Restore Massachusetts Sales Tax To 5 Percent, Citizens for Limited Taxation Says

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Massachusetts legislators should roll back the state’s sales tax to 5 percent, where it was for decades until the state Legislature increased it in 2009, an anti-tax group says.

The state’s sales tax is currently 6.25 percent, with a 0.75 percent local option that pushes it to 7 percent in some cities and towns.

In 2009, the year the sales tax increased, the state budget was $27.4 billion.

“Spending has increased by 55 percent since then,” Citizens for Limited Taxation said in a written statement, referring to the proposed $42.8 billion budget recently approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives. “With that amount of revenue (taxpayers’ money) pouring in and being spent as quickly as it arrives, the state can certainly ‘afford’ to roll back the sales tax to 5 percent − and the Legislature certainly does not need to confiscate more of taxpayers’ hard-earned income − what remains of it.”

Adjusted for inflation, the 2009 state budget would be worth $32.9 billion in today’s dollars, meaning the House budget approved for next fiscal year would be a 30 percent increase over that figure.

Democrats in the state Legislature have recently been discussing ways to increase taxes, not ways to decrease them.

But Citizens for Limited Taxation, which takes a skeptical approach toward taxes and government spending, says legislators are playing a dangerous game.

“Taxes simply cannot continue to be piled upon past tax increases over and over, new taxes devised and imposed in perpetuity, to spend ever more. There is a limit, if Massachusetts is to avoid further crushing productive taxpayers or chasing even more of them out of the commonwealth,” Citizens for Limited Taxation said in the written statement Monday, May 6.

The statement is billed as a memo to the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue, which consists of state representatives and state senators.

“Though rolling back the sales tax is a small recognition for the many sacrifices made by taxpayers to fund all of state government, it would demonstrate a degree of appreciation,” Citizens for Limited Taxation said in the statement. “We hope that you too will appreciate this is well past due.”

Spokesmen for the House and Senate co-chairmen of the committee could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

An official with the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which is less skeptical of taxes than Citizens for Limited Taxation, said a sales tax decrease must be paired with a cut in spending or another tax increase.

“Because Massachusetts needs to balance its budget, any responsible proposals to reduce revenue should also specify which public spending would have to be reduced or what new taxes would take the place of the lost revenue,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, in a written statement through a spokesman.

Bills have been filed in the House and Senate to reduce the sales tax to 5 percent.

One is House Bill 2545, sponsored by state Representative Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica), which would reduce the sales tax to 5 percent immediately. It has a total of two sponsors among the 200 state legislators. The other one is state Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton).

Another is Senate Bill 1776, sponsored by state Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), which would decrease the sales tax to 5.8 percent on August 1, 2019, then to 5.4 percent on August 1, 2020, then to 5 percent on August 1, 2021. It has a total of three sponsors among the 200 state legislators. The other two are state Senator Donald E. Humason Jr. (R-Westfield) and State Representative David DeCoste (R-Norwell).