Massachusetts voters who supported Proposition 2 1/2 last November neither wanted nor expected cutbacks in municipal services, and were instead attacking what they perceived as inefficiency and corruption in state and local government, a study conducted by two professors at the Kennedy School of Government concludes.
"The differences between supporters and opponents of the measure as to what level of government services were needed were slight." Julie B. Wilson, assistant professor of City and Regional Planning, said yesterday, adding. "The differences were in what they expected the proposition to accomplish."
The results of the study, announced yesterday in a press conference at the K-School, show that only one-third of the proposition supporters anticipated that municipal services would be cut back, while two-thirds of its-opponents did not believe the services would be affected.
A large majority of all voters, however, agreed that inefficiency and corruption hamper state and local governments. Three-fourths of the 1500 who responded to the survey, conducted two weeks after the November 4 election, said state government was inefficient and could trim 15 per cent from its budget without reducing services. Sixty per cent said the same about local governments.
The report concluded that citizens based their votes on whether or not they believed the bill would effectively deal with that problem. Eighty-five per cent of its supporters felt that Proposition 2 1/2 would make local government more efficient, while 61 per cent thought it would do the same at the state level.
Of those who did not vote on the proposition, however, only 38 per cent believed it would increase efficiency at the local level, and only 34 per cent thought so about state government.
"Our findings should contribute to the current policy debate by helping policy makers interpret the vote on Proposition 2 1/2 and better understand what Massachusetts citizens want in the way of changes in services, tax reform, and government operations," Helen F. Ladd, assistant professor of City and Regional Planning, and the other researcher, said yesterday.
State Rep. Gerald M. Cohen, chairman of the House Committee on Taxation, said yesterday that he believes the report will have an effect on Massachusetts legislators. Cohen noted specifically the sections in the report which indicate that voters prefer raising state income taxes rather than sales taxes to make up losses to city government.
Cambridge City Manager James L. Sullivan, who opposed Proposition 2 1/2, said yesterday the findings indicate that a large number of people believed the "misinformation" put out by supporters of Proposition 2 1/2, who said that spending could be cut without affecting programs.
But Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Citizens for Limited Taxation, a group that sponsored the bill, said yesterday the survey demonstrates the success of their campaign, which portrayed Proposition 2 1/2 as a method of curbing state government.
"People are getting angry that officials are not dealing with these problems," Anderson said, adding that the group was "picking up support.