mangosteen: (allwork)
[personal profile] mangosteen
Some thoughts on the MA Ballot questions:

1. Halting the inflation-indexing of the gas tax.

What it would do: YES would halt indexing of the gas tax to CPI. NO would maintain the status quo of an inflation-indexed gas tax.

What I want to happen: Roads have to get paid for somehow.

My thoughts: Consumption taxes, while regressive, seem to fit this case pretty well. A "vehicle miles driven" tax, while much more accurate, is still impractical on several different levels (although I'd love to see what NV and OR end up doing), and a motor fuels tax is the best proxy we have. If road maintenance costs go up due to inflation, then the use tax to pay for those expenses should go up as well. Also I don't like disingenuous political ads that talk about "new taxes" when there are none.

My vote: NO on 1. There are things that should be yearly politcal footballs. I don't think this is one of them.

2. Expanding the Bottle Bill.

What it would do: YES would add a 5-cent deposit to bottled water and other non-carbonated beverages, and adjust the deposit for inflation every five years. NO would maintain the current setup (carbonated beverages and beer bottles only).

What I want to happen: Water bottles shouldn't end up in landfills.

My thoughts: The bottle bill of the mid-80's worked. People got a financial incentive to recycle, and they did. We should cover more types of disposable bottles with that financial incentive, and the amount itself has to be big enough to matter. I also acknowledge that right now, a bunch of the mechanism is "people pick through trash bins and collect the bottles", which means that the five cents per bottle is effectively wealth transfer (but not a tax, since it doesn't go into the government coffers), which is just fine by me. There's also an inflation indexing component, which looks good. $0.05 today is about $0.026 in 1983 dollars. I'm okay with maintaining financial incentives at known-working levels.

Curbside recycling has helped a lot, but bottles themselves are a weird case due to portability; there's no guarantee that someone will be near a recycling bin when they're done with a bottle, and that goes double for water bottles. We're not talking about a peanut butter jar, where it's likely to live near the recycling bin anyway.

My vote: YES on 2. It works. Let's do more of that.

3. Making casinos illegal in MA.

What it would do: YES would make it illegal to build a casino in MA, full-stop. No would maintain the status quo of allowing four casinos to be constructed including one near Boston.

What I (don't) want to happen: I don't want a giant net-negative economic engine plunked in the middle of a very dense metro area.

My thoughts: This is actually a tough one. I play poker, and I wouldn't mind having a poker room nearby; Everett, MA would be about a 15 minute drive from my home with average traffic. That being said, no one has shown me math to my satisfaction that a casino will be net-positive in terms of economic impact. I see positives in terms of jobs generated and state taxes on gaming activity, but I see negatives in terms of traffic, making it easier to extract money from people who can't afford it (although that argument is paternal enough to make me uncomfortable), as well as the possibility of elevated criminal activity in the surrounding area, and the fact that casinos are mostly playing a zero-sum game, and splitting the pot further (hah!) isn't going to make for more business.

My only quibble is that Question 3 is an Awfully Big Hammer, and would ban casinos in the entire state, not just Everett, which is the place that would have the most traffic problems, and that kind of overreach bothers me. That being said, the economics of casinos still make it look like it's a pretty bad idea.

My vote: YES on 3. I don't want a poker room that badly.

4. Mandatory Sick Days.

What it would do: YES would require companies with 11 employees or more to provide one week of paid sick leave per year (read the bill... there's a ton of other conditions, but that's the base of it). NO would maintain the status quo, and leave it up to the business.

What I want to happen: I want us to have labor laws that are on speaking terms with the rest of the developed world and I don't want a flu outbreak to be caused by someone who had to choose between staying home sick or supporting their family.

