Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Question 3 divides voters over rolling back sales tax

What your vote does, according to “Massachusetts Information for Voters 2010 Ballot Questions” published by Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin:

A YES VOTE would reduce the state sales and use tax rates to 3%.
A NO VOTE would make no change in the state sales and use tax rates.

Last Friday afternoon, outside of the Student Union at the University of Massachusetts, students walking by the building were immediately asked, “Have you heard about Question 3?”  Some students were responsive as they listened and perused leaflets volunteers were handing out, which asked them to “Vote No” on Question 3.  Other students were not so interested in listening or even interested in glancing at a brochure.

State Ballot Question 3 would reduce Massachusetts’ sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent starting next January.

Students and activists engaged with MassPIRG, a non-profit, non-partisan organization which defines itself as standing up to powerful interests to protect consumers, encouraging a fair, sustainable economy, and fostering responsive, democratic government stood on the steps of the Student Union on campus to promote their cause.

Accompanying them was PHENOM (the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts), a group which engages in grassroots organizing, policy analysis, education and advocacy in leading the fight for affordable, well-funded, high quality public higher education in Massachusetts.

Before the groups and students started speaking, the Governor, Deval Patrick, left the Student Union. As he approached his chauffeured SUV, he was prompted by a student speaking into the megaphone, “We all know the Governor is opposed to rolling back the taxes,” Patrick responded with, “I certainly am!”  He denied the invitation for a comment as he was already late for his next meeting.

As the gathering progressed, speakers from MassPIRG, PHENOM and representatives from the University declared their opposition to Question 3.

Sarah Hughes, Vice President of the graduate employee organization at UMass spoke on behalf of unions at UMass.

“This decision is extremely crucial,” Hughes said through the megaphone, “there are so many workers on campus from faculty to the good men and women who work in our dining halls and residence halls, the University can’t run without all the workers.”

Hughes, along with other advocates of “Vote No on Question 3” believes if the sales tax is rolled back, discretionary funding will be cut. Public education is considered discretionary, allowing legislators to make funding cuts to education due to loss of revenue. Hughes asserted UMass has already had to make certain cuts to remain affordable for students.

“Presently, there are fewer jobs available at the University, fewer assistantships for grads, you can’t get certain care at UHS anymore,” Hughes said. “If Question 3 passes, it will cripple the economy of Amherst, which is run by higher ed.” estimates Amherst would lose $2,954,139 if taxes are slashed.  The advocacy site also estimates the Commonwealth as a whole would lose $2.5 billion in revenue if taxes are scaled back.

Fred Wulkan, a member of PHENOM, said the organization has started a “Let’s Be Average” campaign.

“Our state ranks 46 out of 50 for support for public higher education [funding per capita],” Wulkan said in an interview outside the Student Union Friday. “Our state ranks in the top half for tuition cost, and the bottom half for support, we just want to be average.”

Another opinion on Question 3 need not go unnoticed.  The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes has run its own campaign to encourage citizens to vote yes on Question 3 Tuesday., a website run by the alliance, claims that if taxes are rolled back, 33,000 productive, private sector jobs will be created.

According to findings by independent economists at the Beacon Hill Institute, a Boston-based Massachusetts policy center, “Ballot Question 3 would create 27,199 more private sector jobs…Increased competitiveness and the demand for labor would result in a $73.50 million increase in annual investment, while gross wages would increase by $1.03 billion.”

Voting yes would also roll back the state budget to 2009 levels, and, according to supporters, would force politicians to cut government waste, bureaucracy and sweetheart deals.

The Alliance argues that voting “No on 3” will not prevent the legislature from cutting aid to cities and towns. The reason, according to the Alliance’s website: “Remember in 2008 when they said “Vote no” on ending the income tax – or else we’ll have to cut aid to cities and towns? A majority of voters responded by voting no. What did the legislature do earlier this year? They cut local aid.”

A family living in the Commonwealth is estimated to save $900 per year if the taxes are rolled back, according to the website.  The Alliance argues that voting yes on Question 3 will put tax dollars back into the private sector.

The Massachusetts Election 2010 website, Political News and Analysis for the Independent Voter, states in a summary of Question 3 that sales taxes in the Commonwealth are regressive taxes that hurt working families. The taxes, according to the website, hurt the poor more than the rich, as people of all incomes pay the same sales tax level, cutting dollars out of some families’ pockets but not affecting those who save more.

The prediction, according to the website, “Voters are tired of constant tax increases. The sales tax is affecting business in border towns across the state, and hitting families who can least afford it. If those families turn out to vote, Question 3 will pass by a narrow margin.”

Katie Byrne can be reached at [email protected].

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