Question One: Abolishing the state income tax
What your vote will do:
A YES VOTE would eliminate any state personal income tax for income or other gain realized on or after July 1, 2003.
A NO VOTE would make no change in state tax laws.
For Question One:
"Voters must let legislators know that they are angry about the legislature’s repeal of the income-tax rollback ballot question that voters passed 59 [to] 41 percent. If Question One does not do well, the legislature will take that as permission to raise income taxes even higher. Once a tax cut is on the ballot, taxpayers have to support it or the legislature will use the no vote as an excuse to raise taxes even more. Besides, nine states don’t even have an income tax, and they provide services — in many cases better than we do, because the Massachusetts legislature wastes so much of our tax dollars."
— Barbara Anderson, executive director, Citizens for Limited Taxation
Against Question One:
"Question One is far and away the most drastic proposal ever to reach the Massachusetts ballot, and perhaps the ballot of any state. It dwarfs Proposition 2˝ and even Proposition 13 in California. The state income tax has been the basic source of funding for all state programs and services for decades, since World War II. Eliminating the income tax would create an unprecedented fiscal and political crisis. It would do untold damage to the Massachusetts economy, national reputation, and programs and services that citizens across the Commonwealth depend on. In the end, the state would have to turn to property and sales taxes to replace the income tax because the programs the state funds — such as aid to local education programs and the Medicaid health-care programs — are constitutionally and legally mandated. The property and sales taxes would fall much more heavily on lower- and moderate-income residents, while the income tax is paid disproportionately by [those of] higher income and wealth. The impact would be a reverse Robin Hood — robbing from the poor and giving to the wealthy."
— Michael Widmer, president, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
Question Two: Abolishing bilingual education and replacing it with a one-year program of rapid English immersion
What your vote will do:
A YES VOTE would require that, with limited exceptions, all public-school children must be taught English by being taught all subjects in English and being placed in English-language classrooms.
A NO VOTE would make no changes in English-language education in public schools.
For Question Two:
"We do not support the segregation of the tens of thousands of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking children in our public-school classrooms. We believe that these children, at especially a young age, are extremely capable of acquiring strong English skills if immersed in English from day one in our classrooms. In those districts that are offering ESL [English as a second language] as a service to their English-language learners, those programs would continue unabated if this question were passed."
— Lincoln Tamayo, chair, English for the Children of Massachusetts
Against Question Two:
Bilingual education has been successful in Massachusetts and in moving children into mainstream English classes. Question Two would import a California law that last year moved less than eight percent of children out of English-learning classes into the mainstream. It makes no sense to take the decision out of our local communities’ control and impose a failed program with these kinds of miserable results. In addition, the new law would allow Massachusetts teachers to be personally sued for curriculum decisions for the first time in our 300-year history.
— Tim Duncan, chair, "No on Two" campaign
Question Three: Taxpayer funding for Clean Elections
What your vote will do:
A YES VOTE would advise that the voters favor taxpayer money being used to fund political campaigns for public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
A NO VOTE would advise that the voters do not favor taxpayer money being used to fund political campaigns for public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
For Question Three:
"Question Three was designed by the legislature to try to deceive voters into voting against real campaign-finance reform. Question Three makes no mention of spending limits, fundraising limits, and the qualifications process that makes the Clean Elections Law the Clean Elections Law. If voters want more competition, to get big money out of politics, and if they want real accountability and reform on Beacon Hill, they should vote yes on Question Three."
— Joe O’Brien, director, Mass Voters for Clean Elections
"Question Three is a tricky question referring to the state’s Clean Elections Law but not saying that outright, nor does it say how the law actually works. Voters should vote yes if they want spending limits on campaigns, strict campaign-contribution limits, more choices on the ballot, and a limit to the role of corporation special interests in Massachusetts politics. The reason [incumbent politicians] hate this law so much is because there is very little competition for state legislature — three-fourths of the legislators running for office are running unopposed. Without challengers, you can’t have a democracy."
— Pam Wilmot, executive director, Common Cause Massachusetts
Against Question Three:
This question was placed on the ballot by the legislature after it grudgingly approved payments of $3.8 million to qualified Clean Elections candidates running for office this year. House Speaker Tom Finneran, who has blocked funding for the Clean Elections Law that was passed by voters in 1998, is widely seen as the motivating force behind the legislature’s request to put this question to voters. Finneran has since raised money for the "No on Question Three" campaign, but there is no grassroots move to defeat Question Three. Finneran would not speak with the Phoenix for this ballot guide, but his spokesman had this to say: "House Speaker Thomas Finneran has consistently been on the record supporting groups in favor of [voting] no on Question Three. He has contributed $100 to the ‘No on Three’ campaign."
Election Day is Tuesday, November 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Log onto http://www.state.ma.us/sec to find out where your polling place is. The site also contains a sample ballot to view ahead of time. In addition to these three statewide questions, 37 communities will vote on local questions. Twenty-nine of them will be binding — measures, for instance, that would override Proposition 2 1/2 or enact the Community Preservation Act in the community. The rest are nonbinding and deal with issues such as whether voters want to ask their local representatives to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, re-elect State Representative Tom Finneran as House Speaker, and support instant-runoff voting. The Phoenix has editorialized on the three statewide questions as well as on some of these local measures; see page 4.
Question summaries are from the state guide to the ballot questions and written by the attorney general and the secretary of the Commonwealth.