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Mass. Residents Deserve Inflation Relief

Originally published in CommonWealth Magazine on June 18, 2022


Mass. Residents Deserve Inflation Relief

With money available, state should eliminate protectionist laws

by Jon B. Hurst, RAM President


A few of us are old enough to remember the last severe bout with inflation four decades ago. My first mortgage right out of college was a whopping 12 5/8 percent. Gas and food prices were through the roof, and families fell further and further behind despite rising wages.

In many ways the picture is as bad, or even worse, today. Energy prices and consumer essentials are far higher, interest rate increases are far from over, and the plunging stock market has become more important due to individualized retirement plans like 401ks.

Yet, while inflation is hammering consumers and small businesses, government has never had it so good, with revenues driven by pandemic federal dollars; and tax receipts such as sales, income, and property taxes all driven far higher with consumer goods, wages, and property value increases.

Before the Legislature adjourns for the year and before Gov. Charlie Baker leaves office, it is hard to imagine a more pressing priority for our consumers, taxpayers, and small businesses than an inflation relief package. There’s not only plenty of revenue for relief, but there are plenty of antiquated and protectionist laws in Massachusetts which hammer consumers to the benefit of certain industries and suppliers. There has never been a better time to reform these protectionist laws, and to create marketplace forces to lower consumer prices. Here are just a few opportunities worth reforming, repealing, or suspending.


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Voter's Views on Sales Tax Provide Food for Thought

By Jon Hurst, President 

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts recently conducted public opinion polls by Princeton Research Associates to determine the views of voters and consumers in the Commonwealth about the state sales tax and about the fairness alternatives.  The results are interesting.  Following are the highlights.

  • 95% of the voters view the retail sector as important for our economy. 
  • 52% opposed sales tax collections on Internet sales, a view which would seem to be in conflict with the first bullet.
  • Yet, a wide shift occurred when asked if they would support the sales tax on Internet sales IF it boosted local, small retailers, was coupled with a reduction in the tax rate from 6.25 to 5% or lower, and didn’t mean an overall loss in state revenues--61% then supported online tax collections.
  • 60% also supporting a broadening of the sales tax to items like soda, if it was coupled with a sales tax rate cut.
  • After having no Sales Tax Holiday in 2016, a whopping 79% said they strongly supported authorizing a MA Sales Tax Holiday.
  • 56% supported applying the sales tax to nonprofits like universities and foundations if accompanied by a tax cut for consumers.
  •  Given the upcoming “Millionaires Tax” vote, a very strong 79% said they supported a reduction in the sales tax to about 4%-4.5% to make the tax system fairer and to support local retailers.
  • Given that nationally 18% of all holiday gift purchases this past year were made online—and many of those internet sellers do not collect the sales tax—83% said it was important to lower the 6.25% sales tax to help local retail shops.
  • 78% of the respondents said it was important to provide some kind of sales tax relief soon.
  • And finally 66% of the voters believe the proper sales tax range for Massachusetts would be in the 4% to 4.5% range.

Food for thought for our industry, our voters, consumers, and for Beacon Hill. 

The poll numbers are from two surveys; one conducted 11/11-14/16, N=495, +/- 4.4%; and the other 3/14-19/17, N=550, +/-4.4%



Over the past few years, an increasing number of Massachusetts cities and towns, roughly twenty or so at this point, have taken steps to regulate plastic bags. Early on, some communities adopted measures requiring plastic carry out bags to be of a certain thickness (mils), banning anything thinner than the standard they set in their ordinance or by-law.

Taking the issue a step further, an ordinance took effect last month in the City of Cambridge that prohibits so called, single-use plastic bags with handles at the point of sale, and instituted a mandatory minimum $0.10 charge for any bag that is provided to a customer, such as a paper, compostable or reusable bag. Now a statewide bill, H.4168, An Act to reduce plastic bag pollution, has advanced out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, that includes the mandatory $0.10 charge for any bag provided, but also bans outright ALL plastic bags – including the reusable plastic bags they’ve been telling us to use for years!

When did the plastic bag become Public Enemy Number One?

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