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Sales Tax Initiative Leveraging Debate on How Government Affects Sales and Operating Costs on Main Street

October 24, 2107  By Jon Hurst, President

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has been investing considerable time and resources this fall to qualify a ballot initiative to reduce the sales tax rate back to the 2009 level of 5.0%, as well as to authorize an annual August two day sales tax holiday.  Our membership polling clearly showed overwhelming support for the Association to take this rare step.  As an industry, we have not used the ballot initiative mechanism since 1994, when the voters approved a RAM sponsored measure to make Massachusetts the last state in the nation to allow stores to open on Sunday mornings, and on the three summer national holidays. 

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Moving Ahead on Sales Tax Ballot Question

Moving Ahead on Sales Tax Ballot Question

RAM’s membership overwhelmingly decided this week to move forward with an effort to put a sales tax ballot question before the voters that would reduce the state sales tax to 5% and mandate an annual sales tax holiday.

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May 17, 2017  By Jon Hurst

As the fiscal year 2018 state budget gets closer to implementation on July 1, it is becoming clearer that employers will be asked in some way to help fund a state Medicaid budget gap.  The MassHealth budget has exploded under a combination of ACA related costs, mixed up consumer incentives, and a lack of provider expense control.  And until the state can institute some guardrails, and move some over to more appropriate and affordable options, it appears that employers will be asked to fund some of the increased costs over a two year period. 

Important discussions on the economic impact to small businesses have lowered the dollar ask and have allowed for discussions of better taxing plans, but still absent from the negotiations is skin in the game from the providers themselves.  A proposal to cap commercial rate increases for the big, high cost providers was lost in the flood of unparalleled political power by “non-profit,” non-taxpaying healthcare providers.   They aren’t shy about asking for more money from consumers, employers and taxpayers, but ask them to pay taxes or reduce their expenses, and they pull out all the stops to deflect the conversation.

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Smart Tax Policy Protects the Home Team

April 28, 2017 by Jon Hurst

"Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree;” so said former Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long when describing “tax reform.”  This is a pretty clear description of the political process behind tax debates at the state and federal levels.  And this message is worth keeping in mind as we face major tax changes and debates over the next year on Capitol Hill concerning the Border Adjustment Tax; and on Beacon Hill and the state ballot on the so-called Millionaires Tax.

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The False Promise of “Real Time” Sales Tax Remittance

March 20, 2017 by Bill Rennie

Much has been said and written about Governor Baker’s $300 million employer Medicaid tax proposal, which when fully annualized over the course of the year projects out to more than a $600 million tax increase on employers, and rightly so, as that is a big number.  Less attention has been paid to another proposal in the budget that is also meant to generate significant revenue from employers by adopting what the Governor describes as a “Sales Tax Modernization Timing Change,” more commonly referred to as “real-time” sales tax collection.  The Administration counts on this change to bring in $125 million in the next fiscal year – another big number.  However, like the proposed Medicaid tax, the “real-time” proposal is flawed.

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Healthcare Is An Expense Problem, A Law Problem, Not A Revenue Problem

January 26, 2017 by Jon B. Hurst, President

ObamaCare (ACA) is under the microscope for repeal and replacement this year in Washington DC.  And here in Boston, yet another state commission on healthcare provider prices is grappling with the fact that in the 11 years since we passed RomneyCare, our healthcare costs have annually increased about 4 times the rate of inflation.  Unfortunately for Main Street, those increases haven’t been spread equally either—small businesses and their employees have seen far higher premium increases than those experienced by big business or big government programs. 

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OCT. 17, 2016 • BY JON HURST

The results of our member survey are in, and it is clear that the Beacon Hill leadership decision to forego the Sales Tax Holiday this past August resulted in dramatic drops in local sales and hours worked, with no clear benefit to the state in increased taxed collections. This is no surprise to anyone who understands consumers and the rapidly changing marketplace driven by mobile commerce. RAM firmly believes the real winners of not holding the Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday were the tax-free mobile commerce sellers.

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JAN. 28, 2016 • BY JON HURST

For many years now, RAM has asked our state leaders to reform costly and anti-competitive laws which hurt our local employers and benefit out of state and new technology competitors. The antiquated Massachusetts Blue Laws prevent higher sales, and make it far more costly to serve your customers, meaning less operating hours, slimmer margins, and higher prices. We asked the prior Governor to fix the discriminatory Sunday premium pay requirement, and didn’t get it. Last year, I served on the Baker Administration’s Economic Development Planning Council and specifically asked for this reform.

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Last summer I paid a considerable sum to have my house painted by a local, North Shore painting contractor. But the money was worth it, and I was pleased not only with the quality of the work, and but also with the fact that the contractor bought all the paint from our local RAM member, mom & pop hardware store. The local economy benefited, as did the taxman because the contractor didn’t take the trip to NH or go online to buy that large quantity of paint in order to avoid the 6.25% sales tax. But it got me thinking, where is the tipping point that pushes a contractor or a do-it-yourselfer to decide to take that ride north of the border to avoid higher, government imposed costs?

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AUG. 12, 2015 • BY JON HURST

During the last week of July, the Massachusetts Legislature overwhelmingly passed the 11th sales tax holiday held over the past 12 years. For that action, countless mom and pop retailers are very grateful. The holiday represents a state version of Small Business Saturday, in which our public policy leaders create real consumer incentives, and send a very strong message to our residents that it matters where they spend their dollars. And in these days of unlimited shopping options—including countless tax free sites right on our smartphones combined with price comparison applications--the state incentive is far more important today than it was in the first year, 2004.

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JUL. 7, 2015 • BY JON HURST

As the calendar moves past Independence Day weekend and the state budget gets finalized, the question is now being asked by stores and consumers alike on whether Massachusetts will enjoy a weekend of tax-free shopping this August. If authorized, a 2015 Sales Tax Holiday would be the eleventh in the last twelve years. Stores and Main Streets would be packed with consumers enjoying both the 6.25% tax savings on items up to $2,500, along with the sale prices many stores would be offering.

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A top priority for RAM early in this legislative session is a return of the Sales Tax Holiday (STH) in 2015. Legislation was filed on our behalf at the beginning of this session to establish August 15-16, 2015, as a Sales Tax Holiday weekend. RAM staff has been laying the groundwork, discussing the issue with legislators over the past few months, and recently contracted with a consultant to study the overall economic impacts of the Sales Tax Holiday. It is our belief that this study will show the positive added economic benefits to the Commonwealth that result from a tax free weekend and this will further support our lobbying efforts. We are requesting that all RAM members, particularly those who have benefited from past holidays, click here to take this brief confidential survey to assist in the data collection for the study.

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MAR. 5, 2015 • BY JON HURST

At the request of the Baker Administration to help their efforts to obtain federal disaster relief from the historic month of winter weather, RAM spearheaded a survey to determine average small business sales losses over the four week period of January 26-February 22. RAM designed a survey and recruited the Massachusetts chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB-MA), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), the Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable (MBA), and the members of the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) to participate. The survey results confirmed the anecdotal evidence of just how severe the sales losses were, while at the same time showing a much higher loss number for small retailers and restaurants than for other employer sectors.

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