Firefighters, this article is for you. Thank you for coming to our dorms nearly every week to say, “Hi.” Thank you for the forced study-breaks. And thank you for making sure we are all safe. In return, we voted to keep your jobs intact. The defeat of Question 3 ensured this.
Question 3, proposed by Carla Howell, President of the Center for Small Government, aimed to lower the current sales tax rate from 6.25 percent down to 3 percent. Howell advocates for bold spending cuts because she believes that the government has wasted the taxpayers’ money, which could be used to create jobs in the private sector. She believes in free market, private charity, and personal responsibility. She champions Question 3 as the solution to help the Massachusetts working class out of the recession.
The language in the proposed bill is seductive, saying that an average of $688 would be given back to each taxpayer, that around 33,000 new private sector jobs will be created, and that the sales tax will attract shoppers from New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, each of which has higher sale tax than Massachusetts’s. Moreover, the advocates say that the bill also aims to help the disabled, the retired, and the unemployed, who are exempt from paying income tax but not sales tax. Lowered sales tax would take the burden off that community from having to pay a big share of their income. As for the high-income, the advocates say that government spending on public programs wastes taxpayers money because many services are sustained by local budgets.
Thus, many voters were enticed to vote “yes.” Earlier this year, voters agreed with lowering with the sales tax. The Boston Globe’s poll released in September showed that 46 percent favored cutting the tax and 43 percent opposed.
But let’s consider the arguments carefully. The creating of private sector jobs is at the expense of the public sector. Job resources from libraries, school, and fire department draw from the state budget. There will be fewer teachers, fewer garbage men, and fewer librarians. Jobs are created and jobs are lost. As for drawing out-of-state shoppers to the state, I have lived New York in for 12 years. Not once, had I thought: “This coffee costs too much. I need to go to New Hampshire.”
Finally, voters need to know about budgetary truth. The cut from 6.25 percent to 3 percent would take away $2.5 billion annually from the state budget. How much would a $2.5 billion loss cut from the state budget? Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation’s analysis report that there would be 30 percent cuts across-the-board for all programs, i.e. education, public safety, and transportation. This cut alone can eliminate certain departments entirely and diminish others, like the Department of Fire Services. Passing this bill would have been short-sighted and would have caused calamitous repercussions.
The voters made the right choice.
Although on Election Day, some good politicians lost and bad propositions passed, Question 3 was defeated. I rejoice knowing that I will be seeing the firefighters again. And I’m sure, very soon.