For many state residents, taxes are an afterthought, one that gains a mountain of attention in April and reverts back to a molehill once everyone’s paperwork is in order. Few consumers take time to consider how the sales tax they pay – which is smaller in Massachusetts than in most of the United States – can help or hinder the economy on a larger scale. As many are aware, this coming November could mean many changes in local taxes and for the Massachusetts budget, changes that could impact you on a day-to-day basis. Before heading to the polls on November 2nd, be sure to familiarize yourself with some of the most important issues.

Question 1 – Sales Tax on Alcoholic Beverages

Not so long ago, alcohol purchases were tax-exempt. This changed last year, when the Senate voted to lift the exemption, opting for the statewide average of 6.25%. While the month of September always brings a rise in alcohol sales thanks to the influx of college students, most other months have found liquor store owners struggling. Formerly regular customers are crossing state lines to buy alcohol in New Hampshire, where no sales taxes are applied, and businesses have had to cut down on employees and advertising. Taxes from alcohol sales will go towards federally funded addiction recovery programs, and most supporters argue that because alcohol is not a necessity, it should not be tax exempt. Many donations have been made to campaigns supporting both sides of the issue.

Question 2 – Comprehensive Permits and Regional Planning Initiative

Question 2 revolves around a law that’s been in place for over forty years, allowing organizations building low- or moderate-income to obtain a single zoning permit, as opposed to separate permits from each agency or official with any jurisdiction over any aspect of the housing in question. Voting No on Question 2 would make no change to the standing law, which advocates claim is responsible for having created approximately 58,000 affordable homes for seniors and working- and middle-class families. Voting Yes is a vote to abrogate the current law, an action supporters believe is necessary for housing development reform.

Question 3 – Sales Tax Cut, From 6.25% to 3%

This proposed law would reduce the state sales tax by half, beginning on January 1, 2011. This is important to voters on either side, as its implementation would impact residents on a daily basis in noticeable ways. While it might cut the cost of a family’s groceries for the week, it would halve the state’s budget for public programs, and the jobs of thousands of municipal employees could be put at risk. Arguments from the Yes voters are based on lower taxes inevitably stimulating the economy, and each household keeping approximately eight hundred dollars more per year than they do now.
Almost twice the amount of residents are expected to vote this year than in the last elections.