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Legislature misleading voters on past ballot question

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  David Tuerck, president of the Beacon Hill Institute and Paul Diego Craney, spokesperson for The Fiscal Alliance Foundation, recently discussed the thrust of an amicus brief filed with the state Supreme Judicial Court in the Anderson v. Attorney General case. The amicus focuses on how voters were misled with a past ballot question dealing with earmarking. In 1992, Massachusetts voters passed a referendum imposing an additional 25 cents in excise tax on cigarette sales, with the revenue earmarked for a special Health Protection Fund. The amicus found that less than 25 percent of the revenue from that tax was being used for the earmarked purpose, with hundreds of millions being diverted to the legislature’s alternative, unrelated spending priorities. Attorney Kevin Martin, representing Anderson in the Anderson v. Attorney General case, argued that voters will be misled by the Attorney General’s summary of a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a four percent surtax on some high-income earners unless the court steps in.

  “It’s important for the voters of Massachusetts to know what kind of tricks the legislature can pull. Despite how they make it sound, there is nothing legally holding them to keep the promises they’re making today regarding this ballot question,” said Tuerck. “In 1992, voters approved an earmark related ballot question, only to see the legislature change their mind and not follow through on how the tax was supposed to be spent. The amicus we filed with the court shows that less than 25 percent of the revenue from the 1992 ballot question was being used for the purpose voters had in mind when they went to the ballot box nearly 30 years ago. Our amicus shows that it’s healthy for voters to be skeptical of earmark promises made via ballot questions.”

  “To make a fully informed decision, voters need to have accurate historical information on the consequences of their vote, including the downside that comes with the legislature acting after they cast their vote,” said Craney. “Due to our amicus, the court will now be better informed and we hope the public will consider this information when they go to vote.”

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