Council in the News
Bump dismisses claim of tax cap pressure on her office
‘This is not and never has been a political process,’ she says
CommonWealth Magazine | August 22, 2022
State Auditor Suzanne Bump. (State House News Service)
STATE AUDITOR Suzanne Bump on Monday strongly denied suggestions that she was under any pressure to delay calculating how much money should be returned to taxpayers under the tax cap passed by voters in 1986.
“This is not and it never has been a political process,” she said in a telephone interview. “This is a matter of financial accounting and the wording of the law. No one is pressuring any office to do anything.”
Bump was responding to a letter sent on Monday to her office by the New England Legal Foundation and the Goldwater Institute. The letter threatened a lawsuit if Bump fails to carry out her duties under the law to calculate how much money should be returned to taxpayers under the tax cap.
“We’re aware that the auditor is receiving significant political pressure to delay the certification with the thought that the Legislature would repeal the statute when they come back into session,” said Dan Winslow, president of the New England Legal Foundation. “There’s even talk of possibly having the Legislature come into session now.”
Bump said her office is handling the tax cap the way it has every other year. She said the Legislature isn’t pressuring her office and the office will calculate how much money should go back to taxpayers in September.
The big difference with the calculation this year is that the tax cap, which has not been triggered since 1987, is expected to return roughly $3 billion to taxpayers.
Winslow said he believes the $3 billion may already have vested with taxpayers, meaning that, legally, any future change in the tax cap law would not affect the return of the money.
Winslow’s organization is working closely with the drafters of the original tax cap law – Citizens for Limited Taxation and the Massachusetts High Technology Council. The law was approved by voters in 1986.
While the groups don’t want anyone messing with the tax cap law, they indicated they have no problem if the Baker administration changes the regulations governing how the money is returned if the net result is that the money is returned to taxpayers more quickly.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said he hopes to return the money via rebate checks to taxpayers in late November or early December, before he leaves office. Under existing regulations, the money would be returned next year in the form of a credit on 2022 tax returns.
Winslow said he wouldn’t object to how and when the money is returned as long as it is returned in some fashion. “As long as the law is being followed, that’s our interest,” he said.
Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation said he approves of the governor’s efforts to speed up the return of the money.
“A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush,” he said. “With this Legislature, anything is possible. They could drag this out forever so the sooner the taxpayers are fully reimbursed the better.”