. That November, 46 percent of the voters supported repeal of the state income tax altogether. That was ignored.

And I’m sure that this Q1 vote will also be ignored.

I spend most of my time trying to send messages to politicians. I do research, I send letters, I beg for meetings with even the lowliest of staff ("Oh, please, sir, just a few minutes of your time to look at my five-year study!"). I just can’t think of any other ways to send a message.

Except to t’row da bums out. And to do that, we need to know who da bums are. And to do that, we need information we don’t have and can’t get.

I think the only way to get our money directed to our real public needs is to cut the cash pipeline and force politicians to make choices - in public view. Poor children or wealthy corporations: let’s see what they do when they can’t serve both, and t’row out da ones who choose wrong.

So the first step is transparency, as candidate Deval Patrick promised.

I will vote against Q1 if the legislators, advocates, and citizens who oppose the tax cut demand that the legislature and the Governor’s Office be made subject to the Public Record Law and the Open Meeting Law (no more back-room deals); that all public documents be posted on the internet; and that we establish zero-based budgeting, so every year, every expenditure has to be publicly proposed and justified.

Our elected officials keep ignoring public messages at their peril. History teaches that, at some point, pent-up public wrath will really do some damage. Transparency and accountability are the preventive measures against that outcome.

Shirley Kressel is a landscape architect and urban designer, and one of the founders of the Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods. She can be reached at Shirley.Kressel@verizon.net.