1,2,3: Just Say No
"A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou beside." So goes the famous stanza (or at least one translation of it) from Omar Khayyam's the "Rubaiyat" celebrating the simple necessities of life. There was a time, perhaps, when alcoholic beverages were a necessity. Stored properly, they could last for years — a plus in the pre-refrigeration and soda pop days.
But is it a necessity now? Should it be lumped in with that loaf of bread — or gallon of milk — and be exempt from the state sales tax? We don't think so.
Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot is asking voters to exempt the retail sale of alcoholic beverages from the 6.25 percent sales tax. The petition question has the support of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, which says the sales tax is an example of double-dipping since an excise tax is paid at the wholesale level.
The imposition of the sales tax on alcoholic beverage sales last year has hurt mom-and-pop stores, especially those along the New Hampshire border, the organization says. Opponents say allowing the exemption will cost $110 million in state revenue, all of it targeted toward treatment programs for kids and adults. These critical services help keep people out of jail, out of the hospital and out of trouble — all of which could cost the state far more in the long term.
The revenues are critical and we think the negative effects not quite so bad — the no-sales-tax boogeyman of New Hampshire rings hollow out here in the northwest corner. Our neighboring states have taxes comparable or higher. Massachusetts' excise tax on both beer and wine is less than the national average; distilled spirits is a bit higher. It comes out to about 10 or 15 cents on bottle of wine — no matter the quality.
This is not the time to be giving out exemptions for package-store purchases. We say vote no on Question 1
Question 2 would repeal the state's so-called 40B law that allows nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing under a single comprehensive permit.
Proponents say the law has provided incentives to construct mixed housing with both market rate and affordable units. Opponents say the law hasn't provided housing for the people who need it and has cost citizens in taxes and infrastructure.
The arguments for each side are extensive; Wicked Local has an excellent article on the subject here.
We say vote no on repealing the law. While not perfect, we believe it would be better to review how well it's worked and amend it, rather than toss it out altogether.
This citizen's petition would roll back the 6.25 percent sales tax to 3 percent. The measure would save consumers a few bucks at the register and devastate the budgets of towns and cities and throw the state into a budget crisis.
According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, making up the estimated $1billion in lost revenue this year could mean drastic cuts in local aid this year, and more next year. North Adams alone could lose nearly $1.75 million in city and school funding.
Proponents say halving the sales tax would save families about $1,000 a year and boost job growth. They say it wouldn't affect local aid, though it's hard to see how. The cost of keeping city and town services would still fall to the taxpayers in each town through rising property taxes and fees.
We don't like taxes either but at least the sales tax is one we have more control over through our spending habits. Right now, it's at $6.25 for every $100; Question 3 would drop it to $3 per $100. That loss in sales tax will wipe out gains the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce has been in encouraging in its "Buy in the Berkshires" campaign, says chamber CEO Michael Supranowicz.
"I think it's very important for the business community to understand that if we roll the sales tax back 3 percent ... fees and increases in real estate will affect us all in our pocketbooks one way or another," he told chamber members last week.
We agree. Think of it as the price of a fancy coffee for every $100 you spend; the few dollars you save here and there isn't worth the massive cuts that would affect all of us.
Vote no on Question 3.
|Tags: tax cuts, ballot questions|