Think of the biggest names in the history of the American tax revolt, and one of the first to come to mind would be the late Howard Jarvis, who helped to lead California’s famous Proposition 13 property tax revolt. Yet, there are other giants who’ve earned a similar place in history – as well as the gratitude of taxpayers everywhere. Barbara Anderson was one of them, and her passing this weekend from leukemia at age 73 should give us all cause to reflect on a lifetime of passionate advocacy for the people who pay government’s bills.
As Executive Director of Massachusetts’ Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) for nearly 40 years, and a longtime member of National Taxpayers Union’s Board of Directors, Barbara helped to change the face of fiscal policy in a state not known for being friendly to taxpayers. She and her colleagues at CLT deserve credit for making the property tax revolt a coast-to-coast phenomenon by securing the passage of Proposition 2-1/2 in 1980. The tax limitation ballot measure has been instrumental in reducing Massachusetts’ property tax burden from one of the worst in the nation to near-average. In the years that would follow, CLT under Barbara’s leadership took on tremendously difficult issues in the liberal bastion of “Taxachusetts,” such as opposing imposition of a graduated income tax in place of the state’s flat structure, and successfully championing income tax rate reductions which are still taking place today.
Though perhaps not a household name outside her own state, she was easily one of the most respected figures in Bay State fiscal policy and the tax limitation movement. Those of us who knew and worked with her immediately recognized her tremendous drive and wisdom that she generously gave to budding citizen activists. She was a regular panelist at NTU’s National Taxpayers Conferences, where she never failed to impress and inspire participants. She was also an eloquent voice for federal issues such as a Balanced Budget Amendment, which she wrote about in her newspaper columns.
Barbara’s wit in writing was matched by her talent in building relationships with other members of the media. She taught many of us (including at an early point in his career this young taxpayer group staff member) that it’s not only possible, it’s essential, to relate to journalists as hard-working taxpayers too.
Just over 15 years ago, at NTU’s National Taxpayers Conference, Barbara was presented with the Howard Jarvis Lifetime Taxfighter Award. To be so honored by the President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association – Jon Coupal – speaks volumes about her influence on taxpayer advocates throughout the United States. Barbara’s great words, and even greater deeds, live on in so many of the struggles and successes our movement has experienced.