Beacon Hill has no one but itself to blame for the fact that a question with potentially catastrophic consequences is on the ballot this November.
Question 3 would roll back the sales tax from the Legislature-approved rate of 6.25 percent to an unreasonable 3 percent. Those going to the polls next Tuesday should vote no, but at the same time vote out politicians who refuse to take the difficult steps necessary to get the cost of government in Massachusetts under control.
Our guess is that a measure to reduce the sales tax to a more realistic 5 percent — the rate in effect before the latest money grab — would have passed overwhelmingly. And it's heartening to hear some legislative candidates, along with gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker, say they will make a reduction in the tax a priority in the next session.
This ballot initiative has served a useful purpose in sounding a wake-up call for those who believe the public's patience and willingness to pay are limitless. But depriving state government of an estimated $2.5 billion a year — money that's used to build schools, provide public transportation and shore up the budgets of our cities and towns — would be irresponsible. Voters would be better off electing those who are willing to take on the public employee unions and other special interests and make meaningful changes in the way government operates.
We recommend a no vote on Question 3.
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Question 1 calls for repeal of the sales tax on alcoholic beverages. We recommend a yes vote.
At the same time they approved the increase in the sales tax in 2009, the Legislature and Patrick administration decided to help themselves to an even bigger bite of the apple by ending the historic exemption granted alcoholic beverages.
These products are already subject to a separate excise tax that is passed on to consumers. This amounts to double taxation (some on Beacon Hill are no doubt wishing they'd thought of it sooner), and has put package stores here on the North Shore and in other communities near the New Hampshire border at a tremendous competitive disadvantage.
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Question 2 would repeal the controversial law known at Chapter 40B, which allows developers to bypass local zoning in those communities in which less than 10 percent of the housing stock is deemed affordable.
Communities in this region have generally recognized their responsibility to encourage growth that accommodates those of all income levels, and have thus escaped the types of abuses that gave rise to the current initiative.
Nevertheless, there are some who view zoning as a means of keeping people out rather than a tool to encourage reasonable development. Chapter 40B is a useful tool for making sure affordable housing remains in the development mix.
Vote no on Question 2.
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Voters in the 7th (Salem) and 8th (Marblehead, Swampscott) state representative districts will be asked to weigh in on the question of legalizing the sale of marijuana to adults. In our view this is bad public policy. Vote no.
Tomorrow: Our view on the legislative races on the North Shore.