Sharon town administrator
We have a real problem in Massachusetts with fixing and funding transportation. Our local roads only receive about one-third of the funding that’s needed to keep up with wear and tear, and we see the effects every day, as much as our public works teams try to keep up. Public transportation is inadequate. Safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and paths for walking and biking are missing in many of our cities and towns.
Governor Charles Baker and the Legislature have shown leadership by investing in transportation. Unfortunately, the amount of funding directed at this problem remains inadequate. Because large infrastructure projects demand attention, there remain projects with regional benefits that are deferred by this funding gap. We need to do more. Perhaps the time has come for an alternative approach.
Massachusetts communities have a long history of self-determination through local elections and citizen participation. Town halls and town meetings are where we debate issues and make important decisions. We take seriously the taxes we collect, and how they are spent.
The Legislature is considering a bill that would allow voters in Sharon and other Massachusetts communities to vote on local option taxes that would enable them to support their transportation priorities directly. Given our history, enabling people to have a voice in whether to raise and spend money on transportation investments is not a revolutionary idea. This tool has been successfully used in nearly a dozen states across the nation.
Locally funded projects and shared regional initiatives should not replace improvements now funded with state and federal tax dollars. They are complementary. But along with advocating for the state and federal government to make transportation a higher priority on our civic agenda, let’s give residents of Sharon, neighboring communities, and cities and towns throughout Massachusetts a say when it comes to investments in their roads, bridges, paths, and other transportation needs.
There are details to work out. What projects? Should towns join forces? What taxes and how much? But let’s get the conversation started. Let our citizens have a direct voice in deciding how best to address our infrastructure needs.
State representative, Whitman Republican
Lately, the news has been filled with excited reports that General Electric is moving its headquarters to Massachusetts. The company was lured here with tax breaks. While I do think their move is a benefit for the Commonwealth, what about the businesses that are already here? Is that fair to them?
The root of the problem is that Massachusetts is an expensive state. There is a reason why we are called “Taxachusetts.” Over the past seven years, the sales tax has been increased by 25 percent, registry fees were hiked by 20 percent, the gas tax was increased, and new taxes were placed on utilities. We are one of only a relatively small number of states that have an excise tax or a business inventory tax. No one is feeling under-taxed here.
Right now, there is legislation on Beacon Hill allowing for ballot questions to create new local option taxes that would support transportation. While I strongly support voters having input, I have seen the manipulation of times and dates of elections to help dictate the outcomes. I fear that if this legislation is passed, elections could be scheduled on days when turnout could benefit one side. Moreover, ballot questions could be repeated over and over again until the side pushing higher taxes won. We have seen these tactics used with local Proposition 2 ½ override attempts.
Putting that aside, I strongly believe that adding to our tax burden doesn’t help Massachusetts’ reputation as a high tax state. We should be looking for ways to lower the tax burden to make our state more competitive. If we can attract more business growth here, we can generate more revenue without over-burdening the taxpayers.
How do I know this to be true? In 2013, the Legislature passed the “Tech Tax.” So many technology companies threatened to move out of the state that the tax was repealed six weeks after it was signed into law. Higher taxes put us at a competitive disadvantage. Let’s stop adding to the burden of taxpayers in Massachusetts and start attracting businesses that generate the jobs and revenue we all want to see.
Last week’s Argument: Should Bridgewater’s Town Council approve the proposed ban on thin-plastic retail bags?
Yes: 60 percent (6 votes)
No: 40 percent (4 votes)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.