It was a stunning Massachusetts ballot question upset victory that many pollsters had never detected was coming last November: The Yes on 1 committee, up against a big-spending coalition of business and organized labor groups, got a 53 percent majority of Massachusetts voters to repeal automatic indexing of the gasoline tax to inflation.
Their winning argument was that legislators and governors should be forced to go stand up and go on the record voting for any tax increase.
Now, that Yes on 1 coalition is lending its power to a new campaign to stop any Massachusetts taxpayer dollars from being spent on a Boston 2024 Olympics. They appeared Tuesday outside the State House in Boston to announce their new partnership with Citizens For a Say.
“They’ve said over and over they don’t want tax money – well, let's make it a law. Let's get it in writing,’’ said Evan Falchuk, last November’s United Independent Party candidate for governor, who’s now chairman of Citizens for a Say. Having the Yes on 1 backers, Falchuk said, adds major muscle to his group’s efforts.
“They went out and they collected a huge amount of signatures in a short period of time with a real grassroots organization. I'm proud of the team we have already, but to build a coalition of people from all across the state from all kinds of different backgrounds to get this onto the ballot -- that's really what this is all about,’’ Falchuk said.
State Representative Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican who was a top leader of the Yes on 1 campaign, said: “We knew that we basically had to get out there and put together this team to get the question on the ballot so that there is no question, come November of next year, that taxpayers will be protected.’’
As a state rep, Diehl said, he understands the politics of why Boston 2024 has begun moving so many proposed Olympics venues out of Boston to locations like Billerica, New Bedford, and Squantum, and Monday night announced it plans to use the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts for whitewater slalom racing – but as an anti-tax activist, he wants voters to understand that “everybody is going to be at risk for potentially the overruns on this thing.’’
“When you offer up all these venues around the state, it's going to be something that people go, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to have it in my district,’ but the fact of the matter is … when there's something like this going on you've got to look beyond just the nice happy news that's coming. What's the cost to me, really?’’
Referring to their success in the 2014 ballot fight, Diehl said, “We did our job then. We're going to do our job now to show that regardless of whatever pretty picture they paint, the fact of the matter is this will be a real nightmare to taxpayers in the long run.’’
Falchuk’s proposed ballot question would allow the use of public money for transportation upgrades that might help an Olympics bid, but ban the use of public money for Olympic venues, operations, or cost overruns. “When taxpayers are providing a guarantee, it gives them free reign to change and do whatever they want and taxpayers end up paying for it. So having a law in place that would prevent that from happening protects taxpayers, and that's really what's needed.’’
Asked to comment on the new alliance between the Yes on 1 group and Citizens For A Say, Boston 2024 chief operating officer Erin Murphy said in an e-mailed statement: “Boston 2024 is focused on continuing to provide information to the community and elected officials, as well as listening to the suggestions and concerns of the public as the next phase of the bid is shaped. We are committed to ensuring that a clear, transparent ballot question is put before the voters to consider and believe our bid will be stronger with a majority of citizens of Massachusetts and Boston in support. However, it is still early in the process to know what final referendum language will be on the ballot."