Tuesday, April 24, 2018

New Ballot Committee Created to Oppose Sales Tax Cut Ballot Question

New Ballot Committee Created to Oppose Sales Tax Cut Ballot Question

“Save Our Public Services” to Educate Public on Severe Cuts to Critical Local Services that Would Occur if Ballot Question Passes

BOSTON – Organizations representing working families, local communities, business leaders, religious congregations, and advocates from across Massachusetts today announced the formation of a new ballot committee to oppose the sales tax cut ballot question. The proposed initiative petition would reduce state revenues by about $1.25 billion annually, necessitating severe cuts to local schools, public safety, roads, transit, health programs, and other vital services.

“If the sales tax cut passes, communities will be forced to lay off teachers, police officers, and firefighters. Mental health and addiction treatment programs will close, spending on parks and environmental protection will be cut, and important road and transit construction projects will be delayed for years,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice. “Voters want Massachusetts to have great public schools, safe and strong communities, and a reliable and modern transportation system.  We are committed to opposing this sales tax cut at the ballot. Massachusetts just can’t afford the enormous cuts to public services that it would cause.”

Save Our Public Services registered today with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Members of the ballot committee are committed to opposing the sales tax cut ballot question and protecting the critical local services funded by the sales tax.

“Two years ago the voters overwhelmingly rejected the charter school expansion ballot question that would have led to billions of dollars in cuts to local public schools,” said Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “This sales tax cut ballot question would create the same havoc in our local schools, but even faster. When the voters of Massachusetts learn about the damaging impact this question would have on schools and other public services, they will reject it too.”

“Massachusetts businesses of all sizes count on safe and reliable public transit systems, roads, and bridges, and the sales tax is a linchpin of our state’s transportation investment strategy,” said Richard A. Dimino, President and CEO of A Better City. “The MBTA spurs $11.4 billion in economic benefits each year, linking employers to talent, sparking new development throughout the region, and reducing commuter congestion on our roadways. Reducing the sales tax means putting our continued economic growth and job creation at risk.”

“This ballot question is a threat to public safety in every city and town in Massachusetts,” said Rich MacKinnon Jr., President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “Local communities depend on the sales tax to fund first responders. It's not an exaggeration to say that a cut of this size will cost people their lives.”

Founding members of the Save Our Public Services coalition are:

A Better City
AFSCME Council 93
American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts
Boston Teachers Union
Coalition for Social Justice
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Massachusetts Teachers Association
Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts
Transportation for Massachusetts
SEIU Local 509
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445

“The best way to spark more economic growth throughout the state is by investing in public services, from education and affordable housing to job training programs and transportation infrastructure,” said Steven A. Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL–CIO. “Reducing the sales tax will drain funding away from these critical priorities right when we should be increasing our investment, not cutting back.”

“Reducing the sales tax would take tens of millions of dollars out of our transportation system at a time when it is in desperate need of repairs and upgrades statewide,” said Chris Dempsey, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “The T and commuter rail systems are struggling from years of under-investment, and regional transit authorities across the state are already being forced to hike fares and cut service because of lack of state support. This ballot question will lead to more potholes on Main Street, fewer buses and trains serving our communities and businesses, and more traffic congestion statewide.”

The sales tax cut ballot question proposed for the 2018 ballot would reduce the Massachusetts sales tax from 6.25% to 5%. This cut would reduce state revenues by about $1.25 billion, necessitating severe cuts to state programs, including important social services and local aid that funds schools, public safety, and roads. This $1.25 billion cut is more than the state provides annually in local aid to cities and towns ($1.1 billion). It’s also more than the state spends annually to support higher education ($1.2 billion). And since by law, the state’s budget must be balanced, the impact would be immediate, triggering mid-year spending cuts.

“Cutting the sales tax and the programs that it pays for is the opposite of progressive policy,” said Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teachers Union. “This ballot question would directly harm Boston students and their families by taking money from our already under-funded schools, wreaking havoc in our classrooms, and draining opportunity from our communities. This is real threat and we're ready to fight it.”

“A cut in the sales tax would prevent people from receiving a quality public education, finding affordable housing, and accessing transportation,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action. “Our faith-based values call on us to respect the dignity of all individuals, and make sure that they have equitable opportunities to succeed.   We need to sustain our investments in these public services as a way of fulfilling our moral obligation, making sure that all people can achieve their goals and take care of their families.”

This extreme proposal would cut the state’s second largest source of revenue by 20 percent. The last attempt to cut the sales tax at the ballot, Question 3 in 2010, was rejected by voters 57% to 43% despite the Tea Party surge in that year’s election.
“We’re in the middle of an opioid crisis, but this dangerous ballot question would divert millions of dollars away from critical social services like addiction treatment, homelessness prevention, and mental health counseling,” said Peter MacKinnon, President of SEIU Local 509. “As social workers and clinicians, we know first-hand that Massachusetts can’t afford such severe budget cuts when we’re trying to fight this public health emergency.”

“Every year we work for adequate state funding for youth programs, for adult job training and ESL programs, and for ex-prisoner reentry programs. All these are already starving for funds,” said Lew Finfer, Co-Director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network. “If this sales tax cut is passed, these programs will take a hit. That means less opportunity and less hope for too many people and too many communities across our state.”

“Communities across Massachusetts are already underfunded. Our classrooms are full, our schools are aging, and our budgets are stretched thin,” said Tom Gosnell, President of the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts. “We should be investing in early education, fully funding school transportation and special education, and rebuilding crumbling schools, but this ballot question would send us backwards. It would hurt our students, our communities, and our economy, and we're determined to fight it.”

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