October 28th, 2014


Massachusetts Ballot Questions: No, Yes, Yes, Yes

This year I think the ballot questions are easy. I can see room for disagreement on Question 3 but I think the others are as close to slam-dunk as a ballot question can be.

Question 1 - Cut the Gas Tax: No

Current law will adjust the gas tax automatically for inflation. In other words, the real inflation-adjusted value of the gas tax will stay the same, so the absolute number of cents per gallon will increase a little bit as inflation goes. This question wants to repeal that. This repeal is ridiculously stupid from any logical point of view; it only makes sense if you hate taxes on principle and want any way to cut them down. Because that's what this question would actually do: slowly cut the gas tax down from its current value, while sales taxes and income taxes continue keeping up with inflation because they're percentages of things that go up over time (retail prices, and salaries).

Question 2 - Eliminate Loopholes in the Bottle Bill: Yes

The existing bottle bill works really well. About 80% of deposit bottles are recycled, while fewer than 1/4 of non-deposit bottles are recycled. But many popular bottled drinks, such as water and juice, aren't covered by the existing law. You sell soda, it gets a deposit; you sell water in the same bottle, it doesn't. This loophole doesn't make sense. Question 2 would rectify it, bringing bottle deposits to juice, water, and sports drink bottles.

If you hate recycling, you'd vote against this. If you hate the idea of the government taxing anyone to encourage any behavior - even a very small tax where everyone who pays it has a way to get their money back, you'd vote against it. If you don't fit into either of those categories, you vote yes.

Question 2's oppenents have been spreading outright lies in their ads because lying about it is the only way to get reasonable voters to vote no. Unfortunately polls say it may be working; too many people are hearing these lies and believing them. So this is one where you should post to social media and tell your friends.

[ Edit: Yes, we know lots of people have recycling bins. Despite that fact, a large majority of deposit bottles currently get recycled and a large majority of non-deposit bottles currently do no. For whatever reason - a majority of MA doesn't have curbside recycling; lots of people buy bottles away from home and there aren't recycling bins nearby, etc. - the stats are clear. Pointing out that we have recycle bins doesn't change that reality. Bottle deposits are extremely effective. ]

Question 3 - Repeal the Casino Law: Yes

Big casinos are basically the equivalent of toxic sludge factories polluting their region with crime and poverty and lost jobs, while extracting money for a large corporation usually based far away. But what do they produce? Something you can already get in other forms or go elsewhere to get. There are already enough of avenues for gambling for people who really want it, that it's hard to argue it's worth the cost of doing so much damage in Massachusetts just to create a few more. The damage won't be limited just to people who want casinos and are willing to take the cost; it'll hit plenty of people who either don't care or don't want casinos, and don't deserve to be struck by the toxic effects on their surroundings.

Question 4 - Earned Sick Time for Employees: Yes

Companies with 11 or more employees would be required to offer at least 5 paid sick days a year. Currently, they can offer zero sick days. 5 isn't a lot. Also since a lot of the businesses that don't offer sick days are food service, passing this question would reduce the likelihood that when you eat out, you're eating food prepared by someone who has the flu but couldn't afford to take a day off out of fear of losing their job so they pretended to be well.

Others also recommending No-Yes-Yes-Yes: