Council in the News
Lawmakers have tried to change tax rebate law before but failed
By Matthew Medsgar | firstname.lastname@example.org | Boston Herald
May 8, 2023 at 5:43 a.m.
The late Barbara Anderson seen in her office in 2014. Anderson’s group was responsible for the state’s tax rebate law. (Boston Herald/Tara Carvalho)
Chapter 62F of the General Laws, passed in 1986 through a ballot initiative, was all but forgotten until it was suddenly triggered last year and the state was required to send taxpayers about $3 billion of their money back.
House lawmakers, in approving their over $56 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2024, have proposed changing the law so that if it ever again forces rebates on lawmakers, that any money paid out will be untethered from a taxpayer’s income or tax burden.
“This déjà vu current effort by the usual suspects to subvert (Citizens for Limited Taxation’s) tax cap law is not their first attempt and they failed the first time around in 1987 when attempting to thwart the voters’ 1986 decision,” Chip Ford, the former Executive Director of the group behind the law, told the Herald in a written statement.
According to Ford, a group of Democratic activists attempted to overturn the law the year after it was passed through the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, who they hoped would declare the law at odds with the state constitution.
“Jim Braude, executive director of Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, Inc. (TEAM), said at a news conference today TEAM’s suit contends that the tax cap violates Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which excludes from the initiative petition process any measure that makes a specific appropriation from the state treasury,” the State House News service reported in 1987.
Months later, in the spring of 1988 lawmakers in the legislature would attempt — for a second time since the law’s passage — to change the way the state calculated the revenue cap which triggered the law. The previous summer then Auditor Joseph DeNucci had announced the law would require $29 million to go back to taxpayers.
It is unclear if the Senate, in this year’s rendition of the 80s legislative fight over the ballot initiative passed law, will take up the House’s plan to change the law. Soon after the House passed its plan to alter the payment schedule, the High Technology Council, which was also involved in the passage of the law, warned lawmakers that their plan to change it in the Legislature was unconstitutional.
Ford says that is also not new.
“It’s appropriate that Mass High Tech is defending the voters’ tax cap law (Chapter 62F) as it was the partnership of Citizens for Limited Taxation led by Barbara Anderson and the Massachusetts High Technology Council under the leadership of Howard Foley that succeeded with the creation and adoption of the law,” he said.