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Mayors, Silber Slam Tax Roll Back Measure

CLT Backer Accuses Revenue Department of Violating State Law

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

BOSTON--A group of Massachusetts mayors and Democratic candidate for governor John R. Silber united yesterday to oppose the Citizens for Limited Taxation's effort to roll back taxes and fees.

Silber met with mayors at a luncheon, and then Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, who did not attend the session with Silber, held a news conference where he and other mayors warned of cuts in local services if CLT passes.

The CLT petition is Question 3 on the list of referendums on the November ballot.

It would cost the state more than $1 billion in revenue this fiscal year, money Flynn and other mayors said would come at least in part from state aid that helps cities and towns pay for police and fire protection and schools.

But CLT Executive Director Barbara Anderson said state budget cuts won't come about without her petition and that local aid could, in fact, be jeopardized more by its defeat than by its passage.

Anderson also filed a formal complaint yesterday with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, accusing the state Department of Revenue of violating state law prohibiting state agencies from getting involved in ballot campaigns.

The complaint centered on a report issued Sept. 21 in which the Revenue Department estimated how much local aid cities and towns would lose if CLT were approved by the state's voters.

Silber, who opposes the CLT petition but says he appreciates the anger of voters against state government, said he did not believe the average voter fully understood the initiative's impact on the economy and on local governments.

"I don't believe for one moment that the people have been informed on the nature and consequences of CLT," Silber said.

He said his job is to tell the voters, "Believe me now when I tell you CLT is a bad idea, and if you decide to pass it to send me the message, I'll get the message, I will respect you for having sent me the message, then I will save you from the unfortunate consequences that would happen if I literally implemented your message."

But Anderson said while she does not dispute Silber's intentions to cut government spending without CLT, she does not believe the Legislature will go along with them without the pressure of the initiative petition.

"Without CLT, nobody makes these cuts," she said.

She said Republican candidate for governor William F. Weld '66 is correct in referring to the CLT petition as a tool to help him restructure government.

"You don't send anyone out there without a tool," Anderson said. "You don't send a carpenter out to build a house without a hammer. I think John Silber is going to fail in a lot of things he thinks he can do himself."

But Flynn, who laid to rest rumors that he was considering abandoning Silber for Weld, said, "Passage of CLT would be shortsighted and economically counterproductive."

Flynn also criticized state government operations for the past four years, calling it "a party" that citizens are now being required to pay for.

Newton Mayor Theodore Mann, a Republican, gave an emotional speech against the tax rollback, saying, "I want to convince the people of Massachusetts there is a better way than committing suicide."

New Bedford Mayor John Bullock said there is no way $1 billion could be cut from the state budget without hitting local aid, which he said makes up 60 percent of the revenue for his seaport city.

And Worcester Mayor Jordan Levy said his city will face serious financial problems if state aid is cut significantly.

Levy acknowledged that cuts in state aid are likely even if CLT doesn't pass, but said the moves would be less severe.

Anderson's complaint against the Revenue Department claimed the local aid report violated a state law against public employees doing political work on state time.

Anderson said the report's failure to outline local aid impacts if the question fails, or to analyze another initiative that would dedicate state funds for local aid, shows it to be a political document.

But Revenue Commissioner Stephen Kidder said the document was meant to be a planning tool for cities and towns and was no way meant as a political document.

"Our intent was to respond to questions from cities and towns on what the potential effects of Question 3 were to be," Kidder said.

Kidder said the report relied on a series of assumptions, including that the Legislature would implement the CLT petition through across the board cuts.

He referred to the cover letter of the report which said, "...We offer this analysis to inform you of the facts as we see them, not to advocate for one side or the other."

The cover letter also said the department recognized its analysis will be subject to scrutiny and question.

In another development on ballot initiatives, a group formed to oppose all three ballot questions that would affect state finances.

The three include the CLT petition, a measure to limit the use of state consultants and a proposal backed by municipal leaders to dedicate 40 percent of major state taxes to aid to cities and towns.

Committee Chair Robert Zevin, a bank executive and a member of the state Revenue Advisory Board, said all three questions appeal to "discontent and frustrations that voters feel, but miss their targets."

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