My thoughts: The quickest way to stop an outbreak of something like the common cold or the flu is to have people not be around other people.... this typically means staying home from work. I'm glad that I'm a well-compensated technical professional that works for a company that has to compete for employees, and therefore I have benefits like vacation and sick days. This means that if I'm under the weather, I stay home, so as not to share my germs. When I weigh the money that it costs for businesses to offer paid sick days vs. the amount of work days lost due to someone who is contagious coming into the workplace sick, I think that it's a wash, both for the business that doesn't have its entire staff knocked out, and the customers that they serve.

My vote: YES on 4. It's the humane thing to do.

Date: 2014-11-03 06:51 pm (UTC)
mizarchivist: (Vote)
From: [personal profile] mizarchivist
I actually went to Foxwoods over the weekend. It made me deeply uncomfortable to be there. Deeply.
Nevertheless: I sat with QE over dinner in the establishment and together we gamed (hah) out how many people could work in just one resort in Massachusetts.
And how many thousands of people have been lining up to work at Walmart in the area, which is offering some hundred-ish of jobs.

I'm voting for the jobs. I don't have to visit the places, and they really are going out of state to gamble anyway.

Date: 2014-11-03 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My reason for voting YES on 3 is that gambling is a dying industry. It's dying in Atlantic City, it's dying in Las Vegas, Mohegan Sun is $1.6 billion in the hole.

Getting into a dying industry seems like a dumb idea. I don't think those jobs are going to be there long. I think, if it opens, it's going to crash and burn quickly, ending up as a quagmire with us being somehow stuck with the bills.

Date: 2014-11-04 05:44 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I'm a little confused about this. Do we, the Commonwealth of MA, have any skin in this game?

If some investors want to invest in something dumb, and pay a lot of people a living wage with benes while they do, I don't feel particularly motivated to save them from their folly. I'm not seeing how the venture failing troubles the state...?

Date: 2014-11-04 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I feel pretty sure that the Commonwealth is somehow going to be stuck with the bills after everything goes blooey.

Date: 2014-11-03 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, my main source of waffling is that 24/7 shifts of everyone from middle management to floor sweepers is a whole lot of jobs.

On the other hand, modern casinos don't really provide economic boost to a general area - they're constructed so that customers never have to go outside so you generally don't have a lot of, eg, restaurants springing up nearby. Maybe gas stations? But not a lot of other economic activity.

Date: 2014-11-03 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm in agreement with you, except on the casino thing, and there I am (like you) very ambivalent. One factor I also consider there is that the proposed Everett site is just wasteland now. Doing something with it is a good thing.

(But I might change my mind when actually in front of the ticky-box.)

Date: 2014-11-03 08:04 pm (UTC)
cos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cos
Better to figure out something useful to do with it, which will be much more likely to happen if Q3 passes. If a casino gets built, it'll be like having something at least a little worse than an unused wasteland, for some number of years, and then if it eventually fails, people will have to figure out what to do with that site anyway.

Bottle Bill as tax

Date: 2014-11-03 08:38 pm (UTC)
cos: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cos
It actually is a tax, because unclaimed deposits go to the state. It's like a tax that gives you a way to get your money back with a little effort. Currently unclaimed deposit money goes to the general fund; if Q2 passes, it will be specifically directed towards environmental protection (but still go to the state, so still a tax).

Re: Bottle Bill as tax

Date: 2014-11-04 04:33 am (UTC)
macthud: (Default)
From: [personal profile] macthud
And it is actually also a wealth transfer (and yet neither a floor wax nor a dessert topping!), by virtue of the elderly men and women I see every week, walking with their grocery carriages and bicycles and baby carriages and..., digging through the bins outside every house during the dark and cold late nights and early mornings, to get the deposit containers the residents can't be bothered to return...

Date: 2014-11-04 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As someone in a tangential industry to casinos (food service) I will vote No on the casino issue. Wynn will clean up a toxic dump in Everett that no one else wants to deal with, voting against it because of paternalistic views on gambling is elitist, and casino jobs are well paying in an industry not known for paying it's people well. Casino food jobs come with paid vacations and sick days, unlike the vast majority of food service jobs.

