Broad-based taxes are fairest
I am writing in response to your very reasoned editorial on the state budget and taxes not to disagree with your points, but to look at it from a different angle.
Taxing restaurant meals because they are a "luxury" is not just unfair but inconsistent. Why not a surtax on landscapers, pool companies, tax return preparers, country clubs, valet parking, home-builders you get the picture! While some rich (and many more not-so-rich) may benefit from these services, increasing the tax on the poor landscaper, pool boy and valet guy doesn't seem like the way to go. It's about as fair as raising the tolls on MassPike commuters for the luxury of not using the Big Dig.
Years ago, we did have a fair tax on meals. It exempted meals under a dollar, in recognition of the "working-man's lunch," whether a blue-plate special or from a canteen truck. When the inflation of the '70s struck, a couple of brave legislators submitted a bill to raise the $1 threshold to $2 to protect the workingman/woman. In the dead of night, other legislators and our then-governor got together and scratched out the $2 and put in $0. This is why we now pay "meals" tax on kiddie ice cream cones, coffee from the canteen truck and dollar burgers as a "luxury tax." Shame on those who did that, and on their descendants in the legislature today who'd like to increase that unfair tax. Today, there are still thousands of laborers, shift workers, poorly-paid social workers and others who should not have to pay a "luxury" tax on their meals just so we can keep the income tax down.
Now about applying the sales tax to liquor and beer: they're already taxed! If they need to be taxed more, fine, raise the liquor tax. But adding sales tax on top of the already high liquor tax is taxing a tax! If the liquor cost is $5 and the liquor tax is $2, the sales tax would be on the whole $7, which is not only unfair but probably unconstitutional as well.
It seems to me that broad-based taxes are fairest. Taxes that focus on one industry or product must necessarily be much higher than a broad-based tax. If the state can justify its need for more revenue, let it raise the income tax or sales tax, applied fairly to all across the state. If it cannot justify it, let it cut spending, starting in the Boston judiciary, MassPort and Turnpike Authority and other known wasteful spending. Selecting hotels, restaurants and beer to again bear the brunt of the tax burden is not even sensible.