A PROMISE TO KEEP: 5%
A Ballot Committee of Citizens for Limited Taxation

 

 Background and history of the first Promise petition effort
to roll back the "temporary" income tax increase
(1997-98)

Defeated in court by the Massachusetts Teachers Association


State House News Service
July 30, 1997

Cellucci calls for income tax cut

During his first day as acting governor, Paul Cellucci filed his first bill. Not surprisingly, it calls for a tax cut....

Cellucci wants the 5.95 percent income tax rate dropped back down to 5 percent, the rate prior to 1989. In that year, lawmakers hiked the tax to rescue the commonwealth from the brink of bankruptcy. At the time, they said the increase was temporary and that the rate would revert to 5 percent once the bonds needed to reduce a huge budget deficit were retired. Those bonds are about to be paid off.

Concerned that the Democrat-controlled Legislature might resist slashing the tax rate, Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government plans to launch an initiative petition drive to place the tax cut question before voters in 1998.

Cellucci said growing budget surpluses and the threat of the ballot question should persuade lawmakers to endorse the latest tax cut proposal.

"Iím going to help Barbara Anderson get signatures. I support it," he said of the campaign to place the tax-cutting question before voters....

"I wasnít there in 1989, but it appears a promise was made," Birmingham said. "It was represented as temporary."


State House News Service
September 16, 1997

Cellucci wants Legislature to "do the right thing" on taxes

Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci today called on the Legislature to pass an income tax cut, saying the state can afford it and if the General Court doesnít enact the reduction, the general public will.

Standing with Republican legislative leaders and Barbara Anderson, who is shepherding a tax-cutting question toward the 1998 ballot, Cellucci reminded State House reporters the legislative leadership of the late eighties promised the tax hikes of that era would be temporary.

The state income tax was raised in separate steps to 5.95 percent from 5 percent during the fiscal crisis of 1988-91, to pay off the stateís chronic deficits.

"I say the way you really make it a temporary tax is you repeal it," Cellucci said. "That way you can say, Ďsee, it really was a temporary tax.í"

Anderson, co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government, said the Legislature has until the first Wednesday in May to pass the tax reduction on its own, once her group gathers 64,928 signatures to put the question before the Legislature.

If the Legislature votes it down or does not act, the question will go before voters in November, after the tax-cutters gather another 10,821 names.

Though the Legislature will have the option not to take up the tax cut at all, Anderson urged it to do so. "It really is our preference that the Legislature go first," Anderson said. "This is not a controversial tax cut. This is a promise that they made. The crisis is over."

If and when legislators take up the tax cut, she said, voters should and would divide legislators into distinct camps:

"People with honor, who vote yes, people who vote no and have no honor" and those who prefer the Legislature not do anything with the question -- or, in Andersonís words, "People who show they have no honor and no courage."

Cellucci said estimates of first-quarter state tax revenues, due within days, will probably show better performance than expected. "If we donít take (the extra money) off the table, state government will find a way to spend it," Cellucci said.

House Minority Leader David Peters of Charlton said getting a roll call in the House would be the number one priority of House Republicans this fall. Senate Republican Leader Brian Lees of E. Longmeadow said it would be foolish for the Legislature not to take up the reduction, because the question is sure to be brought before the public next fall.


The Boston Herald
Tuesday, September 23, 1997

Record surplus for Mass.
By Bernard J. Wolfson

A booming economy with moderate spending helped push the Bay Stateís budget surplus to a record $795 million in fiscal 1997, according to estimates by a Boston-based watchdog group.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said the record windfall will provide extra cash for capital projects while filling the stateís "rainy day" stabilization fund to near its current ceiling of $900 million. It will also offer a hedge against future increases in the stateís welfare caseload, the foundation said.

"Both the administration and the Legislature deserve credit for a series of prudent decisions that -- in combination with a robust economy -- put the commonwealth in the best financial shape of the decade," the group said in its two-page report.

The projected surplus is nearly double last yearís $446 million figure.

With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the books havenít closed yet, and the state comptrollerís office isnít expected to publish the official numbers until Oct. 31.

But Michael Widmer, the foundationís president, said his group has held many discussions with state finance officials. "These will be close to the final numbers," he said.

According to the foundation, fiscal 1997 tax receipts will rise about $810 million, or 6.7 percent, to $12.861 billion. Total revenue will hit $18.7 billion, compared with estimated spending of $17.6 billion and an additional $305 million in authorized funds to be carried over to 1998.

