Advocacy Action Center



Oppose Local & Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives

The Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to consider legislation (S. 2813) establishing a program of investments to make the Commonwealth’s transportation system more reliable, address deferred maintenance and modernize and expand the system.  The legislation, in part, would authorize the use of Local and Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives to raise revenue needed to fund transportation projects through local/regional sales, property, room occupancy and vehicle excise tax surcharges.

As local and regional tax increases stand to increase your cost of doing business and place Massachusetts businesses like yours at a competitive disadvantage, RAM strongly urges members to contact their elected officials to request their SUPPORT of Amendment #230 - Local Option Tax Surcharge, which would remove those provisions authorizing local/regional tax surcharges entirely, and Amendment #239 - Local Option Sales Tax Surcharge, which would alternatively remove those provisions authorizing local/regional sales tax surcharges only.   

Please feel free to reference the following talking points when communicating to your elected officials in the Senate and House of Representatives.  

 

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  • Tax policy is best left to the state to set uniform standards.
  • We don’t need 351 varying sales tax rates across the Commonwealth, it will create confusion for shoppers and merchants alike.
  • This policy favors higher income communities over lower income communities where residents lack additional resources to pay for surcharges.
  •  This policy will create winners and losers where only well-funded proponents succeed.
  • Current state policy determines transportation improvements based on regional needs and data, versus this one that will allow well-funded developers to push questions on voters.
  • If communities are given the ability to raise their own taxes for projects, the state will then walk away and tell us to just “adopt another surcharge to pay for it”.
  •  The money raised cannot be guaranteed to go address the specific transportation needs an initiative says it will.
  • Communities always have discretion to move funds around to pay for things in different ways and these surcharges will just be absorbed and disappear into the general funds.
  • Creating different municipal and regional tax rates will harm the competitiveness of communities and make them less attractive places to live and do business.
  • Small businesses struggling to recover from the recent government imposed shut down cannot afford the higher costs and lower sales resulting from local/regional tax surcharges. 
  • At 6.25%, the MA sales tax already places in-state sellers at a disadvantage compared to their out-of-state and online competitors.
  • A surcharge on the sales tax will just put our local small retail shops at a further disadvantage to big online sellers who won’t have to charge the surcharge, and create an unlevel playing field amongst similarly situated in-state businesses.
  • The imbalance between commercial and residential property tax rates which currently exists in many MA cities and towns would worsen under this proposal--with small businesses bearing the cost. 
  • The tax surcharges can remain in place for THIRTY YEARS.
  •  Allowing a surcharge on the gas tax or vehicle excise is one thing, but what does the sales tax or the property tax have to do with transportation?
  •  Any taxpayer that currently qualifies for an exemption (i.e., a local non-profit exempt from property or sales tax) would also be exempt from any new tax surcharge.  A scenario would exist where non-profit groups that don’t pay sales or property tax could petition and/or support petitions to place surcharges on taxes that they do not have to pay.
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