- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - The group behind a ballot question that repealed a law linking increases in the state’s gasoline tax to inflation is now lending its muscle to an effort to block taxpayer funding of the Olympics if Boston is chosen to host the 2024 Summer Games.

The organization announced Tuesday that it was teaming with Evan Falchuk, leader of the United Independent Party, to put the Olympics question on the November 2016 ballot.

Known last year as Yes on 1, the group persuaded voters to repeal a 2013 law that automatically tied future gas tax increases to increases in inflation. It succeeded despite being heavily outspent by supporters of the indexing law.

Falchuk opposed the group’s repeal initiative. Falchuk - then a candidate for governor - argued that the extra money from the gas tax was needed to help repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

But Falchuk said he’s pleased to work with the group to gather the tens of thousands of voter signatures needed to get the Olympics funding question on the ballot next year.

“We all agree that tax dollars should not be used for the Olympics,” he said in a statement.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, one of the organizers of the Yes on 1 committee, said the group is defending the interests of Massachusetts taxpayers.

“Protecting taxpayers doesn’t just mean stopping automatic tax hikes,” the Whitman Republican said in statement. “It also requires prohibiting the expenditure of tax money on non-essentials.”

Falchuk said he would make an exception for taxpayer dollars going toward transportation projects that would benefit the Olympics but also have lasting benefits for the state.

Boston 2024, the nonprofit group spearheading Boston’s Olympic bid, has also promised to place a referendum on the November 2016 ballot but has not said how it would be worded.

The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that the U.S. Olympic Committee has commissioned a poll of city residents to learn more about public opinion.

The renewed push for a ballot question comes as Boston 2024 has begun naming possible Olympics venues in greater Boston and other parts of the state. On Monday, organizers said the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts would play host to the canoe slalom competition.

Boston was selected in January by the United States Olympic Committee as the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Olympics. But support for the games has sagged in public opinion polls, in part due to concerns that taxpayers might get stuck with the bill for any cost overruns.

John Fish, then-chairman of Boston 2024, announced in March that the group would not go forward with a final bid unless a majority of both Massachusetts voters and those who live in Boston gave the green light.

The first deadline in the ballot question process is Aug. 5, when initiatives must be filed with the state attorney general, who must review the questions to make sure they meet constitutional requirements.

Assuming Boston is still in the running by November 2016, the referendum would come just months before the International Olympic Committee is expected to take final bids for 2024. Other contenders could include Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.

Also Tuesday, No Boston Olympics - the main group opposed to the Boston bid - released its first financial report. The group said it collected $14,539 in the first quarter of the year, from 166 donors with an average donation of about $88. Six donors gave $500 or more. The group spent $2,176.

Boston 2024 reported raising $2.8 million and spending just over $2 million during the same period.

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