WGBH Journal; Henry Lee: Energy
By planning a visit to President Carter Mitchell hopes to dissuade the president from his planned campaign trip in support of Brooks Democratic opponent Congressman Paul Tsongas. Another broken Dorfman comes from Joseph Rauf who is the former chairman of the American for Democratic Action a liberal organization wall feels that Tsongas will be a political beginner in the Senate and not as effective as Brooke. Eleanor Smeal president of the National Organization for Women also praised Brooke today for his work on the extension of the E.R. a ratification deadline and Medicaid funds for abortions for poor women. SMEAL also feels that Brooks bipartisan approach to civil rights issues is needed in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race. Two Republicans who were appointed cochairman of the Republicans working committee Lloyd wearing former Nixon fundraiser and Peter Fuller the son of former governor Alvin Fuller will work to organize Republicans who support Ed King's candidacy. Republican Frank Hatch Meanwhile receive the endorsement of William Simon former secretary of the U.S. Treasury Simon who served in both Nixon administrations said the hatch Hatch is
a balanced approach to cutting state taxes reflected the essentials of fiscal conservatism. For one year's notice two employees would be required of companies planning to close their plants in Massachusetts if legislation now being drafted by labor and consumer groups is passed. The Amalgamated clothing and textile workers union together with Massachusetts fair share are working on a draft of a bill which would make companies consider the human and economic cost to the communities where they locate in its present form the bill would also require companies to pay workers displaced by the plant closure one week severance pay for every year of service. Failure to comply with the law could result in a civil injunction forcing a company to remain open. Reaction to the proposal from the business community was not surprisingly negative. State Commerce and Economic Development Commissioner John crosier called the proposal unrealistic and simplistic. The city of Cambridge is debate with Harvard at MIT about genetic research will be fueled by new guidelines
to DNA research. The National Institute of Health have revised and liberalized to present guidelines in response to bitter complaints of scientists conducting the research scientists feel the existing guidelines were restricting progress in their genetic experiments. The Cambridge City Council had proposed in 1977 that stricter guidelines be developed. Although the proposal was defeated at Norn and ordinance based on National Institute of Health the existing guidelines was enacted at that time. The new guidelines will become. Effective November 10th But Councilman Al Baluchi insists that they will not be approved by the Cambridge City Council and that Harvard and MIT must continue to abide by the Cambridge ordinance. One of the new guidelines calls for the relaxation of the containment requirements for experiments involving cloning of animal viruses. Massachusetts residents who use gas can count on paying more for the utility of.
President Carter signed the recently passed energy bill. That was the opinion today of Henry Lee the director of the state energy office. Lee who also sees some good in the natural gas compromise portion of the bill says the homeowner will pay more for gas but there will be parity nationwide at the cost of natural gas. Commenting on other segments of the federal legislation awaiting Carter's signature the State Energy Office Director cited the tax credits for solar equipment of up to 20 $200 and $300 for home insulation as a carrot to make up for the stick of the gas guzzlers tax on inefficient automobiles. Lee said more stringent energy measures are politically infeasible in 1078 and unless gasoline costs get in line with its supply consumers will not be likely to cut down on gasoline waste. We also commented on how the federal energy bill can dovetail with state policy. We have a series of ongoing efforts that I think are are doing are very helpful. The lighting code and the building code together save about
110 million dollars in energy cost per year. One of the few states that does have this lighting code and is aggressively implementing it this year alone will have spent close to $600000 to try and make sure that implementation and program works that it reaches people and at your stores in your schools in your office buildings begin to comply with it. The other things that we've been trying to do are the variety of educational programs which are more of the carrot type of program while away from schools to special commercial type of seminars and educational programs. We're also beginning to move very heavily in the whole question of oil burner policies and begin to move much more towards the problems of the cities both in terms of municipal governments but also more in terms of what do you do with triple decker housing What do you do with rental housing. These efforts I think are our efforts that we were we have been doing the last year and we will continue to do I think the problem Massachusetts of course as it is in the rest of the country is what do you do about the consumption of fuel by automobile. And there we have not had much progress on the country as a whole is not of much