Date: 2014-11-04 05:50 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
That being said, no one has shown me math to my satisfaction that a casino will be net-positive in terms of economic impact. I see positives in terms of jobs generated and state taxes on gaming activity, but I see negatives in terms of traffic, making it easier to extract money from people who can't afford it (although that argument is paternal enough to make me uncomfortable), as well as the possibility of elevated criminal activity in the surrounding area, and the fact that casinos are mostly playing a zero-sum game, and splitting the pot further (hah!) isn't going to make for more business.

Okay, but I don't see why the rest of Massachusetts should get to ban Everett having a casino if Everett wants to do that to itself.

I just don't see the compelling harm. I hear the "it's a bad idea that will end badly for the people involved" and "the community it will be situated in won't benefit by it", and I'm like, "Yeah, but welcome to freedom. People get to make unwise choices, so long as they don't take the rest of us with them."

I'm (very!) open to argument here. Is there something I'm missing? Is this being imposed on the people of Everett against their will? Did they try to stop this and fail, because of corruption or something? Will this cost the rest of the state money to clean up?

Date: 2014-11-04 03:16 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
But that's an argument against any likely highly successful business there. If whomever owns the Pats gets tired of Foxborough, and buys this land in Everett for a new facility, are we going to ban sports stadiums? How about shopping malls? Did Everett get a say about the build up at the new orange line stop in Somerville? Should it have? Should it have proposed a referendum on banning new transportation hubs? Hey, you know what really messes up neighboring communities? Airports. Should we handle that problem by banning airports throughout this state?

My impression is that Somerville and even still Malden are wealthier communities than Everett: why should they get to prevent Everett doing something to improve its economic situation because it might be successful? Does Somerville have any moral right to base its prosperity and quality of life on keeping another community impoverished? Shades of Omelas!

If this is an inter-municipal conflict, that's an argument for a referrendum on changing our goverment to allow handling these conflicts more fairly. Not using it to pick a side in this one.
Edited Date: 2014-11-04 03:20 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-11-04 03:41 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
It proposes to ban casinos, not give Somervillans a representation in Everett's decisions that effect them.

As a consequence of the first passing, not only can't Everett host a casino, neither can any other municipality in MA. The consequence of the second hypothetical referrendum passing would be to give Somervillans some say the next time, on the next issue, something they absolutely don't get from passing this measure, merely banning casinos.
Edited Date: 2014-11-04 03:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-11-04 03:59 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea

(Type fast, gonna go vote in a few minutes. :)

Date: 2014-11-04 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OK, I haven't seen anybody talk about this, and I know you might, so here it goes. My problem with question 3 is we've had this vote. And we voted for casinos. And then the gov't spent a bunch of money and time moving down that path. And now we're going to vote again. If we vote to ban the casinos now, do we just have to have this vote again in 4 years (or 2 years, or whatever)? I really don't like a system where things like this where there has been tangible investment after a referendum can suddenly be overturned in another referendum without much change in circumstance.

Date: 2014-11-04 08:22 pm (UTC)
zahraa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zahraa
I'm obviously not from Massachusetts, but I found this interesting. I can't imagine why anyone thinks it's a good idea to have tax incentives that discourage driving fuel-efficient cars. I also can't imagine why anyone thinks it's a good idea to have sick people come to work, but I got switched to PTO two years ago and now have to waste a vacation day every time I get sick. I have become a gigantic germophobe.

Date: 2014-11-05 11:34 am (UTC)
elbren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elbren

I know it's too late, but my friend who works in casinos had an interesting point to pass along:

The main point is that doesn't get discussed is tax.  If the total budget is X and the new casino tax is Y, the questions should revolve around what projects the additional funds are going to.  I have seen in three states government says that the focus is education.  With the education budget being S, the total isn't S+Y. It is usually S-Y and the difference going to pet projects or programs that don't contribute to the communities that the casinos are in.  The additional taxes turns into fat.


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Elias K. Mangosteen

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