Coalition files language for olympics ballot question

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By Antonio Caban and Michael Norton

Opponents of using public funds to pay for a 2024 summer Olympics in Massachusetts announced Thursday that they filed initiative petition language with the attorney general’s office with the goal of placing a binding question on the November 2016 ballot.

The proposals states, in part, that no state agency, authority or entity shall directly or indirectly spend funds, issue tax credits, incur debt or take any private property by eminent domain “to procure, aid or remediate the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.” The language explicitly authorizes public spending on transportation system work “even if such actions may facilitate procuring, aiding, or remediating the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.”

Evan Falchuk, Marty Lamb, and Shaunna O’Connell of the Olympics ballot question coalition answered press questions in front of the State House Thursday.

The ballot initiative only refers to state tax dollars and would be a binding law called “An Act for a Private Sector Funded Olympics”, according to a release by the coalition.

Citizens for a Say Chairman Evan Falchuk, and Tank Taxes for Olympics co-chairs Marty Lamb, Steve Aylward and Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, gathered outside the State House to promote their petition’s filing.  “We have the reputation to get it done,” said O’Connell, who helped lead the charge last year to repeal a law indexing the gas tax to inflation.

The Legislature included a provision in the budget around Olympic financing that would require a formal vote of the House and Senate before any money could be spent to host the games. O’Connell called the provision “untrue” and “misleading,” saying the Legislature had an opportunity to vote to protect taxpayers but chose not to. “So therefore we’re going to take it into our own hands and do it ourselves. We cannot count on gimmicks and lip-service from the Legislature or from Boston 2024.”

“Our attitude right now is trust but verification,” Lamb said. “This ballot question is verification that all the talk about, ‘We don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars,’ is backed up with cold, hard, written law that protects the taxpayer against any last minute dealing that’s going on either on Beacon Hill, behind closed doors, or on the floor of the House and Senate.”

Falchuck told reporters following the press conference that he has not had a conversation with Boston 2024, the group pushing Boston’s Olympic bid, about the language of the coalition’s ballot question, but would welcome their support if they wish to add their signatures to the petition.

Boston 2024 COO Erin Murphy responded, saying in a statement, “We are continuing to work with a variety of stakeholders and are committed to ensuring that a clear, transparent ballot question is put before the voters to consider. We believe our bid will be stronger with a majority of citizens of Massachusetts and Boston in support.”

Gov. Charles Baker, who has yet to sign the budget, has signaled his support for limiting the number of ballot questions pertaining to the Olympics to one to eliminate confusion. If the ballot question language is approved by the attorney general’s office, the coalition will have nine weeks to collect 64,750 signatures.

When asked whether the filing announcement was meant to coincide with Thursday’s visit to Boston by members of the United States Olympic Committee, Falchuk said their motive was only to get the ballot question language to the attorney general’s office as soon as possible.

“Today was the day. Today’s the right day to do it. We’re about two weeks away from the deadline for filing. We want to make sure we get it in early, make sure it’s clear so the public sees what it’s about and today’s the day we’re doing it,” Falchuk said.