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Massachusetts Sales Tax Relief Act, Question 3 (2010)

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Massachusetts Question 3, filed under the name, the 3% Sales Tax Relief Act, will appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in the state of Massachusetts as an initiated state statute. The measure, if enacted by voters, would reduce the state sales tax rate from 6.25 to 3 percent. The measure is being sponsored by the Alliance to Roll Back Taxes headed by Carla Howell. The measure would be enacted into a law 30 days after the election if approved by voters. The measure was filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State in September 2009.[1][2][3][4][5]

Election results

See also: 2010 ballot measure election results

Stay tuned for election results on November 2, 2010:

Question 3 (Sales Tax Relief)
Result Votes Percentage
Result not yet known
Total votes 0%
Voter turnout  %

Results via Massachusetts Elections Division.

Text of measure

Ballot title

The ballot title of the measure reads:

Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives before May 4, 2010? [6]


The summary of the measure[7] reads:

This proposed law would reduce the state sales and use tax rates (which were 6.25 percent as of September 2009) to 3 percent as of Jan. 1, 2011. It would make the same reduction in the rate used to determine the amount to be deposited with the state Commissioner of Revenue by non-resident building contractors as security for the payment of sales and use tax on tangible personal property used in carrying out their contracts.

The proposed law provides that if the 3 percent rates would not produce enough revenues to satisfy any lawful pledge of sales and use tax revenues in connection with any bond, note, or other contractual obligation, then the rates would instead be reduced to the lowest level allowed by law.

The proposed law would not affect the collection of moneys due the Commonwealth for sales, storage, use or other consumption of tangible personal property or services occurring before Jan. 1, 2011.

The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

A YES VOTE would reduce the state sales and use tax rates to 3 percent.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the state sales and use tax rates.



  • The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes, a campaign committee formed by Carla Howell and Michael Cloud with 2010 reported contribution receipts coming primarily from out-of-state donors[8], is the sponsor of the measure, which they also refer to as the Initiative to Roll Back the Sales Tax. The group argued that the passage of the amendment would create 32,929 jobs in the private sector.[9]
  • Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Christy Mihos stated his support for the measure.[10]
  • Current State Rep. Daniel K. Webster, 6th Plymouth District. Strongly supports Question 3 because "it would tie the hands of Beacon Hill and send a strong message to control spending" [11]
  • Bill Campbell Candidate for MA Secretary of State [12]
  • Bill Gunn Candidate for US Representative 1st Congressional [13]
  • Marty Lamb Candidate for US Representative 3rd Congressional [14]
  • Bill Hudak Candidate for US Representative 6th Congressional [15]
  • Gerry Dembrowski Candidate for US Representative 7th Congressional [16]
  • Vernon Harrison Candidate for US Representative 9th Congressional [17]
  • Kamal Jain former Candidate for State Auditor [18]


  • Sandra Plasival, a student at Quincy College, said she thinks the economy could benefit from the measure, arguing, "Reducing the sales tax is a big step in ending the recession. It benefits people who aren’t financially stable and people who are financially stable probably don’t care.”[19]
  • Dan Cotter, a resident of Quincy, said that the measure is needed, echoing other supporters who were arguing for the measure. Cotter claimed, "It’s a tough economy, and I think that Massachusetts already has a pretty high sales tax."[19]
  • Carla Howell of the Alliance to Rollback Taxes argued, "Yes on Question 3 is the only way to roll back taxes and force the Legislature to cut government waste. The successful Massachusetts ballot initiative of 2000 lowered the income tax from 5.95 percent to 5.3 percent. It has saved taxpayers $7 billion!"[20]
  • Howell also argued the following point: "About 94,200 Massachusetts workers lost their jobs in 2009. What did the Massachusetts state Legislature do? They raised state government spending by $4 billion, and they raised the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. The result? More Massachusetts businesses driven out of state - or shuttered."[21]
  • Howell countered opponents' arguments of jobs cuts if the passage of the amendment happens by stating, "Notice how every time there’s a tax cut on the table, the teachers union and other special interests run the same ads with the same lines: 'Vote no - or else we’ll have to cut police, fire, schools and roads?' Yet total spending on police, fire, schools and roads keeps going up - every year."[21]

