Taxpayer Advocate Chip Faulkner Dies — Stalwart of Citizens for Limited Taxation

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Longtime taxpayer advocate Chip Faulkner died Friday, May 24. He was 73.

Faulkner had been suffering from pancreatic cancer for the past 15 months, said his brother, Donald Faulkner. He died at a hospice in the area.

Born Francis Joseph Faulkner, he grew up in the City Mills neighborhood of Norfolk, Massachusetts. He was a former longtime resident of next-door Wrentham, but was living in Attleboro when he was hospitalized recently.

Faulkner joined Citizens for Limited Taxation in 1979 to work on the signature drive that led to Proposition 2 ½, a ballot question approved by Massachusetts voters in November 1980.

That law, which is still on the books, limits increases in a town or city’s tax levy to 2.5 percent per year plus allowances for new growth, unless voters approve an additional increase at the polls. It slowed the frequent steep hikes in local property taxes that were common during the 1970s, as towns and cities struggled to pay for the level of local-government services they were providing at the time.

Faulkner served as the group’s associate director, working with the late Barbara Anderson to limit both government spending and taxation in Massachusetts. More recently he served as the group’s communications director. He also ran the political action committee allied with Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Over the years Faulkner fought successfully against a state income tax surtax and a ballot question that would have established a graduated income tax, and in 2000 for a ballot question rolling back a previous (supposedly temporary) increase in the state income tax by state legislators.

For about a dozen years or more Faulkner hosted a once-a-month gathering of conservatives and centrists in Lexington on Friday mornings that featured guest speakers, question-and-answer times, and discussions about the issues of the day.

As master of ceremonies Faulkner often displayed his wit, telling funny stories about his experiences at political events.

“He was the most easygoing guy I ever met, especially for a political activist,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, who first met Faulkner in 1986 when both were trying to repeal a then-new state law requiring occupants of a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. “And a sense of humor you wouldn’t believe. This guy was like a library of jokes. He had a joke for every occasion.”

Author and columnist Don Feder, who originally hired Faulkner when he was executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation 40 years ago, spoke at Faulkner’s Friday morning group several times. The point of the group was to advance ideas Faulkner believed in, not himself.

“I don’t think Chip was the kind of guy who would ever ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’” Feder said. “He only wanted to advance the cause.”

Faulkner showed up at Feder’s house in Holliston during the fall of 1979 when Feder and his family were moving to Seattle. He helped them pack, and at the end there was one wheelbarrow that didn’t fit in the Ryder moving truck.

“So rather nonchalantly, Chip said, ‘Well how much do you want for it? I could use a wheelbarrow,’ ” Feder recalled.

Feder said Faulkner loved telling jokes in the office but also was always helpful when called upon.

“There were several things that stood out about him. He was a very committed conservative, very dedicated to the cause. He was hardworking – extremely hardworking. He had a great sense of humor. And he was always in a good mood,” Feder said. “One of the nicest people that I knew in Massachusetts politics – in fact, one of the nicest people I met generally in my life.”

Faulkner grew up in Norfolk during the 1950s and 1960s, when it was a sleepy little town dominated by the state prison, where his father worked as a house officer. In 1958 he was the pitcher on the team that won the town’s Little League championship, said his brother, Donald Faulkner, who also played on the team.

Raised a Catholic, Chip served as an altar boy at St. Jude Church in Norfolk from ages 7 to 17.

Chip graduated from King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham in 1963, as class president. While there he played hockey and baseball and ran track.

From there he went to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, majoring in history. He graduated in 1967. He then earned a master’s degree in Asian studies at St. John’s University in the Queens borough of New York City. (Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan was one of his favorite achievements, his brother said.)

During the 1970s Faulkner taught high school and junior high school on Long Island and in New York City for about nine years. During part of that time he lived in a fifth-story walk-up apartment in Chinatown in Manhattan. He also drove a cab part-time in New York.

But he had an interest in politics, and eventually he came home. In the late 1970s he ran for state representative as a Republican, winning three of the four towns in the district (Norfolk, Millis, and Wrentham) but losing the largest town, Walpole, where his Democratic opponent came from, and thus the election.

The campaign introduced him to several conservatives in Massachusetts, including the founder of Citizens for Limited Taxation, Edward F. King.

When Chip joined Citizens for Limited Taxation in 1979 he went all in, including for some of the organization’s less glamorous tasks.

“He was a workaholic. He could collect signatures like nobody I ever met in my life,” Ford said. “He just loved going out and meeting people and collecting signatures.”

He used that gregariousness to inform his political analysis. He decided early on that Donald Trump had a chance in the 2016 presidential election, when he noticed that the guys at the Attleboro-area sports pubs he frequented all supported Trump.

“Not some or many of them, but all of them,” Faulkner later wrote. “They made no bones about it and were quite vocal in their support. I remember thinking: ‘This is blue state Massachusetts. What is it like in the rest of the country!’ “

At Holy Cross he was a classmate of liberal MSNBC television host Chris Matthews. For their 50th reunion in 2017, Matthews and Faulkner debated politics before a packed hall, during which Faulkner reminded Matthews that they had both been members of the college’s Conservative Club while students.

Also during that debate, Faulkner later recalled, he described the Democratic leadership in Washington as consisting of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, adding:  “The average age of these four is deceased!”

Faulkner never married. He had no children and no surviving nieces or nephews.

His sister, Judith DeBeck, of Norfolk, died in December 2017.

He leaves his brother, Donald Faulkner, and Donald’s wife, Linda, of Rochester, Massachusetts.

Funeral arrangement had not been announced as of early Friday afternoon. They are being handled by R.J. Ross Funeral Home in Wrentham.