Vote ‘Yes’ on Question 3 Amherst

By Shane Cronin

Citizens of Amherst, the Ministry of Propaganda is up to its old tricks. They’re operating under the guise of The Massachusetts Coalition for Our Communities and similar groups.

They’re hoping to scare you into voting “No” on ballot Question 3 in the upcoming election. “Save our teachers. Save our police officers and fire fighters. Think of your children’s futures. We can’t afford any more cuts during these tough economic times.” Yeah, yeah yeah.

We’re familiar with the routine.

These phonies conveniently neglect to mention on their site that the sales tax in this state was originally passed as a temporary emergency measure to close a budget gap, not a perpetual crutch for career politicians and outrageous pension liabilities. It should have been repealed when the Jackson 5 were still putting out records. Instead, it continues on a never ending climb.

A map of the state is displayed on their home page http://votenoquestion3.com, with an arrow that hovers over various cities and towns. You can select your community in the scroll bar to find out how much money it is set to “lose” if the Massachusetts state sales tax is rolled back from the current 6.25 percent rate to three percent. What the group doesn’t tell you is how much money each working individual and family will save if the tax is cut.

The ballot initiative’s lead proponent, Carla Howell, claims the average worker will save nearly $700 annually if the rollback passes. Families will save almost $1000. The Beacon Hill Institute found the tax cut would result in almost 30,000 new jobs as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and wage raises. Can you say “economic stimulus?”

I know I don’t need to remind you of the enormous efforts and difficult choices you’ve made over the last few years, Amherst. You’ve made concessions for your community and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You have given plenty of dough. Now its time for you to take (or should I say keep) some of that money for yourselves.

Earlier this year, you passed a $1.68 million Proposition 2 1/2 override, which increased your property taxes. I had the opportunity to meet some of you outside the Bangs Community Center last spring and listen to your concerns. Many of you noted your friends and neighbors who worked at the local schools and library. You wanted their jobs to remain intact, so you voted for the override. For some of you this was not a financially feasible decision, but you voted for it anyway. For your community.

In addition, you’ve made $7 million worth of other budget cuts over the last few years including the closing of Mark’s Meadow Elementary School. Furthermore, of the old five percent rate, 20 percent of your sales tax dollars have financed the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for decades. Amherst and the rest of the western Mass. receive virtually no benefit from this investment. The agency is insolvent, which means the legislature is pumping your money into an industry that has been failing for years.

What does Governor Deval Patrick say in response to your efforts? When asked what the effects of rolling the sales tax back, he told Boston Herald reporters a few weeks ago, “I think it means that property taxes go up, it means tolls on the Turnpike and fares and the commuter rail and T go up.” If that isn’t a low blow to Amherst, I don’t know what is.

The opposition doesn’t want you to think about any of that stuff, though. They want you to forget about your sacrifices. Forget about John Kerry and his yacht docked in Rhode Island to evade taxes. Forget about Deval Patrick’s attempt last year to install State Senator Marian Walsh in a $175,000 position that was left vacant for 12 years. Forget about the big stink the teachers unions put up about a pay freeze while you were furloughed and laid off.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, by the way, has funneled over half a million bucks into the campaign fighting the sales tax rollback. That’s a lot of money for a group that claims its members can’t miss one or two pay raises in a recession, like almost everyone in the private sector has done at a minimum.

According to rollbacktaxes.com, no local aid need be cut if the sales tax is rolled back. Massachusetts could trim the fat from the state budget, which there is plenty of.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Our Communities is audacious in telling Mass. residents to keep the sales tax at its current rate. Vote “Yes” on Question 3. No matter what the Propaganda Ministry says, Amherst will still be here next year.

Shane Cronin is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]