Campaigning, events and rallies

  • During the weekend of August 15, 2010, proponents of the measure used a tax free holiday to persuade voters in favor of the tax rollback proposal. Proponents handed out fliers and bumper stickers to those out for the holiday. According to the campaign for the measure, they accused lawmakers of approving the two-day holiday in order to alleviate voters' "appetites" for cutting sales tax. According to campaign leader Carla Howell, "Get a sales tax reduction every day with yes on 3. Huge savings, if we do that, for shoppers and even better benefits for job seekers."[22]



  • The Massachusetts Coalition for Our Communities is heading the Vote No on Question 3 campaign, which is funded by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state's largest Teachers Union along with American Federation of Teachers, Boston Teacher Union, National Educational Association, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and others. [23]
  • State Representative Jason Lewis stated, "Question 3 on the Nov. 2 ballot proposes to reduce the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent. If this ballot question were to pass, it would become effective on Jan. 1, 2011. It would have a catastrophic impact on our ability to fund essential state and local services."
  • Current Governor Deval Patrick opposes the measure.
  • State Representative Alice Wolf came out against the measure, claiming, "Question 3 would reduce state tax revenue by $2.5 billion dollars a year. That’s billion with a B. I can assure you that efficiencies and cuts that are not critical cannot pay for such a reduction in revenue. At a time when people are hurting, safety net programs are called upon to a far greater extent than in boom times. Thus, such a cut is especially scary now."[24]
  • Representative Steven D'Amico stated his opposition to the ballot measure, citing potential damage to state fiscal health if the measure is enacted by voters. According to D'Amico:"If the measure passes, we will be looking at catastrophic cuts. This is putting our economic recovery at stake, putting our children's future at stake." The representative also argued that if the state sales tax was decreased to 3 percent, $2 billion in revenue would be lost.[25]
  • Senator Marc Pacheco sees a tax cut as unreasonable, stating, "Most people, knowing about the national economic crisis we are in the middle of, would see a cut of more than 50 percent of the sales tax is not sustainable."[25]
  • Representative Steven D'Amico and Senator Marc Pacheco are opposed to the measure.[25][25]
  • Representative Fred Barrows says a tax cut would add unnecessary chores to local communities, claiming, "...communities would be tasked to make up the shortfall...I don't think we can cut our communities' local aid amount, nor can we cut the Chapter 70 money."[25]
  • Representative Richard Ross stated that cutting the tax to 5 percent may be the more logical path than cutting it to 3 percent. According to Ross, "We may end up hurting the services we depend on in the long run if we're not careful."[25]
  • The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which represents corporations that do business with the state, declared that the state budget gap for the fiscal year 2012 would be $5 billion if the measure, and the alcohol sales tax question pass in the November election. Micheal Widmer, president of the organization stated that his group does not have an outright position on the ballot questions, but that the two tax cuts would be an "utter disaster" relating to the budget, due to a removal of $2.5 billion a year from the tax base if they are enacted. Michael Widmer, "We’ve got this huge structural deficit in fiscal 2012 even if the ballot questions aren’t approved by the voters. If they are, it’s a $5 billion hole."[26]
  • Newton Mayor Setti Warren claimed opposition against the proposal, saying, "They are voting to take teachers out of the classroom, to take police officers off the street and to take firefighters out of our fire houses. It is vitally important for people to know that is what is going to happen [if Question 3 passes].”[27]
  • Acia Adams-Heath and Symone Crawford, board members of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Allliance, advised voters in an editorial to vote against all three measures on the 2010 ballot. They wrote, "Most voters know about the race for Governor. And many of us have heard or read something about other races. But how many of us know about the three ballot questions that threaten our communities? They may be flying under the radar but they are, perhaps, the three most important votes we will take this November. Fortunately, there is a simple way to remember how to vote on each question – “Just Say No!”"[28]


