05 November 2008


And meanwhile, on the local front...
these two articles are from today's Gloucester Times

Voters veto repeal of income tax

By Amanda Flitter
Staff Writer

GLOUCESTER — State and municipal officials are breathing a sigh of relief.

Voters across the state rejected Question 1 yesterday, keeping the 5.3 percent state income tax and preventing what local officials said could have been drastic state-aid cuts if the income tax had been repealed.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk said that, while she was "relieved" that Question 1 did not pass, its presence on the ballot sent a lasting message about government reform.

"I think the state has definitely dodged a bullet, and the state needs to look at serious reforms," she said.

Statewide, 69 percent of voters rejected the measure. Gloucester followed a similar trend, with voters going against it at a rate of more than 2 to 1. However, not all of Cape Ann rejected Question 1; the majority of Manchester voters cast ballots in favor of it, by a count of 1,251 to 1,091.

Question 1 proposed cutting the state's 5.3 percent income tax in half beginning in January 2009 and completely eliminating it in 2010. Critics, including state and town officials, said the drastic cuts would be destructive to state services and spark increases in property taxes.

Selectmen from Rockport, Essex and Manchester, the Manchester Essex Regional School Committee and all of Gloucester's 16 elected city and school officials came out opposing Question 1 in the weeks leading to the election. A letter from Gloucester city and school officials said state-aid cuts for the city would approach $9 million if the question were to pass. However, supporters argued that the best way to cut wasteful government spending was to cut tax revenues by about $12.5 billion.

Kirk said Gloucester's budget problems have already forced the city to address budget reform, which she thinks was part of the idea behind Question 1. She said that, while Question 1 had the message of reform, there was no companion reform that went along with it.

"It would have been pretty irresponsible to have the measure pass and have everything remain the same," she said.

Greg Verga, chairman of the Gloucester School Committee, said while he understood people's position that too many taxes are being paid, Question 1 was "too drastic."

"I think unfortunately the message that was trying to be sent was to Beacon Hill, and the collateral damage would have been the cities and towns," Verga said, noting that local aid had clearly been pegged as one of the key cutting areas.

Gloucester voters exiting the polls yesterday shared similar concerns about Question 1's effects on services and programs.

Kristen Nicastro, who cast her vote early in the morning at the Our Lady of Good Voyage Church youth center, called Question 1 a "foolish proposition."

"I voted against it because essential services will be cut and our property taxes would have to be increased to cover the difference," she said.

While the idea of lower taxes seemed nice to resident Carlo Favazza, the reality of possible cuts pushed him to vote no.

"As nice as it would be to lower taxes, you can't lower or eliminate taxes without cutting programs," he said.

Mother Brittney Shepherd said she voted no to help nonprofit organizations like her daughter's day care, which she feared would face funding cuts if Question 1 passed.

But for others, a yes vote still seemed like the clear thing to do, in spite of the dire warnings.

"How can you not?" said Steven Maniaci after after casting his vote at McPherson Park.

"You'd bring a little more home in your paycheck every week."

Maniaci said that extra money could be useful to many people.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate never explained how they would have coped with the lost revenue.

According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, personal income tax accounts for 60 percent of total state tax revenues and 40 percent of total state spending. The Foundation also estimated.

Associated Press material is included in this report.Amanda flitter can be reached at gt_reporter@gloucestertimes.com

Voters decriminalize pot, OK dog racing ban The Associated Press and Times Staff

People caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of marijuana will no longer be considered criminals — or carry criminal records.

But those who race greyhounds are facing the shutdown of their industry in the Bay State.

Voters yesterday approved a measure to ease the state's marijuana laws, opting for a new law that takes effect in 30 days and calls for those who are caught with lesser amounts of pot to merely hand it over and pay a $100 fine. But voters also approved a measure to ban greyhound racing, a move that may cost some 1,000 jobs but is aimed at curbing the alleged abuse of the dogs at the state's two lone remaining tracks.

The marijuana measure carried by wide margins on Cape Ann, winning by better than a 2-to-1 count in both Gloucester and Manchester. Vote totals were unavailable last night from Rockport and Essex, where officials continued to count ballots by hand. Gloucester voters backed the change 10,374 to 4,754, while the measured carried Manchester by a margin of 2,284 to 1,087.

Supporters of the change said that the new measure would spare those caught with small amounts of the drug from having criminal records that make it harder to get a job, student loan or gain access to public housing.

But critics of the proposal — led by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett and the state's 10 other DAs, had warned that the easier penalties could lead to more drug abuse among young people. Under the new law, anyone under 18 will also have to complete a drug awareness course, or may pay a stiffer, $1,000 fine.

Cape Ann residents also backed the greyhound racing shutdown, with the racing ban carrying Gloucester by 8,732 votes to 6,261, and Manchester voters approving the ban, 2,122 to 1,227.

As approved, the measure will force the state's greyhound race tracks — Wonderland in Revere and Taunton-Raynham — to close their doors by Jan. 1, 2010.

Supporters had argued that greyhound racing is inhumane and that greyhounds are routinely injured during races, including broken legs, paralysis and even death from cardiac arrest.

The state's dog tracks say the greyhounds are well cared for and looked after by veterinarians. They also pointed to their efforts to ensure greyhounds are adopted once their racing days are over.

The track owners say eliminating the tracks will take a financial toll on the state. They said up to 1,000 workers will lose their jobs. A similar question had narrowly lost at the polls in 2000.

No comments: