, Salem, MA

September 13, 2013

Peabody council votes to urge tax repeal

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — The City Council is asking Peabody’s state delegation on Beacon Hill to repeal both the new computer tax and the measure that provides for gasoline taxes to rise with the rate of inflation.

The motion, offered last night by Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz passed 9-0, with at-large Councilor Jim Liacos voting present. Liacos explained that he didn’t feel he was sufficiently familiar with both taxes to vote.

“I did recently talk to one representative from outside of our district,” Sinewitz told his colleagues regarding the new tax, “and he agreed they made a mistake and it should be repealed.”

The Legislature has already expressed an intention to repeal the computer tax, which has caused confusion. High-tech companies have reacted hotly, some complaining that no one can say just what is being taxed. Others believe the tax endangers one of the state’s vital industries.

‘‘It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us ever anticipated or intended,’’ said Senate President Therese Murray recently, according to the Associated Press.

The law was passed earlier this year as part of an effort to provide Gov. Deval Patrick with increased funds for transportation and local aid. Patrick had requested $800 million but the taxes were advertised as raising $500 million.

They included a vaguely worded 6.25 percent tax on computer and software services, as well as a 3 cent per gallon increase on gasoline with that amount slated to rise with the cost of living.

Peabody’s Republican state Rep. Leah Cole voted against the tax; state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, and state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, who both represent Peabody, voted in favor of the tax.

“On the technology tax,” said at-large Councilor Dave Gravel, whose business involves computer services, “I completely agree with what Councilor Sinewitz is requesting.”

He noted that the repeal effort is already underway and even the governor has indicated he won’t oppose it. “I think people have finally realized what a mess it is.”

Less likely to be repealed by Beacon Hill, apparently, is the automatic gas tax increase. On the other hand, efforts are underway to eliminate it through the initiative petition.

Anti-tax activist and Salem News columnist Barbara Anderson has promised to sign that one even as she warns of the difficulties presented by the initiative process.