Massachusetts residents may recall it was just a few years ago that state lawmakers jacked up the sales tax rate from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, in response to a fiscal crisis. The crisis is gone, but the state is hanging onto that 6.25 percent rate. It's like prying honey from a bear; the state just won't let it go. What's going to happen when the next fiscal crisis arrives?
More importantly, the sales tax is a regressive one — it hurts poorer people more — so it's not a great way for the state to make money in the first place. Keeping it modest is in everyone's best interest; if the state needs more money, the more equitable tax is the income tax.
There's a reason local mayors are helping to lead the charge here. Downtown businesses create jobs, produce tax revenue and stimulate other business activity, all while lifting some of the tax burden off of homeowners' shoulders. Beverly and Peabody are both in the midst of efforts to encourage people to live in their downtowns, as a way to boost retail businesses and create more interesting, livable communities. Salem's vibrant downtown has been a long time in the making, and helping those businesses thrive is in everyone's best interest.
So yes, go ahead and tax Amazon. But take that money and use it to give Main Street a double boost — use it to lower the state's artificially high sales tax rate. Give the people who have the courage to invest in our downtowns a better chance at success.