progress and the only thing that Congress passed this time around was a gas guzzler tax to address that problem. Highway speed seems to be seem to be people seem to be adjusted to higher energy costs. Do you see any real hope for a dramatic drop of energy use in the coming decade in Massachusetts industrial use of fuel is down to space heating use is down. We've made substantial progress and some of it's gone a little bit up in the last year because we've come out of the recession. But overall the consumption is way below what people would have ever imagined in 72 73 now. The area where I mentioned before that we're not getting much progress is in the area of gasoline consumption and the reason is that the prices are not up to down. The real price of gasoline is down about 20 percent from what it was in 1960. As inflation has increased all goods and commodities and the relative price just isn't very high the relative price of oil is. And you are getting some conservation there. I think that you are going to see conservation over the long term because first
of all you are going to get more efficient cars and the turnover rate there is about 10 years. So let's say we start the program today I think by 1988 you're going to see gasoline consumption United States down. I don't know will be down as much as the federal government will have you believe that the people continue to drive as much as they're driving as long as gasoline prices are the way they are. How do you think that the general public feels. The person on the street who who thinks about energy do you think he thinks different in 1078 than he did in 1988 on the right now. He sees some people going around saying we need to conserve on the other hand he sees the gasoline stations staying open 24 hours a day. Tankers lining up to get oil out of California. The only thing he does see is continued higher prices and he sees that almost everything in his life is heated and food and housing and he's in taxes and he's really concerned about the higher prices. But the energy problem per se I don't think he he thinks he thinks it's a problem. But
it's mainly a price problem for him. And he thinks that if the government got off its its rear end and begin to go out there invent something new to handle it. The whole thing would be resolved. I think there's a tremendous belief in American technological fixes. I'm not so sure I agree with it. Right. Massachusetts Energy Office director Henry Lee. This is my life. We are at 299 Concord Avenue Cambridge and we're talking to Mark Robinson and this is Cambridge alternative power. And if you could tell us just how this whole thing started about a year ago I read an article in The Christian Science Monitor which showed some people in the Lower East Side of New York operating windmill and solar collectors. I began to think that
alternate energy really was appropriate for an urban application. And I got together some friends and. They became investors and. We lined up some product lines and found this facility which is an old gas station and we're in business. And how do you hope to sort of changes into a commercial enterprise. Well the government is helping us with tax credits which were just passed and I think the OpEx is helping us by constantly raising the price of fuel. And what is in a store here which you consider right. Let me tell you the founding principle of the story that is that we thought that we should demystify alternate energy. We thought that it was time to take alternate energy out of the black box. And so people can come in here and really kick the tires. What have you got. OK we have a number of different lines as we have an alternate energy bookstore with a number of titles complete we have a multi-fuel boiler and multi-fuel furnace is that
burn wood or oil. Just what is the difference between these big big orange furnace here that's different from what's in most sellers. This has two combustion chambers whereas the normal boiler a furnace just has one on the left hand side we have oil we burn oil or gas. And on the right hand side in a separate combustion chamber we burn wood or coal and it can start and what are called a solid fuel and switch over automatically when the temperature drops below a certain point to oil or gas. What's something like this cost. It costs between twenty three hundred and three thousand dollars which is about $1000 more than a conventional boiler. OK. Just yesterday we were outside now we installed two panel solar collector system which will give us all of our domestic water which is not great in a facility like this. But it will be adequate for our bathroom needs.
