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Add tax to my Zagnut; I can take it

February 13, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
news@thereminder.com
For many years, people have called Massachusetts "Taxachusetts" and there have been bitter complaints about property and sales taxes. The recent proposal by the Patrick Administration to impose a tax on candy and soda and increase the tobacco tax has been met with some negative reactions.
The proposal fuels the idea the state is a tax-happy asylum punishing its residents and businesses with unnecessary fees and levies. I don't doubt there are revisions to key taxes that could be made that would make living and working here more attractive, but the candy tax is one that I think we can live with.
And I'm a fat man who likes his candy bars.
Last month, the Tax Foundation (www.taxfoundation.org) released an analysis of the 50 states and how they stack up tax-wise from a business point of view. Interestingly enough, Massachusetts was not at the bottom of the list. We were ranked in the middle of the pack at 24. However our neighbors New York (49), Vermont (47), Connecticut (40) and Rhode Island (46) did not fare as well.
New Jersey was dubbed the worst state — so much for us being the bottom of the barrel when it comes to doing business. We're not the best and ideally this is what the governor and the Legislature should be trying to achieve.
Are there places to seek reforms? Absolutely. Is there the will to tackle these reforms? What do you think? How the state spends the money it collects is all about priorities set by the governor and the Legislature.
Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez released a statement about the proposed tax last week that read, "We proposed a small amount of targeted tax increases on tobacco, soda and candy and in a few other areas that help us avoid cuts to education funding, safety net programs and local aid. None of our proposals hurt our economic competitiveness. The budget is about choices and we'll wait to see what choices the House of Representatives makes in lieu of these proposals."
OK, if they impose a tax on a Baby Ruth, what kind of hardship would that create? Yes, I'm sure it will be an additional burden and retailers and kids — and fat men — everywhere will grumble.
If throwing down a few Fifth Avenues means our towns here will have a bit more local aid, I'm willing to do that. I'm a patriot.
Will people be traveling over the line to New Hampshire for candy bars or RC Colas? They do that already for fireworks and booze, so I'm assuming the state police will be stopping cars to see if there is a contraband box of Zagnuts and a case of Moxie along side a bag of M-80s in the trunk?
I'm making light of this situation because for me this is almost a non-issue. It was made for talk shows. You want to discuss real issues? How about why the Massachusetts Bay Transit Company is bleeding money even though it is the only transit system in the state with a dedicated stream of revenue from the sales tax? The Pioneer Valley Transit System and the other regional systems don't have that kind of funding.
How about questioning salaries for state positions? What about an equitable formula for state aid to cities and towns?
An extra nickel on a Clark Bar or a Sugar Daddy? Please.
I should also add the people who don't want to see a deposit on water bottles obviously have never cleaned them up from their yard. I have to say a discarded beer can or bottle is a rare occurrence in my neighborhood. I would welcome the opportunity to see more clean streets and greater recycling.
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One side effect of the Patriot's loss is that Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette will be making a trip to Norwalk, Conn., if he hasn't already.
Bissonnette bet Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia a bowl of clam chowder that the Patriots would beat the Giants.
If Bissonnette won, Moccia would have to travel to Chicopee and serve him a bowl of New England clam chowder. However, Moccia won, so Bissonnette has to serve him a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder.
Bissonnette called the tomato-based version "an abomination."
What makes the whole wager more complicated is that Moccia is a Republican and Bissonnette is a Democrat.
At least Bissonnette isn't sitting around silently with a towel over his head.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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