Panel Says City Will Survive Prop 2 1/2
Disagrees on State's Responsibility for Fiscal Relief
Cambridge will endure Proposition 2 1/2, panelists at a Kennedy School discussion concurred last night, although they disagreed on whether state or local government should shoulder the burden of the controversial tax-cutting measure.
"Proposition 2 1/2 is going to mean some huge problems for Cambridge next year but we will survive in spite of it," Susanne Tompkins, vice president for research for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told a crowd of more than 300 local residents and students.
The panelists disagreed in their advice to the city for coping with the measure, which will cut Commonwealth property taxes to 2 1/2 per cent of the assessed market value and reduce auto excise taxes.
Tompkins said she is unsympathetic to local officials who "throw up their hands and go crying to the state." Cambridge Mayor Francis H. Duehay '55 disagreed, arguing that the state must institute tax reform.
Arlo Woolery, executive director of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, called the measure a "major catastrophe" and said that city officials must attempt to get the last dollar from the market value out of the tax rolls.
Panelist Helen Heller, executive director of the United Parents Association, said Cambridge should concentrate on hiring consultants to reallocate money from low priority items to high priority items, adding, "It worked very well in New York in 1976 and it can work here."
The only applause of the evening came when a member of the audience suggested an increase in payments in lieu of taxes from institutions like Harvard and MIT.
Duehay replied by urging university trustees to pass a measure providing special reimbursement to cities and towns.
The discussion was moderated by John Kenneth Galbraith, Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus, who noted that Cambridge residents voted more than two to one against the proposition.
"Other cities had romantic notions that they could get public services for less or no money," Galbraith said