The state is expected to allocate $349 million of the surplus for capital spending, $280 million for the "rainy day" fund and $128 million for welfare cases, the foundation said.

The rainy day fund, used to cope with recessions and other fiscal emergencies, will hit $850 million, an all-time record. As recently as 1990, the fund was empty.


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Reports praise tax cuts
By Bernard J. Wolfson

Bay State tax cutters were out in force yesterday, trumpeting the benefits of slashing the stateís take of salaries, wages and investment income.

Lexington-based Standard & Poorís DRI released a report claiming that a pending bill to phase out the stateís 12 percent tax on investment income would create 28,000 new jobs and produce $2.4 billion in new personal income by the year 2007.

Suffolk Universityís Beacon Hill Institute said a ballot initiative to cut the standard income tax from 5.95 percent to 5 percent by 2001 would create 105,281 new jobs and $4.9 billion in new wages and salaries.

But Jim St. George, executive director of the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, said that with both proposals there would be losers, not just winners. "Youíre going to pay for it either with higher taxes somewhere else or with less services."

The proposed investment income tax phase-out would cost the state $260 million in lost revenue by 2003, according to the DRI report. The income tax cut to 5 percent would cost nearly $1.3 billion, according to the Beacon Hill Institute.


State House News Service
December 8, 1997

Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government handed in 65,045 valid signatures on its tax-cutting ballot petitions by last Wednesdayís 5 pm deadline, but that doesnít mean the group made it.

Workers from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts will spend this week pawing through the hundreds of petitions the group submitted, looking for signatures that could be forged or otherwise illegitimate. The groups are trying to prevent the tax reduction question from going before voters in November, fearful that it will mean a cut in spending on education and social programs.

The rollback of the state income tax to 5 percent from 5.95 percent is projected to cost state coffers $1.2 billion a year after it is fully phased in. The group proposes that 1999 income be taxed at 5.6 percent; 2000 income at 5.3 percent; and income for 2001 and beyond at the pre-1989 rate of 5 percent.

Towards the goal of canceling votersí ability to decide the question, the teacherís union and TEAM hope to successfully challenge so many signatures that the petition is knocked off the ballot. Challenges are filed with the five-member Ballot Law Commission, a state board appointed by the governor that investigates fraud in the electoral process. Challenges must be filed by Jan. 2, and the board will then have until Jan. 23 to rule on how many signatures are invalid.

Arline Issacson, an MTA lobbyist who spent part of Friday reviewing the tens of thousands of names, reported back late in the day. The process, she said, was "slow as molasses in Antarctica." But, she added, "Thereís some basis to say, yeah, weíve got a shot here."


The Boston Globe
Wednesday, December 31, 1997

Coalition challenges state tax-cut petition
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

In a development that could have vast political implications on Beacon Hill, a coalition organized by the Massachusetts Teachers Association declared yesterday it has the ammunition to keep a proposed $1.2 billion tax cut from appearing on the 1998 ballot.

The coalition -- which also includes the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts -- notified Secretary of State William F. Galvin that it has found scores of what it called dubious signatures on papers for the ballot question and will petition the state Ballot Law Commission to reject them....


Associated Press
Thursday, January 8, 1998

Tax cut opponents challenge signatures

BOSTON (AP) -- Tax cut opponents are challenging nearly 40 times as many signatures as they need to in order to keep a tax cut initiative off the November ballot.

They delivered a list of approximately 4,000 challenged signatures to the Secretary of State on Wednesday in an effort to derail what they say is an irresponsible tax cut.

Jim St. George, executive director of the liberal Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts, said the group found a couple hundred duplicate certified signatures as well as many more it could not find on local voter registration lists.

"We're completely confident we will show the commission signatures that should not have been certified and that will drop her below the minimum number," St. George said, referring to Barbara Anderson, a leader in the tax cut initiative.

TEAM needs to knock off 82 signatures to prevent the proposal to cut the state income tax from 5.95 to 5 percent from making it on the November ballot.

St. George said the group does not believe all 4,000 signatures are invalid, but included all those in doubt since the challenge list cannot be added to later.

"They're throwing spitballs at the wall," said Anderson, co-chair of the Citizens for Limited Taxation, sponsors of the petition.

