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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.
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Elias K. Mangosteen

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