SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 26, 2013

Benton: Tax holiday in danger?

Taxpayers will get a sense of just how empowered the liberal wing of the Massachusetts Democratic Party is feeling when — and if — the Legislature takes up the matter of a sales-tax holiday. Retailers have gotten used to the annual boost in sales provided by the suspension of the 6.25 percent sales tax for one weekend in August. But time is running short, and some lawmakers are saying the state can’t afford the loss in revenue this year. Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, tried to include the holiday as part of the transportation funding bill, but Senate leaders told him they would prefer to take up the matter separately. Jon Hurst, a Beverly resident and longtime head of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Business Journal his members are getting nervous. He noted that other states have either made such a holiday permanent or approve it well in advance of the scheduled date.

“This seems to be a Massachusetts-only phenomenon ... that we do it on short notice,” Hurst commented.

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The North Shore Chamber of Commerce has joined the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and other business groups in urging legislators to reject budget language extending the sales tax to computer and software services. According to an MTF release, “By extending the 6.25 percent sales tax to a wide swath of technological services, Massachusetts will lay claim to the most onerous computer and software services tax in the nation.”

Sadly, that tax, along with a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax, will be implemented as a result of this week’s vote by the Legislature overriding the governor’s veto of the transportation funding bill. Not that the governor was opposed to new taxes — he wanted to see more of them.

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A new MassINC poll indicates former Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown will face an uphill fight should he choose to take on newly elected U.S. Sen. Ed Markey in 2014. Brown is said to be in discussions with former Swampscott selectman and 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over which one of them should run for the governor’s seat next year, but either one would also be a strong candidate for the full, six-year term in the Senate Markey will be seeking that November.

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