The following Op-Ed from the LWVN was published in the October 27, 2010 Newton Tab, available online at Wicked Local Newton.
There are three initiative petitions proposed on the November ballot, and the League of Women Voters Newton (LWVN) urges voters to say “No” to all of them.
Question 1 proposes to repeal the Mass sales tax on alcoholic beverages already subject to a separate excise tax under state law. Supporters claim that this “double” tax puts an undue burden on local alcohol sales and encourages sales to go to neighboring states with lower sales taxes or no sales tax. However, no significant decrease in sales has been reported since the sales tax was introduced in 2009. Indeed, nearly every state has a sales tax on alcohol in addition to an excise tax; excise taxes alone simply haven’t kept up with inflation. Alcohol does not qualify as a necessity like food, clothing, and prescriptions, so it doesn’t merit a special exemption. In fact, it imposes social costs; fittingly, revenues from the alcohol tax provide dedicated funding for prevention and treatment services for more than 100,000 residents with drug and alcohol problems throughout the Commonwealth. In short, alcohol should not get a special exemption, especially when Massachusetts faces such serious budget deficits.
Question 2 proposes to repeal the Affordable Housing Law (Chapter 40B), the state law allowing a single comprehensive permit to build housing that includes low- or moderate-income units in order to encourage the production of affordable housing. The League has traditionally supported plans to broaden the supply of affordable housing and believes that the Affordable Housing Law sets a reasonable goal for all communities to provide at least 10% of their homes as affordable. With rents and homeownership prices continuing to be out of reach for many residents of our state, this law helps a broad range of people, including seniors, working families, veterans, and people with disabilities to afford housing. This law has been our single most effective tool for creating affordable housing. Outside the major cities, it has been responsible for 80% of the affordable housing created in Massachusetts over the past decade, resulting in the construction of more than 58,000 homes. In Newton, since 1997, 95% of all housing units that were counted toward the 10% threshold (excepting group homes and other specialized housing) utilized the 40B comprehensive permit process. Without the Affordable Housing Law, how will we meet the housing needs of all citizens?
Question 3 proposes to reduce the state sales tax on all goods from the current 6.25% to 3%. Proponents allege that such a reduction would rein in overspending and “bureaucratic waste.” In truth, such a rollback would cut $2.5 billion from the state budget, cutting heavily into essential, not wasteful, services. For Newton, that would mean losing $2.2 million in state aid. We rely on the sales tax to help pay for good schools, police and fire protection, safe roads and bridges, and quality health care. Communities throughout the Commonwealth have already made significant cuts due to reductions in local aid; a rollback would only intensify an already perilous situation.
In sum, the LWVN opposes all three ballot petitions, as their passage would be detrimental to the well-being of all communities in the Commonwealth.