From our One Town, Two Different Worlds desk
With Election Day just around the corner, we’ve officially arrived at Endorsement Season, when the local dailies weigh in with their voting recommendations. (The Boston Herald, for example, endorsed Scott Brown for U.S. Senate today.)
Last week the frisky local tabloid made its recommendations on the four ballot questions facing voters this fall, starting with Yes on Question 1, which would repeal the automatic gas tax hikes Massachusetts lawmakers enacted last year.
What Question 1 seeks to do is merely repeal the automatic nature of that tax hike. It does not roll back the tax. It does not take a penny of existing revenue out of state coffers. It would simply require that in the future if lawmakers want to hike the gasoline tax they would have to vote to do that — just as they did in 2013.
They would have to go on record and be counted. Is that so very difficult? It’s what they are elected to do.
A “yes” vote on Question 1 will do nothing more or less than making our legislators vote in the open the next time they want to hike the gas tax.
Crosstown at the Boston Globe, today’s edition featured an emphatic No on Question 1.
Proponents of the ballot question say they aren’t against gas taxes, but instead have what is basically a philosophical objection to indexing the gas tax, or any other tax, to inflation. Each of the automatic increases, they argue, represents a separate tax hike — a form of taxation without representation, because the Legislature won’t vote each time.
But this argument is disingenuous. Characterizing the increases as a hike ignores how inflation affects buying power. Raising the cents-per-gallon tax in sync with inflation ensures that the pinch will feel the same as time goes on, not that it’ll go up.
Who’s right? Pick ’em.
Ditto for expanding the state’s existing bottle deposit law. The Herald says No on Question 2.
The environmental argument has long since gone by the boards as community after community has moved to curbside recycling for homes and businesses and put separate recycling barrels in parks and other public spaces. Those recycling programs provide cities and towns with yet another source of income.
Yes, there is money in those empties, money that communities will miss out on if this ballot measure passes with its myriad rules and regulations about who would be required to accept those millions of new empties.
The Legislature for the past several years has been getting this one right. Expanding the bottle bill is more than just another inconvenience; it’s another tax. And one this state doesn’t need.
The Globe counters with Yes on Question 2.
Opponents of the measure, funded largely by the bottling and beverage industries, claim that curbside recycling is already deeply ingrained in the Commonwealth, making the expansion of the current law a nuisance. But Question 2 opponents have been using questionable data to make their case, including claiming in an ad that 90 percent of Massachusetts residents had access to curbside recycling; in fact, the correct number is 67 percent. Regardless, promoting the recycling of beverage containers isn’t the only goal of the bottle bill; the availability of curbside recycling doesn’t particularly discourage litter.
There will be a cost to consumers, but only if they choose not to recycle. (It should be noted, unclaimed nickels would go to a dedicated fund to support environmental programs that would pay for parks cleaning and improve recycling.) And there are municipal savings: A 2009 study commissioned by the state Department of Environmental Protection estimated that savings due to reduced collection and disposal costs to cities and towns would be between $4 million and $7 million per year.
Okay then. Two down, two to go. Catch you on the flip-flop.