John R. Silber took his campaign against the Massachusetts establishment right to the establishment's heart yesterday, as both he and Republican gubernatorial nominee William F. Weld '66 spoke at a meeting of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable at the Harvard Club of Boston.
Both candidates spent much of their allotted time discussing their positions on a comprehensive tax rollback referendum sponsored by Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT). The plan, which Weld supports and Silber opposes, would reduce the state's taxes to 1988 levels.
Weld said he favors the plan chiefly because he thinks it will force the state's legislature, which has enacted tax increases in recent years, to become more fiscally responsible.
He added that if elected, he will postpone the plan's implementation until July 1991 to allow sufficient time for the state to adjust to such a major change.
But Silber, whose speech preceded Weld's, told the business leaders that the former U.S. Attorney's position was inherently contradictory because the proposed legislation specifically calls for implementation in January.
Weld's stance on CLT, Silber said, is "double-talk, hypocrisy," and "the same kind of talk from old-style politicians."
Silber added that with the adoption of his own plan to scale back the Massachusetts government, which focuses on weeding out redundant civil service positions, the state could reach the objectives of CLT within only three or four years.
Message Over Method
If Silber wins the upcoming election, he said, it would mean the electorate "voted for the message, but not the methods of CLT."
Silber added that CLT would deprive the state of funds necessary for the immediate continuation of fundamental services such as the water and port authorities, and would spark a large increase in the state's unemployment.
Weld, responding to concerns that CLT would slash badly-needed funds for public education, said that it is "not an area where the hammer is going to fall," although he added that too much money in the state's higher education budget is currently being spent on administration rather than on the faculties of the state's schools.
Outside the realm of the CLT issue, the candidates, during their separate speeches, were far less contentious.
Both candidates stated their support for the repeal of the state's universal health care plan as well as the state's capital gains tax.
In addition, both candidates reiterated their hope that private business will provide incentives for its executives to take a leading role in repairing the state's ailing economy.
The discussion was the latest in a series of forums the Roundtable has sponsored within the past two years.