and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
August #3

Sales tax holiday:
Thanks, but I'd still rather see my income tax cut
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 16, 2007

I can prove that the gods like taxpayer activists: Three days before the sales tax holiday, my refrigerator began to die.

So naturally I went comparison-shopping, found a replacement and made a commitment to buy a new one on Saturday. Saved myself $31.

Of course, the downside of the holiday was having to wait to arrange delivery. So as I write this, my old fridge is still in the kitchen, moaning loud enough to wake the dead, and making me feel bad about not ending its suffering immediately, not to mention mine and probably the neighbors'.

I should just be grateful that it is still keeping my ice cream and yogurt cold. And I should be grateful to the Legislature for the sales tax holiday, instead of thinking that $31 was not worth an extra week of noise.

Another thing that was not worth the wait was the new portable telephone. The old one had been hanging up mid-conversation on numerous friends, as well as reporters who called after 5 during the last two weeks when I was usually enjoying my hammock. But I did save $1.75 by waiting til Aug. 11 to buy a new one!

Here is where merchants benefit from the holiday: While I was at Radio Shack buying a phone, I impulse-bought a new radio-CD player. The boom box that I'd inherited from my mother had a sliding station dial that was hard to read, making it hard to quickly turn off RKO when I heard Tom Finneran's voice. I can now push a button on my new remote and go to Michael Graham on TKK until 10, when I can check back with 'RKO's Todd Feinburg, then go easily back and forth until noon.

At noon I check to see what Braude and Eagan are doing, or who is substituting for a vacationing Rush, while I wait for Howie Carr at 3. This fall I hope I can hear Howie first thing in the morning as he moves to TKK, in direct competition with the former speaker who killed the voters' income-tax rollback. Finneran is OK on some national and cultural issues, but his constant, touchy defense of the status quo in Massachusetts politics - for which he is largely responsible - is more than I can take.

This is another reason I'm not especially grateful to the Legislature for the sales tax holiday: The state owes me hundreds of dollars because I've had to pay a tax of 5.3 percent instead of 5 percent on my income since 2002. A sales tax holiday, while aggravating in many ways, is the least it can do to make things up to us.

So I saved $2.50 on the new radio, then $8.99 at Strawberries where I bought two more "Serenity" DVDs (bought two during the last sales tax holiday as Christmas gifts) and one used "Little Miss Sunshine" DVD, which I could watch on HBO except we canceled it in outrage at "The Sopranos" ending. (Boy, J.K. Rowling could teach David Chase a few things about how to end a series, couldn't she?)

Friday night I had clipped newspaper coupons for non-food items so that on Saturday I could stock up on bird food, various tissues, moisturizers, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Saved over $8! Was so busy shopping that I didn't have time to go home for lunch, so bought a quick slice of pizza that cost me $2, thus cutting into my net savings.

I don't like to shop on Sunday on principle, but made an exception to run to the hardware store for a new garden hose and to Whole Foods for vitamins - which the pro-taxpayer gods arranged for me to run out of last weekend! The state shouldn't be taxing vitamins anyhow.

I did get to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning for fruit. But because I then rushed off to shop, I didn't put the expensive raspberries into the screaming refrigerator, so they were covered with fuzzy mold when I went to get them for Sunday breakfast, and I had to throw most of them away. Another loss against my weekend savings.

Still have peaches to slice into the blender with ice cream, though, which always makes me feel better about things like the hammock time I missed while shopping. And at least I have a year's supply of laundry detergent and batteries!

Of course when I got home with all the packages on Saturday afternoon, I remembered why I never do major shopping on summer weekends: The boaters are parked in front of my house, and I can't park there to unload my packages. Had to haul everything across the yard and up the back stairs. Bird food's still in the car.

By then I was too exhausted to make a decision about buying a new fish tank on the holiday. My goldfish has grown to roughly the size of a teenage trout, and while I am sure he is better off in my 20-gallon tank than in the traditional fish bowl, he could use more room. I think I'll apply my total $50 savings toward a 30-gallon tank.

Moby Fish: Say "thank you" to the Massachusetts government, or at least flip it a fin.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.