Massachusetts Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidate Approved of Several New Taxes As Mayor

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Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll could be the next lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

But what has she done as mayor of Salem over the past 16 years?

One thing the 55-year-old has done:  raise taxes.

During her tenure as Salem’s mayor, Driscoll has approved increased taxation on meals, lodging, and marijuana.

In April 2010, the city of Salem enacted a 0.75 percent local option meals tax and a 1 percent hotel tax. The local option meals tax was in addition to the state-level 6.25 percent meals tax.

Local governments are allowed to adopt local-option meals taxes and hotel taxes under state law but do not have to do so.

The Salem City Council approved the measures on a 6-5 vote. The vote took place on April 22, 2010, according to the city’s web site.

Driscoll advocated for these measures, according to Salem News.

“Mayor Kim Driscoll had been pushing for the tax increases, over the objections of local business owners, arguing that the city desperately needs more revenue as it struggles to balance next year’s budget,” the paper wrote at the time.

Of the tax increases, Driscoll told the Salem News, “We view it as something positive that can help us deliver the quality of services that people who live in Salem expect.”

Two years later, Driscoll was a driving force behind yet another tax increase:  the Community Preservation Act.

The Community Preservation Act is a state law that allows (but does not require) cities and towns to charge up to a 3 percent surcharge on local property taxes to promote open space, historic preservation, below-market-rate housing, and recreation.

Driscoll supported a citywide ballot initiative to enact the Community Preservation Act in Salem.

Driscoll encouraged volunteers to collect signatures to get the question on the ballot after the Salem City Council voted 6-5 against asking voters to adopt the Community Preservation Act on August 23, 2012, according to the Community Preservation Act coalition. 

The volunteers gathered signatures from more than 5 percent of registered voters in the town and were able to get the question on the ballot that way. It was approved 54 percent to 46 percent on November 6, 2012, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office

“It’s really exciting,” Driscoll told Wicked Local after it passed. “I think it demonstrates that voters understand the importance of investing in the community. The CPA will make a real difference.”

This proposal enacted a 1 percent property tax surcharge on property in the city. The first $100,000 of valuation of a residential, commercial, or industrial property is exempt from the surcharge.

Five years later, Driscoll supported local tax increases on marijuana.

In 2017, the city began approving licenses for marijuana dispensaries. But marijuana dispensaries must give 7 percent of their retail sale revenue to Salem:  3 percent in excise taxes, 3 percent as part of a local host agreement, and 1 percent toward a “Transit Enhancement Fund.”

The fund is supposed to pay for “alternative transportation options within the city and the region, including a transit shuttle, that will stop within reasonable proximity to the site,” according to Salem News. Driscoll told the paper at the time that this tax is “important and critical.”

Driscoll won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in the Tuesday, September 6 primary. She beat out state Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) and state representative Tami Gouveia (D-Acton) for the nomination. Driscoll got 47 percent, Lesser got 32 percent, and Gouveia got 21 percent.

Driscoll will be on the Democratic ticket with Maura Healey, the party’s nominee for governor, who is the current state attorney general. They are running against former state representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) and former state representative Leah Cole Allen (R-Peabody), the Massachusetts Republican Party’s nominees for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. 

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Craney told NewBostonPost that if the Healey-Driscoll ticket wins, Driscoll will want to increase taxes on working Bay Staters, as well.

“Mayor Driscoll is a typical big government politician, who is willing to squeeze her city’s taxpayers in order to sustain her growing appetite for city spending,” Craney wrote in an email message. “While the taxpayers of Salem have grown callous to these new and higher taxes from the Mayor, many towns across Massachusetts would never tolerate it. If elected our state’s next Lt. Governor, taxpayers should be warned that Mayor Driscoll will want to impose a laundry list of higher taxes on day one.”

Amanda Orlando, campaign manager for the Diehl-Allen campaign, said that Driscoll’s support for tax increases is a prime example of the differences between the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket. 

“Geoff Diehl and Leah Allen differ sharply from their opponents on the issues of taxes,” Orlando wrote in an email message. “Maura Healey and Kim Driscoll represent big government and a push for more taxes that will make Massachusetts a more expensive place to live and work. Geoff and Leah think differently. They believe strongly that a tax increase is a pay cut, and that’s the last thing any Massachusetts resident or business needs right now. Geoff and Leah want to protect taxpayers’ wallets and make Massachusetts more affordable. They want to return surplus tax revenue to the taxpayers and push for additional tax relief where possible.”

Driscoll’s campaign could not be reached for comment on Thursday or Friday this week.


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