A group of Massachusetts residents calling themselves the Olympics Ballot Coalition filed a petition Thursday to get a referendum on the hosting the 2024 games placed on the state's 2016 ballot.
The binding referendum would effectively ban Massachusetts taxpayer spending on the estimated $4.6 billion Olympics, while making exceptions for transportation projects that have a lasting benefit for the state.
The draft language says, in part, that no state agency, authority or entity shall directly or indirectly spend funds, issue tax credits or incentives, incur debt or take any private property by eminent domain "to procure, aid or remediate the effects of" the games.
“This filing marks a new phase in the debate about the Olympics," Evan Falchuk, a former independent candidate for governor and one of the leaders of the coalition, said in a statement. “Will taxpayers will be protected? Through the hard work of this coalition we are committed that the answer will be yes.”
If the attorney general's office approves the referendum language, the coalition will have nine weeks to collect 64,750 certified signatures, according to the statement.
The citizens group No Boston Olympics said it supports the coalition proposal, despite concerns it does not prevent Boston leaders from agreeing to put city taxpayers on the hook if the games go over budget.
The proposal was written as well as could be, said group Co-Chair Chris Dempsey. "But even that language [on overages] would not, in our view, truly protect taxpayers from risk. We worry that it's really insufficient."
Dempsey said No Boston Olympics is not contemplating its own ballot referendum.
Boston 2024, the local organizing group, has said it's also interested in proposing a 2016 referendum, promising not to go forward with a final bid unless a majority of Massachusetts and Boston voters approved.
The drive for an Olympics referendum comes after state lawmakers earlier this month approved a $38.1 billion budget that included language preventing state spending on the Olympics without legislative approval.
The petition filing also comes as U.S. Olympic Committee leaders were in Boston Thursday, meeting with Boston 2024 officials.
With reporting by The Associated Press, State House News Service and the WBUR Newsroom