About the 2010 Alliance to Roll Back Taxes

The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes was a non-partisan, grassroots campaign committee formed to put the 2010 Massachusetts ballot initiative to Roll Back the State Sales Tax to 3% (“Question 3”) on the ballot. Question 3 gave voters a way to vote themselves a sizable tax cut on November 2, 2010. 966,973 of them (43%) voted Yes. While it did not become law, and the state sales tax remains 6.25%, the initiative spurred broad media coverage. Question 3 to roll back the sales tax was the opening topic of gubernatorial debates that year and was talked about extensively on talk radio and at dinner tables across the state.

The Alliance represented everyday workers and taxpayers from all walks of life who believe taxes are too high and government spending is too high.

The Alliance was funded by individuals who made modest donations and who would get no government hand-out in return.

In contrast, the opponents of the Alliance were groups which profiteer from high taxes, high government spending, and government protections: Teachers Unions, Government Employee Unions, Government Contractor Unions and politically-connected corporations.

More than 99% of the opposition’s donations come from government-funded Special Interests, i.e., paid for by your tax dollars – not from the general support of individual taxpayers and voters.

The campaign was formed by co-sponsors Carla Howell, Chair, and Michael Cloud. This was the third ballot initiative campaign that they spearheaded to offer Massachusetts voters substantial, broad-based tax cuts. In 2002 and 2008, they ran ballot initiatives to End the Income Tax (both termed “Question 1”).

Ballot initiatives are – bar none – the single most powerful tool available to voters in states that allow them. In fact, they are the only means currently available to substantially cut taxes in Massachusetts (or just about anywhere). They give voters a chance to directly cut their own taxes and force overdue cuts in government spending.

Getting an initiative on the ballot takes a lot of money and the work of many dedicated volunteers. Only a handful of groups managed to put just one statewide tax cut initiative on the Massachusetts ballot in the 20 years preceding the 2010 Question 3 initiative. Tax-cut supporters succeeded in qualifying Question 3 in 2010 on a barebones budget, as well as the two end-the-income ballot initiatives in 2002 and 2008. Massachusetts law requires supporters of each initiative to collect thousands of signatures statewide over two separate signature drives (one in the fall of the year before the election, and another in the spring of the election year). Question 3 supporters had only 3 months total to collect over 111,000 signatures, while meeting the rigorous requirements of Massachusetts ballot initiative law, to get the initiative on the ballot.

Both of the end-the-income-tax ballot initiatives demonstrated that bold tax cuts enjoy broad support, even in left-leaning Massachusetts. Both initiatives won nearly a million votes in the face of overwhelming opposition from special interests, the mainstream media, and incumbent politicians. The 2002 initiative to End the Income Tax nearly won with 45% of the vote. The 2008 End the Income Tax initiative got even more votes, won endorsements from the Wall Street Journal and Steve Forbes, and forced the opposition to spend $7 million to defeat it.

Carla Howell and Michael Cloud have run for public office in Massachusetts. Carla Howell ran for Governor in 2002; for U.S. Senate in 2000; and for State Auditor in 1998, winning the endorsement of the Boston Herald. Michael Cloud ran for U.S. Senate in 2002.

The late Kamal Jain of Lowell, MA, who was also a sponsor of and spokesperson for ballot Question 3, ran for State Auditor in Massachusetts in 2010 and spearheaded the Total Transparency Plan aimed at bringing total financial transparency of state spending to every Massachusetts taxpayer.

Rich Aucoin of Worcester and Charles Ormsby of North Andover were also spokespersons for Question 3.

Carla Howell and Michael Cloud  head the Center For Small Government, a unique organization focused on specific actions necessary to shrink the size, scope, authority, taxation and spending of today’s Big Government.