She said her group is also poring over the signatures and have already found an estimated 800 signatures that would have been certified, but were wrongly excluded because the name was thought to be unregistered or illegible....


State House News Service
April 3, 1998

Barbara Anderson and her tax-cut ballot initiative will be in Suffolk Superior Court, sitting in Middlesex, this Wednesday for oral arguments. Anderson is facing a challenge by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, who argue the state canít afford a large tax cut.


CLT News Release
April 7, 1998

Teachers Union Bullies, Harasses Elderly, Others

An 83-year old Springfield woman fears to leave next week on a planned visit to see her son because she's told she might be subpoenaed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to appear in Suffolk Superior Court, and calls her state representative for help.

A retired couple in Holyoke receive a call from "Priscilla Lyons, a Cambridge attorney" who evades identification and implies she is a representative of Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government. An appointment is made for her to get a signature sample from them but nobody shows up -- until a day later. Upon demand for identification, the tardy and mysterious agent, "George Shay," admits that he's an official of the greater-Springfield teachers union.

When the call comes to one of their four sons, it's implied that the call is being made on behalf of a Justice of Superior Court, who is verifying signatures. A mysterious agent travels to one Holyoke son's place of employment for a hand-writing sample -- in Connecticut.

Phony subpoenas are received by signers, faintly watermarked "Sample" and accompanied by a letter requesting hand-writing samples or else.

A voter is told his signature is forged, because the teachers union has misread it.

"Imperative" demands are made for visits by mysterious agents who allege they've previously sent letters, but never did.

A husband, wife, and mother receive letters threatening subpoenas unless they comply and produce signature samples -- because they all live at the same address and thus are obvious forgers.

Terrence is forced to provide his signature or be subpoenaed because the teachers union thinks it looks like "Teresa," though their letter is addressed to Terrence.

Agent "Ann" arrives at the home of a West Roxbury petition signer to obtain a signature sample. By the time she leaves she has become "very hostile."

Our phones at CLT have been ringing constantly over the past few days with these and many similar reports. All across the state voters are getting harassing calls, letters, and visits from agents of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

A desperate teachers union has stooped to new depths, wallowing in unprecedented harassment and intimidation of citizens, whose only offense was signing the A Promise to Keep: 5% petition to roll back the income tax rate. The union deserves to lose and it will.


CLT News Release
April 13, 1998

Those Subpoenas Are Not Ours!

As the battle rages between Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government and the Massachusetts Teachers Association on the state income tax rollback, citizens are being issued subpoenas to appear in Superior Court to validate or invalidate their signatures on the petition.

The subpoenas are being sent by Hoopes & Cronin with a cover letter signed by Cheryl Cronin that states "we represent individuals involved in an upcoming trial..." that does not identify those individuals nor the organizations who are challenging the petition, the MTA and its puppet, the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts (TEAM).  Subpoena recipients are told to call 1-800-392-6088 to discuss signing an affidavit.

Callers to that number last week were not told who was issuing the subpoena unless they pressed.  The persons on the other end said it was "ten signers."  When directly questioned, they finally admitted the first signer was "St. George" -- i.e., Jim St. George, director of TEAM. One caller was told "This subpoena was issued by Barbara Anderson because. . ."

CLT and its ballot committee A Promise to Keep: 5% have issued no subpoenas. Using the Secretary of State's Central Voter Registry database, and volunteers checking original voter registrations at city/town halls, we have identified over 1500 signatures that we argue should have been certified last fall and should now be added   by the Superior Court.

The teachers union, along with challenging our additions, is trying to remove more signatures that had been certified by city/town registrars. In its desperation, the MTA is frivolously fishing for unlikely forgeries by harassing husbands and wives whose names appear together on the petitions. Even when the handwriting is obviously different, the union is threatening citizens with subpoenas that interfere with jobs and vacations or require long drives to Boston. Many of the people who are calling our office are elderly.

If in fact someone's name was signed by another, we agree that this name should be struck. But if people are willing to sign an affidavit that they did sign the petition, they should not be forced to appear in court. However, people are calling us to complain that the people who made an appointment to come to their home to get the affidavit signed are not  keeping the appointment, or are being "very hostile."

It is clear to us that the MTA is not only trying to keep our petition off the ballot, but is trying to harm the initiative petition process by discouraging future petition signatures.

Our case will be tried this week, with the MTA handwriting "expert" expected to be on the stand Tuesday. The subpoenas for "hundreds" of voters have been issued for Wednesday and Thursday.