Right now we're standing on top of a pad for the windmill. We're going to try to generate a large portion of our electricity with a window. Do you see the kinds of devices you're selling here is something which. A normal working family can can't afford. That's a good question for certain products such as a wind mill I don't think it is cost competitive now but for things like wood. Very definitely I think the average working family could afford a wood stove and again if they have a cheap supply of fuel boiler makes sense for the average working family. Thanks very much for talking with Buck Robinson the Cambridge alternative power company. WRIGHT Thank you. Thanks very much. And again Robinson plans a grand opening of his Cambridge store on November 4th. There are a number of other energy related items in the news tonight. President Carter has just signed into law a piece of legislation designed to increase the safety of oil tankers which enter U.S. waters. The new port and tanker Safety Act raises the minimum safety standards for both
crews and tankers. The legislation comes after a series of serious oil spills off the coast of New England last year. In Rhode Island a state study into the economics of nuclear power is now underway. A three member committee is conducting the study and has picked lawyers to represent the interests of groups both for and against a proposed two billion dollar nuclear plant for Charles Town. Twenty thousand dollars has been committed to the study and an additional 100000 is expected from the Federal Economic Development Administration. The study is due to be completed in about eight months. Another report scheduled for release tomorrow represents a major study by the federal government on the disposal of dangerous nuclear waste material. On tomorrow's GBH journal will have comments on this report from local anti-nuclear activists. Well Howard Jarvis the man credited with sparking the current nationwide tax revolt
came to Boston this week. He gave his political endorsement to gubernatorial hopeful Edward King who has campaigned on the promise of implementing legislation like Proposition 13 in Massachusetts and it would seem that this is what the voters want. A recent poll conducted by The Boston Herald American showed 56 percent of the state's voters supporting a proposition type 13 tax cut. Even if this means extensive layoffs of government workers and a reduced level of government services the current tax revolt has been likened to a second American revolution of sorts. But upon closer examination of Proposition 13 and its proponents one finds it is it is not the poor or even middle income persons that will benefit most. Frank Ackerman an economic economist with dollars and cents magazine gave reporter Howard Horton his analyst of the current tax fever. Proponents of Proposition 13 type legislation have really tapped into a political current in the United States. Could you explain what people are reacting to with
this type of legislation. Well there's no question that people are economically squeezed that taxes and inflation generally are a real burden on most Americans. But it's a misidentification of the problem it simply misses the target to say that property taxes are the problem although taxes as a whole have been rising faster than people's incomes. Property taxes have not other taxes such as income tax and sales tax have grown more rapidly. Property tax the slowest growing personal tax is under attack now not because it's the greatest burden but it's because it's the piece of taxes the piece of the whole inflation picture which it seems like people can get a handle on. It said at the local level by your local government people who you believe you could vote out of office. Unlike other taxes unlike other prices. Well if it is not property taxes that people are feeling the pinch from. What is it. Well in part it is other taxes income taxes Social Security tax which is a tremendous burden on most people bigger than income tax for most taxpayers. Sales
taxes those are all rising faster than incomes faster than property tax. Inflation of course constantly threatens to catch up with and get ahead of people's incomes does for many groups. Inflation has forced many families to have more workers than they used to. More total hours of labor are being done to support the same family's standards of living. So people are economically squeezed there's no doubt about it but you can't go out and vote that the price of beef should come down. So it looks like a simple solution to go out and vote that your property tax should come down instead. Can you give me some idea of what are the political forces behind Proposition 13 type legislation and who really stands to benefit the most from this kind of tax legislation. The people who benefit the most are landlords and commercial big residential property owners since they pay the largest property taxes. Proposition 13 doesn't require landlords to pass on any of the savings to their tenants so it can be a tremendous windfall for landlords their movements in a number of California cities now to force them
to return some of it to the tenants which would make it a very different situation. As it stands as it has passed it's tremendously favorable to landlords and Howard Jarvis the author of the proposal is himself the representative of an association of Los Angeles apartment building owners. Exactly the sort of people who you would expect to back it. Property tax is often referred to as a regressive tax. What exactly does that mean. A regressive tax is one that takes a larger percentage bite out of the incomes of the poor than of the rich. The progress of tax takes a larger percent out of the incomes of the rich. Property tax takes more from lower income people who often pay it through their rent or if their home owners pay the property tax directly. As people get richer they pay a larger total amounts of property tax they pay a smaller percentage of their income in property tax. So if we were to switch over to some form of progressive tax in that way we would be giving a larger break to low and middle income people. Is there any example of a progressive tax that could
be implemented in the state of Massachusetts. Income taxes are the most progressive tax around. The state has repeatedly voted down a graduated income tax which would allow richer people to pay a higher percentage of their incomes than poor as it is we have a flat rate income tax which takes the same percentage from everybody across the board. Given the Massachusetts income tax however is slightly progressive because it charges a higher rate on unearned income on dividends and interest than it does on wages. And because it has a high level of exemptions higher than the federal exemptions so that even the Massachusetts flat rate income tax is slightly progressive if the state ever passes a graduated income tax that will be much more progressive. And there's a tremendous snow job based on simply Big Lie techniques by the biggest businesses the people who would stand to lose by a graduated income tax who know that their taxes would go up. The executives and bankers and all the fun tremendous campaigns which no one can match and they simply lie they simply
