BOSTON — The Massachusetts 2010 midterm election includes a ballot question to repeal the 6.5 percent sales tax on alcoholic beverages. This tax — imposed on consumers in 2009 when the Commonwealth economy continued to tank — is actually a tax on an already existing excise tax. Without complaint, I pay the tax because an alcohol purchase is an indulgence, not a life requirement.
However, is a double tax fair to consumers and does it penalize small business owners? As well, would the voter backed repeal cause the loss of funding for healthcare services in substance abuse programs? Who is responsible for those services in the first place? There is much to ponder about this ballot question before voting in favor of or against repeal.
Question 1: Repeal the Sales Tax on Alcoholic Beverages
A Yes Vote: Would remove the state sales tax on alcoholic beverages and alcohol where their sale or importation into the state is subject to an excise tax under state law.
A No Vote: Would make no change in the state sales tax on alcoholic beverages and alcohol.
Alcohol Purchases Not a Necessity
From a rational standpoint, I simply cannot view the added 6.5 percent tax on alcohol as a financial burden to consumers in any way. We need clothing, we need prescriptions and we need food, which is tax exempt. Alcohol on the other hand, is not a prerequisite for our existence.
In my area of Massachusetts, most grocery stores now sell alcohol. When I do my shopping, I notice there is clearly not a lack of shoppers in the beer and wine section of the store. In the checkout line, plenty of people are purchasing alcohol, including me. For sure, there is no arm-twisting going on in that part of the store.
The way I see it; I choose to treat myself to a nice bottle of wine, and I am prepared to pay the tax on that luxury. In addition, when I buy wine or pick up beer at the local package store for a Sunday football party, I never stop to consider where the tax is going to end up. Do people pause to rethink an alcohol purchase because they have no clue where that 6.5 percent tax might go?
Who Takes the Brunt of the High Alcohol Tax?
I did some research to understand the impact my yes or no vote will have on this ballot question on Nov. 2. I find it interesting and a bit baffling that some proponents of Question 1 believe the high tax rate on alcohol is most unfair to workers with lower incomes. Why is that?
There have been countless times in my life when money was scarce. During that time, buying alcohol was basically, out of the question. Purchasing food and clothes for my children took priority over a bottle of fine wine. Therefore, the argument there does not hold water as far as I am concerned. If you cannot afford it… do not buy it. It is a simple deduction.
The ones I can honestly feel for, is the small business package store owners near the New Hampshire border. They lose a ton of annual revenue, to tax-free alcohol purchases made in New Hampshire. The tax repeal would definitely be a boon to their business.
I am OK with my alcohol tax going to programs to assist people with substance abuse. Many healthcare plans do not cover this health issue. I would rather see my money utilized in this way than wasted by legislature on something like more ridicules and needless signage in Massachusetts. I do not think ballot Question 1 stands a chance and personally, I will not be giving up wine any time soon.
Massachusetts Government 2010 Ballot Questions