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Massachusetts Legislature To Debate Tax, Bond Bills

TWO hundred years ago the issue was taxation without representation. Today the issue, at least in Massachusetts, is taxation with representation. Taxes, both temporary and permanent, are under consideration on Beacon Hill. The fireworks are expected this week when the Legislature takes the debate to the House floor.

The issue was put off after the Legislature passed a fiscal 1990 budget last week, as House leaders parlayed on what possibilities to offer their colleagues.

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Senate Minority leader David Locke (R) of Sherborn noted with a touch of whimsy that the issue was purposefully being delayed until after the Fourth of July. ``We won't touch taxes [until then] because most of us have to march in parades on the Fourth,'' he said. ``Most [lawmakers] would be afraid to march if they knew they had to receive the jeers of their constitutents.''

The immediate question for the Legislature is a plan proposed by Gov. Michael Dukakis, and supported by legislative leaders, to issue bonds to bail out a $375 million deficit in fiscal year 1989, which ended Friday, and to pay off $488 million in Medicaid bills.

A temporary tax, lasting two to five years depending on the term of the bonds, would be required for the borrowing scheme. Legislation calling for the bonds and the taxes to pay for them are slated to be debated by the House this week.

Anticipating resistance in the House because of the no-new-taxes vow taken by many lawmakers during the fiscal 1990 debate, the bond bill and the tax bill are likely to be considered separately because the bond authorization will require two-thirds majority support, while the tax bill could pass with only a simple majority of the 160-member chamber. That would still leave a problem for the fiscal 1990 budget, which Mr. Dukakis considers $491 million out of balance.

Dukakis has said he will cut the budget accordingly, along with proposing some savings programs to reduce the gap and some non-tax revenue-raising measures, such as tapping uncollected soft-drink and beer-bottle deposits.

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