Once again, our state lawmakers have approved a two-day “holiday” from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax, with the largely tax-free days scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 10-11.
Yes, that’s about all the enthusiasm we can frankly muster for this truly contrived “gift” from the State House to Massachusetts businesses and consumers. In fact, state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, was right on the money Wednesday when, with passage of this year’s “sales tax holiday” bill assured, he bemoaned the fact that lawmakers had lost a real opportunity by not extending it to ensure the break would come annually without having to go through this annual charade.
And it’s especially frustrating this year, when the “holiday” comes on the heels of new taxes that went into effect this week on gas prices, cigarettes, and some computer applications — the latest new tax officials and businesses alike are still sorting out.
The gas tax, of course, will further sock businesses through higher shipping costs, so they have even less to cheer about the sales tax holiday this year than last. Yet that didn’t stop Senate President Therese Murray from touting Wednesday that “continuing the sales tax holiday is good for our recovering economy.”
“Recovering economy?” That must be how she defines the state reports that show 254 more Cape Ann residents unemployed this June compared to June 2012, as noted in our Monday Page 1 story. And it must be how she views the “economic disaster” faced by Gloucester’s fishermen and waterfront businesses, for which the state — like the federal government — has offered little or no assistance.
Look, if state lawmakers really wanted to help businesses and consumers alike, they could consider:
Extending the sales tax “holidays” to at least two or three such breaks a year, perhaps one in July or August, another in November or December to bolster holiday sales, and another to spur spring sales in March.
Rolling back the sales tax overall to compensate for the 25-percent jump from 5 to 6.25 percent that lawmakers approved in 2009.
At least scaling back, if not eliminating, the sales tax on cars and other items priced beyond the $2,000 mark for the tax holiday weekend. That current cutoff merely waters down the break as it is.
Bob Hastings, former head of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, suggested a few years back that the state should give businesses and consumers a break from the sales tax for up to three months a year — a quarter of the year to make up for the 25 percent hike. That will never happen, but it’s not as far fetched as it sounds.
For now, we’ll have to be content with our two-day sales tax holiday Aug. 10-11 — and hope that our lawmakers will see it in their taxing hearts to give us another few crumbs for another weekend next year.