The Boston Globe
Tuesday, May 5, 1998

Tax-cut question will go unasked
Petition loses challenge, wonít make ballot

By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

In a crushing blow to the stateís once powerful grass-roots anti-tax movement, a plan to cut income taxes by $1.2 billion next year was blocked yesterday from appearing on the November ballot.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel ruled that tax cut leader Barbara Anderson and her organization did not gather enough certified voter signatures to place the question on this yearís ballot. He found that even if he ruled in favor of the tax-cut proponents on each of the 6,000 disputed signatures, the petition still would be 26 shy of the constitutionally required 64,928.

The proposal would have asked voters if the state should cut its income tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent.

Anderson, who for nearly two decades successfully forced tax cuts, tax caps, and legislative pay-raise repeals on Beacon Hill, said she doubts her group will appeal the judgeís ruling.

"We donít have the resources to match the power of the Massachusetts Teachers Association at every step of the process," Anderson said, referring to the unionís well-financed effort to block the petition from reaching the ballot.

But opponents of the tax rollback said the decision allows the state legislators to consider more modest tax cuts without the political pressures of a public petition campaign.

"This means that the $1.2 billion tax cut is dead and that whatever tax break we will see will come through the normal legislative process," said Jim St. George, the executive director of Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, a liberal, union-funded group that coordinated the challenge to the petitionís signatures.

With the petition off the ballot, the dynamics of the tax debate on Beacon Hill and in the gubernatorial races shift heavily in favor of the Democratsí more moderate tax-reduction plans.

The court ruling is not only a serious blow to Anderson and her group, Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government, but it also undermines Acting Governor Paul Cellucci as he tries to push a similar tax cut plan in the Legislature.

If the petition had made it to the ballot, where voter approval would have been almost certain, Cellucci would have had leverage to force the Democrat-controlled Legislature to approve the rollback.

Anderson lashed out at the teachersí union for financing and organizing the challenge to the petition signatures, charging that the union spent nearly $1 million of its member dues to "crush ... democracy."

Anderson said she wants to confer with her supporters and lawyers before making a final decision on whether to appeal, but said she is inclined to drop the case. Anderson said she does not want to drain her groupís resources on a case she said it would probably lose.

In January, the teachersí union and the tax-equity group took their challenge to the stateís ballot law commission, which after a week of hearings threw out hundreds of signatures, leaving the petition 355 short. Anderson then took her case to the courts.

Cellucci acknowledged yesterday that he has lost some clout in forcing the Legislature to roll back the income tax to 5 percent, but said he would continue to raise the heat on the Democrats to accept the plan, which he said would save an average family of four about $600 a year.

"This is a battle that is not going to go away," Cellucci said. "It doesnít change any of the reasons why we should do it. The people in the Legislature should be listening to their constituents."

Cellucci reiterated the tax cuttersí arguments that the tax was raised to pay for late 1980s budget deficits and that promises were made then that the hike would be temporary.

"I have news for the Democratic Legislature. The fiscal crisis is over. Keep your promise," Cellucci said.


The Boston Globe
Tuesday, May 5, 1998

Ruling disappoints taxpayers
By Patrick J. Calnan
Globe Correspondent

A judgeís decision to keep off the November ballot a plan that could have poured $1.2 billion into taxpayersí pockets was greeted with disappointment on Boston streets yesterday.

"Itís terrible," said Angela Pierre 49, a machine operator from Dorchester. "You should be able to make the decision. I canít say I feel angry, but not good."

Judge Allan van Gestel ruled that the bid for a ballot question didnít have enough valid signatures.

"I donít like it," said Pat Clooney, 43, a nurse and mother.

"If weíre paying the taxes, we should be able to control how much we pay. It makes me want to move to someplace like New Hampshire that doesnít have high taxes."

Vincent Grzesik, a store owner from Burlington, said he has lost faith in legislators. "Every time they have a tax increase and they said itís short-term or whatever, you never see it go back down again," he said.

Stephen Mitchell, a mutual fund portfolio administrator who lives in Dorchester, said he hoped yesterdayís decision would not be the end of the matter.

"I wish we had known about it," he said. "The question now is, is it too late for it to be on the ballot, and can we have another signature drive?"


Stephen Mitchell and the others
now have their second chance!

Vote "YES!" on Question 4


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