We are hometown news

One percent sales tax increase could be one big problem

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

There are a fair number of topics floating through my mind this week, so let's get to them.
So we need more revenue in the state, but we also need cost-saving reforms, right? Are we truly going to see the reform part? We certainly saw the other side with the increase in the sales tax.
In a more normal economy, I would be less concerned about a one percent increase on the sales tax, but this isn't a normal economy. Consumers are more price and tax conscious than ever and one percent may not be much, but it may be enough for people to make a decision to go to a state with lower taxes to shop.
Granted, that isn't likely for Western Massachusetts residents as folks from Connecticut come here. As usual, though, we are worrying about people in the eastern part of the state going to tax haven New Hampshire to shop.
I also wouldn't be worried if I saw a real effort from the Legislature to trim the budget by truly questioning the need for state programs and jobs that may be redundant or unnecessary at this time.
Reform has to accompany any revenue enhancement, but will it? Let's face it, many members of the Legislature take their office for granted and don't believe the public can exert enough influence to make them change the status quo. Until we have more people running against incumbents and until we have term limits so the General Court no longer is a club, I'm afraid we won't see the substantive change we need in this state.

***
Hey, do you have any Chinese drywall in your house? Apparently a bunch of folks have drywall manufactured in China in their homes in the southeastern states and the stuff is making them sick.
The Wall Street Journal reported on April 20 that Lennar Corporation' stock dropped 15 percent after a class action suit was filed against the homebuilder. It seems the high sulfur content in the materials used in the sheetrock make people ill.
Why are we importing sheetrock? Apparently we weren't making enough of it during the housing boom. Did anyone make sure it was of the same quality as sheetrock made here?
I guess that will come out in court.
It's interesting to note two things. The first is a blog I found written by anonymous Chinese writer who pointed out that the problems with Chinese goods is not just the lack of controls in China, but it's also the fault of American importers willing to bring in cheap and therefore profitable items.
The second is that in 2007 New York Sen. Charles Schumer suggested the nation needs an "import czar" who could be in charge of making sure we're not bringing in products that can hurt Americans. Perhaps that is an idea whose time has come.

***
The cityscapes we live in and pass through on a daily basis form a blur of familiarity in most of our minds. Because we see the same places over and over as we zip by in a car it's easy to miss things. One of our news staffers, Courtney Llewellyn, is taking a different approach to looking at the city she is walking every street in her Springfield neighborhood and blogging about it.
Her from-the-sidewalk perspective as she walks her dog reveals a city that seems to have a lot of positives.
So far she has explored 128 streets and has 93 yet to go.
It's a neat idea and I enjoy reading it. You might as well. You can find it at http://eastspringfield.blogspot.com.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.


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