EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

June 29, 2014

Majority may not be enough to repeal casino law

BOSTON - If Massachusetts voters repeal the state’s casino gambling law, they’ll need to do so by a wide margin or risk seeing the state Legislature reverse them, political observers say.

On Nov. 4, voters will decide the fate of the state’s two year-old casino law after what’s expected to be a high-stakes, big-money campaign between the gaming industry and activists who say gambling will increase crime, traffic and other social ills. The Supreme Judicial Court cleared the way for the referendum in a decision handed down Tuesday.

Even if supporters succeed in repealing the casino gambling law, lawmakers could still have the final say. No one knows that better than supporters of a measure to roll back the state’s income tax.

In 2000, voters overwhelming approved a referendum to reduce the tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent over several steps. Two years later, despite the vote, legislators froze the rollback at 5.3 percent. The state income tax rate has since dropped to 5.2 percent, and few Beacon Hill observers expect it to fall to 5 percent anytime soon.

The Legislature’s intervention prompted outrage from supporters of the rollback, who blasted lawmakers for defying voters.

“People don’t realize that these initiatives are fragile,” said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which campaigned for the rollback. “All you need is a vote by both branches of the Legislature and a signature by the governor to change it. Prop. 2 1/2 has been on the books for 30 years, but could be repealed tomorrow.”

Anderson said supporters of repealing the gambling law don’t just need a victory but must deliver a wide margin – at least 70 percent – to make it stick.

“They need to make it clear that they won’t tolerate anybody changing the vote of the people,” she said.

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