Four ballot questions,
four "yes" or "no" decisions for us voters, creating or repealing a
law. Only 25 states have this provision for citizen involvement;
let's celebrate our constitutional right to pure democracy.
Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing
along with public safety, the most essential government service, it
makes sense to use the gas tax to pay for maintaining roads and
bridges. So I wouldn't have minded this year's gas tax increase from
21 to 24 cents per gallon, if only the total Massachusetts tax
burden wasn't the fifth-highest per capita in the country, yet we're
told the roads and bridges haven't been maintained; and, if only I
didn't remember the $120 million Dukakis gas tax hike of 1990 of
which AAA complained only $7.4 million was spent on road work.
What really bothers me
about the new gas tax law is that it will index the tax every year
to inflation, automatically, without a vote of the Legislature.
Quaintly, I believe that our elected representatives should be on
record when taxes are raised, and, I remember the Carter years, when
inflation was 13 percent.
Here's my biggest
concern though. If the Legislature gets away with indexing the gas
tax automatically to inflation every year, what's to prevent it from
indexing the income and property taxes to inflation, raising them
every year without a legislative vote? Fortunately a group called
Tank Automatic Gas Tax Hikes put the indexing law on the ballot. In
order to repeal the automatic hiking provision, we must vote "yes"
on Question 1.
Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law
This is a tough one for
me. I return the cans and bottles that fall under the present
container deposit law, get my nickels back, so no, the deposit isn't
a tax. But I don't understand why, if I don't take them back, my
grocer has to give my deposits to the state government. And I really
don't understand why any consumer voluntarily hands Beacon Hill his
nickels by putting returnable bottles into his trash, where as a
property taxpayer he is paying to have it hauled away to the
If Question 2 passes,
the state government gets even more money, which goes into a "clean
environment fund" from which legislators can appropriate for
whatever (see gas tax, above). And the deposit gets automatically
adjusted for inflation every five years without a legislative vote
(see cowardly legislators, automatic taxes, above).
I don't like the
opponents' ad which misleadingly implies that curbside recycling is
an easy alternative option, therefore can be used instead of
deposits. I put out my bins every week but regardless of how easy it
is, too many people don't do it. Worse, some lowlifes even litter.
However, I don't see
how personal irresponsibility on the part of beverage consumers
becomes my grocer's responsibility, as he's forced to accept the
returns and store them until the bottling companies come for them.
I'm grateful to the
grocery stores which provide me with food and drink; I don't
understand why it's their job to find space for crushing machines or
pay employees to process bags of not always washed glass, plastic
and metal items. The stores at which I shop, large and small, don't
have enough room already for all the advertised goods their
customers demand, and many businesses have had to limit employees
because of the costs of Obamacare. Grocers do get a small handling
fee from the bottling companies, but apparently it's not enough to
cover expenses, including accounting paperwork, or they wouldn't be
fighting this expansion.
And again, the fear of
creeping government: First carbonated beverages; now with Question
2, non-carbonated beverages; next —
everything that comes in a can, jar and bottle? Stored where while
awaiting pick-up from our overwhelmed grocery store?
I have to vote No on 2.
But consumers, please: be responsible, recycle, help protect the
Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming
Libertarian Barbara, if
she lived in a libertarian world, would say that if someone wants to
own a casino he should be able to do so, in as many places as he
thinks economically viable. Government would tax his business like
any other, no complicated deals. Free individuals could gamble to
their hearts' content.
If the casino fails,
taxpayers would not bail it out; ditto for the gamblers. If the
latter, leaving the casino, get caught driving drunk, they'd lose
their license for many years; if they hurt someone, for life.
But we don't live in a
libertarian personal responsibility world, or one with tough
anti-drunk driving judges. While casino-generated crime doesn't seem
to be a problem in northern Nevada, where my family lives,
Massachusetts would not be like Nevada of the last two decades; it
would be like New Jersey in the 1950s. Corruption would rule. Jobs
would go to the politically connected. We taxpayers would be paying
the social costs. I'm voting Yes on 3 to repeal the casino law.
Earned Sick Time for Employees
First problem: the
earned sick time law is applied only to businesses that have 11 or
more employees. As they have with Obamacare, businesses will avoid
hiring more than 10. So much for addressing unemployment.
My small business has
never had more than four employees, but has always had a sick leave
policy, which is: if you or a family member is sick with anything
contagious, don't even think about coming to work; your normal
paycheck will be in the mail. We've also given paid leave to
employees dealing with non-contagious illness or injuries: but we
all know we can't stay out unnecessarily because the organization
can't afford to hire a substitute, so might go out of business, then
there goes our job. Common sense is required here, not government
and union mandates. I'm voting No on 4.