There's More to Voting Than You Might Think

When you go to the polls in November, you'll have to make some decisions.

Not just who to vote for to be Westfield's next Representative, or to elect our Senator. And not just for Governor, Treasurer, Congressman or other state and federal offices.

You'll also be facing some statewide ballot questions. Three of them.

Question One. This is an initiative petition, filed by people in the Commonwealth. As with all questions, you vote either "Yes" or "No." This petition would eliminate the state personal income tax.

If approved, any income or other gains realized on or after next July first would be tax-free in Massachusetts although, of course, you'd still have to pay federal taxes. This would apply to all income, personal, estate, or business.

Your "yes" vote would eliminate the state's income tax; a "no" vote would not change the tax laws of Massachusetts.

My thoughts? I'll be voting "No," agreeing with a recent editorial by State Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) who said a change would create chaos in the state and threaten the state's bond rating.

We're already in a deficit spending mode, thanks to the recession, and eliminating this source of revenue -- 60 percent of the state's tax revenue -- is not a good idea.

Our neighbors to the north, in New Hampshire, do not have a state income tax, but property tax rates are very high. Approval of this measure would only increase local property taxes, and force the state to rely on other forms of income. It could be casinos, of course, but it could also be an increase in meals, excise, hotel, gas, or a host of other taxes or fees.

Question Two. Also an initiative petition, it would change the way transitional bilingual education is handled.

Based on the California plan, a "Yes" vote would require that all children be taught in English as soon as they enter school.

For at least the last three decades, state law has mandated that immigrant students be segregated into native language classrooms. Children who don't know English would be placed in intensive, sheltered immersion programs to teach them English as quickly as possible. Then, they would be integrated into regular classes.

A "No" vote would keep the status quo.

Me? I'll be voting "Yes." The current plan is not working, and it's too expensive. It's time for a change.

Question Three. This is a non-binding advisory question, placed on the ballot by the Legislature. Basically, we want to know if you support taxpayer-funded elections: do you want your tax dollars to pay for politicians' campaign expenses.

A "Yes" vote tells us that you want to fund political campaigns with tax dollars. A "No" vote tells us that we should kill so-called Clean Elections.

I'll be voting "No." Tax dollars should NOT fund my, or anyone else's, political campaigns. It is a waste of money: as much as $100-million per election.

We already have the strictest campaign finance laws in the country. For example, we cannot accept gifts or contributions from businesses, and we are limited to a $200 contribution from a lobbyist and $500 from any one person. I could list a lot of other reasons, but you can find them in previous columns here on my website, celehahn.org.

These are only the briefest of summaries of the three ballot questions. The Secretary of State’s office can provide more information if you need it. But now's the time to think about them.

If you haven't yet registered to vote, sorry, but it's too late. The deadline was earlier this week.

If you need to know where to vote, call the city clerk. Some precincts have changed and, in fact, we now have six wards instead of five.

Want an absentee ballot? Go to the city clerk’s office in person, or call and ask that they mail an absentee ballot to you.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 5th.

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