Editorial: Vote No On Questions 1 & 3

Would Create $2.5 Billion Deficit

NOVEMBER 2010 VOICE: Another election cycle brings with it the latest attempt by anti-government groups to cut or eliminate certain Massachusetts taxes. This year their focus is cutting the sales tax to 3%, while also eliminating the sales tax on alcohol.

Together, Ballot Questions 1 & 3 would eliminate nearly $2.5 billion in tax revenue from the state budget. Following several years of budget cuts and at a time when the state, as well as local governments, are already facing staggering deficits, these tax-cutting referendums are irresponsible and must be vehemently opposed by our Association. 

As an organization representing retired public servants, we ask our members to vote NO on both Questions 1 and 3. To do otherwise puts our Commonwealth, as well as the benefits you have earned in grave jeopardy.

Question 1, which is sponsored by the state's liquor industry, aims to repeal the 6.25% sales tax on alcohol that was put in place last year. This is worth an estimated $110 million a year in tax revenue.

Question 3 would reduce the overall sales tax from the current 6.25% to 3%. Not surprising, Question 3 is being spearheaded by Libertarian activist Carla Howell. This year, the sales tax is the latest target of her anti-government and anti-tax crusade. Howell ignores the obvious fact that a reduction of over $2.5 billion in tax revenue would have a disastrous impact on state and local services.

Over the past two years, the state has cut over $2 billion in spending from the budget. For the current fiscal year, it is relying on $1.46 billion in federal stimulus payments, along with another $674 million in one-time revenues to balance the budget.

With no further bailouts available for FY 2012 and no economic rebound in sight, we can ill afford to slash taxes - especially on discretionary items like alcohol.

Granted, there are some within our ranks who would vote yes with the intent on sending a message: people that are angry at our government, both state and national; people who feel our state has become a magnet for non-residents who are seeking the benefits offered by our state.

We are asking that you put this message and anger aside. There are enough voters who will send this message without us adding to the total. Stop and think of who we are as public sector partners with our government.

Combined with the loss of federal stimulus and other one-time revenues, Massachusetts is already facing a structural deficit of at least $2 billion. If questions 1 & 3 were to pass, the state would be facing a mountainous deficit exceeding $4.5 billion for the coming fiscal year.

We can only imagine the devastating impact such a deficit would have on both the state and local budgets. It cannot be forgotten that our members' benefits are funded, in part, by tax dollars. Not only would our health care plans become an immediate target for savings, it would be virtually impossible to raise the COLA base or increase any other pension benefits.

While few of us enjoy paying taxes, most members realize that taxes are necessary to support a civilized society. We cannot sit idly by on this issue without urging our members to vote NO on both Question 1 and 3.