Massachusetts votes no on Question 1

Associated Press | 11/5/2008, 3:46 a.m.

For the second time this decade, Massachusetts voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot proposal to eliminate the state income tax.

The controversial Question 1 asked voters to decide whether or not to change the state’s personal income tax. A “yes” vote supported cutting the 5.3 percent tax rate to 2.65 percent effective Jan. 1, 2009, and eliminating it altogether on Jan. 1, 2010. A “no” vote meant no change.

Polls in Massachusetts closed at 8 p.m., and the Associated Press called the contest over at about 8:45 p.m. By 1:50 a.m. Wednesday, with 87 percent of state precincts, 70 percent of voters had opposed the repeal, with 30 percent supporting it.

The Libertarian-led Committee for Small Government championed the initiative, decrying Massachusetts lawmakers’ wasteful spending of tax revenues. The group claimed that workers would keep an average of $3,700 per year if the initiative passed.

This is the second time the tax repeal measure has appeared on Massachusetts ballots. It was defeated in 2002, but by a much smaller margin than many observers anticipated.

Carla Howell, leader of the Committee for Small Government, compares her group’s quest to eliminate the income tax to the biblical struggle between David and Goliath — in this case, the anti-initiative Coalition for our Communities.

“Our opposition is going to spend millions on advertising against us,” she said. “It’s a battle of the government haves vs. the government have-nots — those who profit from government spending and those who foot the bill.”

In the weeks leading up to the election, however, the proposal appeared to have difficulty gaining traction with Bay State residents.

Fifty-nine percent of likely voters surveyed in a late-October Suffolk University/WHDH-TV poll said they opposed Question 1, while 26 percent said they supported it and 16 percent were undecided. The poll of 400 registered voters was conducted Oct. 20 through Oct. 22 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Virtually every top political figure in the state, including Gov. Deval Patrick, opposed the measure, saying the question would wipe out approximately 40 percent of state revenues at a time when Massachusetts is already facing troubled fiscal waters.

Many members of Boston’s communities of color also came out in force to oppose Question 1 in the run-up to Election Day.

During a rally at Roxbury Community College on Monday night, activists spoke about the possible dangers of passing Question 1.

“We care about our schools, our seniors, our health care being funded,” said Mimi Ramos, an organizer with the Massachusetts chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). “If you care about these issues, you need to make sure you vote no on Question 1.”

Many voters leaving the polls after casting ballots at Roxbury’s Tobin Community Center on Tuesday morning said they had heeded Ramos’ call to action.

“I voted no on Question 1 because there are so many people in our community who depend on many social services on a daily basis that would just simply go away if this initiative passed,” said Marilyn Jacobs of Mission Hill.