claim that everybody's taxes will go up with a graduated income tax even when the proponents of the graduated income tax have made it completely clear that they propose to lower taxes for the majority of the population that's a majority is successfully snowed by these big media blitzes is snowed into voting against a reform that would be in their own interest. If you're a registered voter in Massachusetts you either have or will soon be receiving a red booklet put out by the secretary of state's office which explains the seven referenda questions on November's ballot. And if you're having some trouble understanding the arguments for and against each of the questions you're not alone. Louis Lyons comments Monday the mail brought the state pamphlet
information for voters which the secretary of state is required to distribute to all registered voters. It opens with a request by the secretary of the voter to read the information about all seven questions that he will find on the ballot November 7. Apparently he has not read it himself but one of the constitutional changes would relieve him of the requirement to send a copy to every registered voter. It would be enough just to send one copy to each household with a vote. But this household received only one copy for two registered voters and I can't recall them in any other year. We got more than one. The proposed change would save $75000 an election is explained. It would also extend the distribution of the information to all persons eligible to vote who are not registered. But this is only a secondary consideration in the argument for the change and is not mentioned in the argument against it. When I was the pamphlet gave us our first information on six of the seven questions. The other we couldn't help knowing
about from the politicians drive to overturn 100 percent property valuation. Each question has a brief argument pro and con but the language is sometimes more confusing than clarifying. Five of the seven questions passed the legislature unanimously are practically sell which may help account for some of the blind statements in favor and the quibbling or unintelligible arguments against for example Question number four proposes that the state adopt federal census standards on residents so that the federal tenure count and the state's five year count can be comparable. The argument against holes quote there would no longer be available or alternative bases for returning such funds as lottery receipts to local communities. And quote The description of question 7 is completely blind quote to allow a different method of taxing land that is used for recreational purposes and land which is preserved in the natural state and quote
similar tax consideration. It is explained is already given the onus of forest and pharma. So what are the additional private plans for tax reduction their parks golf courses private tennis courts. Somebody must uphold a legislature what they were before they passed it last May. Two hundred fifty seven to nothing. Question number two will allow a new governor eight weeks instead of three to repair his budget. The argument for it is that against a deadline he tends to put in only a facade of a budget knowing you'd have to revise it. The argument against it is that it would delay legislative action. This is very much an in-house matter that means little to the voter. So his question three that would allow a local charter commission 18 months instead of 10. Why should the Constitution stipulate the limits to be allotted a local commission to finish its work. The Constitution is to set a broad frame for fundamental rules of government not to spell out details of day to
day legislation. These questions suggest a need rather to release the state constitution from such narrowing specifics. That applies particularly to such a proposition as number six which would implant an anti busing amendment in the Constitution it would restrict school committees from furthering integration by assignment of pupil so as to obtain a racial balance. The two to one vote for this in the legislature last May is a measure of the clout the natty bussing forces achieved with politicians. But the politician's pet proposition appropriately listed is question number one is to overturn 100 percent property valuation required by the state Supreme Court. This is really a vote for home and motherhood. It would sustain the local practice of taxing homes at a lower rate and business by authorizing the legislature to establish four classes of taxation. These In the proposed legislation would be manufacturing at 55 percent
commercial 50 percent residences 40 percent and open land 25 percent of Quo fer cash value. The effect would be to live assessing substantially as it is a low many towns assess homes at less than 40 percent. The change to 100 percent would shift the burden from business of paying for the lower rate on homes. The 12 to one legislative vote to knock down the hundred percent is understandable. There are more votes in homes than in business. By simple arithmetic it wouldn't seem to matter to double evaluation would have the rate to arrive at the same amount for the town budget but politically it's not that simple. Opponents of the Hundred percent devaluation argue that the high have valuation figure would ease the way to a larger spending. But it was the issue of state aid to localities that brought the court to Crieff for 100 percent. When Sudbury voters raised the issue of uneven taxing among towns of the state for valuation is a factor in the formula for
state day the city a town that keeps its valuations down gets more than its share. Uniformity in any valuation rate would have put all on the same footing. But town assessors are elected amateurs and city assesses are agents of mayors who need the whole non-tax figures. The hundred percent requirement pays the level through the reality of actual prices the required change comes at the peak of inflated home prices. So it's been a natural political issue to rally homeowners to do away with 100 percent and business as naturally opposes for the information pamphlet says the change 100 percent will shift two hundred sixty five millions of taxes a year from business to residents. And that is GBH journal for this Wednesday evening. Our producer and director took
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