Where do the anti-income-tax forces have room to grow?

Will the Dianne Wilkerson saga help Carla Howell and company in their effort to eliminate the state’s income tax next Tuesday? A recent poll by Suffolk University indicated that only 26 percent of the electorate are planning to vote yes on Question 1, but tales of corruption among the people who decide how to spend the state’s money may causes voters to give a second look to the idea of choking off a major source tax revenue.

If there’s any movement toward a yes vote on Question 1, it may happen in two types of communties. Look to Everett for any sign of new support among Democratic-leaning voters. In 2002, the city narrowly voted against killing the the income tax (3,788 to 4,004, with 2,879 blank ballots). Four years later, in the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary, the city gave 4,395 votes to the relatively anti-tax candidates running against Deval Patrick. (That is, unlike Patrick, Tom Reilly and Chris Gabrieli supported the implementation of a 2000 referendum vote to reduce the income tax to 5.0 percent). It’s admittedly a big stretch to say that those voters now want to eliminate the tax entirely, but if the anti-tax side is trying to get more Democrats to support Question 1, Everett seems like the best place to try. Southbridge and Milford are the only other places in the state where the anti-Patrick vote in the Democratic primary represented an increase over the vote to abolish the income tax in 2002.

It may be easier to find anti-tax converts among people who voted against Patrick in the 2006 general election.

The town of Barnstable may be the biggest opportunity to move independents and Republicans toward a yes vote on Question 1. In 2002, the Cape Cod community voted 9,658 to 8,790 to eliminate the income tax, with 1,646 blanks. Four years later, it cast 11,395 votes for Republican Kerry Healey and independent Christy Mihos, the "cut the size of government" candidates against Democrat Patrick. That’s a jump of 1,737 votes for the small-government side. I can’t imagine Question 1 coming anywhere close to passing statewide if it doesn’t get at least 1,000 more votes in Barnstable this time than it did in 2002.

Also worth watching: Waltham, where Healey and Mihos got 1,573 votes more than the first campaign to eliminate the income tax; and Plymouth, where the difference was 1,485 votes. Again, if the Question 1 campaign can’t win over more people who voted against Patrick, there’s little chance of the referendum coming anywhere close to a victory.