West

THE ARGUMENT

Should the state lower its sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent?

YES

Tom Mountain

Newton resident, member of the Republican State Committee

Tom Mountain

Drive along the northern tier of Interstate 495 from Salisbury to Littleton and try to find a mall similar to Burlington Mall with more than just a supermarket and some chain restaurants. There aren’t any. That’s because the highway is too close to New Hampshire, the no-sales-tax state, with every imaginable big name store from BJ’s to Best Buy carefully skirting the Massachusetts border.

Why pay an extra 6.25 percent for a freezer or TV when all it takes is a quick jaunt up Route 3 to Nashua?

The sales tax has been an unfortunate staple of the Bay State since 1966, when then-governor John Volpe initiated a 3 percent sales tax to try to mitigate the rising tide of property taxes. Yet Proposition 2½ has long since put a cap on property taxes, while the state sales tax has more than doubled, with no end in sight.

Advertisement

It’s a given that few on Beacon Hill are ready to roll back state taxes any time soon, particularly the sales tax. Which is why we need a binding referendum on the November ballot to at least begin rolling back the sales tax.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

This doesn’t seek to eliminate the tax, or even cut it in half, just to reduce it to 5 percent. That’s it.

This is certainly a modest proposal. But if it passes in November, it will mark a rare victory in the consumers’ battle to mitigate the tax burden.

Yet because it could set a precedent for future state tax reductions, the Democratic-controlled Legislature and public unions will fight it incessantly. They will present a doom-and-gloom scenario at the mere hint of rolling back any taxes, even by a decimal point or two. They know a victory here could set the stage to fight other tax burdens.

And it will, which is all the more reason to make it happen.

Advertisement

Perhaps with a scaled-back sales tax, fewer people will cross the border to shop in the Granite State. And maybe, if we keep chipping away at it, we might even attract a big in-state shopping mall or two along Interstate 495.

NO

Cindy Rowe

Brookline resident, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action

Cindy Rowe

Parks, libraries, transportation, environmental protections, public safety, health care — I could go on and on. Have you ever stopped to think about how many things you do every day that depend on investment from the state? The clean water you use to brush your teeth, the schools your children attend. Do we really want to shortchange all of these services to save a few cents?

The sales tax cut proposed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts would reduce state revenues by about $1.25 billion annually, which could necessitate severe cuts to discretionary state programs, including important social services and the local aid your city or town receives to help fund schools, public safety, and roads.

That’s a pretty scary proposition that will hurt all of us, and one that I hope voters will outright reject as wrong-headed and a direct assault on our notion of being a commonwealth.

The proposed sales tax cut would clearly hurt the most vulnerable in our communities and increase economic inequality. With a reduction in revenues, we could see layoffs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters. State-funded mental health and addiction treatment programs could close, and infrastructure projects could be delayed for years.

Advertisement

We are in a moment when we should be increasing our investment in public goods, not cutting back. This is how we will spark even more economic growth. By enhancing the supply of affordable housing, funding the MBTA and regional transit authorities, and repairing our roads and bridges we will be creating the world that we want for ourselves and our children.

Drawing upon both our faith-based values, and our secular notion of what we owe one another in a democratic society, it is clear that sales tax revenue is needed so we can treat everyone with respect, providing equitable opportunities to grow, be educated, get a job, have a home, and live a healthy and productive life.

I hope you will join with me in rejecting this harmful proposal which is based on the cynical notion that voters believe a few cents a week in our pockets is more valuable to us than our shared commonwealth.

(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.