Arguments that have been made against the measure include:

  • According to Boston Globe Columnist Yvonne Abraham, in a column published on September 9, 2010, the measure should be voted down. Abraham pointed out that all four candidates for governor are against the measure, and stated, "The fact that not one of the candidates — some of them champion panderers — is willing to go as far as those 54 percent of voters is a testament to the severity of our situation. And to the wrong-headedness of Question 3." Abraham argued about the measure, "For voters understandably angry about paying higher taxes during hard times, it’s a seductive argument. Especially when lawmakers do a lousy job of making clear what we get in return for our taxes — and tolerate some government waste. But the rollback would hurt. A lot."[29]
  • Arguments against the measure, and Question 1, in an editorial by Katie Robey, member of the Marlborough School Committee and president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, included the following: "As we pull out of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, citizens must consider the risks of undercutting education, public safety, health care, infrastructure needs, and long term recovery by such a foolish and risky pair of ballot questions. It represents no false alarm to say that the loss of billions of dollars from sales tax revenues will mean sharp cuts to local aid and municipal and regional services. Those are services that your communities deliver every day."[30]
  • Brian T. Watson, Salem News columnist, argued that a vote for the measure would punish government and residents of the state. Watson claimed, "To fix our national economy, we need to create a staggering 15 million private-sector jobs. It took us 30 years to develop the dysfunctional, overextended hyper-economy that almost completely collapsed in 2008. It may take years to repair, reform and reinvigorate many components of the private sector. In the short term, in what is still a crisis, state government has a big role to play in spending, rescuing, stabilizing, employing and regulating. There is no other power available whose stated mission is to act in the public interest, and whose capabilities can help guide the reassembly of a new and better economy. Let's not punish our government by approving Question 3. Vote no."[31]
  • The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association (MSSAA), who unanimously voted to oppose the measure, argued the following in a released statement: "It is obvious that the effect of the draconian cut in the revenue from the sales tax proposed in this question would have a disastrous effect upon all the institutions including our public schools. Public education in Massachusetts, already struggling with financial shortfalls, and facing increasing deficits as matters stand now, could not absorb the level of cutting that passage of this initiative would impose."[32]

Campaigning, events and stories

  • According to a report, the town of Holbrook would lose nearly $700,000 in state aid if voters passed the measure. The $700,000 that could possibly be lost would include $550,000 for schools. According to Town Administrator Michael Yunits, on October 5, 2010 to the board of selectmen, "It would be devastating to Holbrook if this passed." In a letter written to Yunits by Superintendent of Schools Joseph Baeta, Baeta argued that the department already had to cut more than $900,000 from the 2010-2011 budget. Baeta wrote, "It is my belief that the Question 3 initiative will cause serious issues for communities and schools, especially those that are truly at bare-bones, as we are in Holbrook."[33]

Campaign contributions


State reports showing key campaign financers:[34]

Contributor Amount
National Education Association $1,325,000.00
Massachusetts Teachers Association $1,062,000.00
Service Employees International Union $888,000.00
American Federation of Teachers - Massachusetts $704,000.00

Media endorsements

See also Endorsements of Massachusetts ballot measures, 2010


  • The Boston Herald, A major Boston news paper stated support for the initiative in an editorial published on October 7, 2010, writing "Sometimes a proposition is known by the enemies it makes - and lining up against the tax rollback are all the usual suspects. Unions - mostly public employee unions - have thus far built a $1.3 million kitty to pay for the coming onslaught of radio and TV ads." and "Taxpayers and voters are just fed up with lawmakers who listen more to special interests, more to public employee unions, more to advocates than to those paying the bills. Sometimes voters have to shout to be heard. This is one of those times"[35]


  • The Republican, a western Massachusetts publication, stated opposition to the sales tax rollback in an editorial published on April 29, 2010, writing, "Someday these taxes should be lowered or eliminated, because they can hurt businesses and consumers. But someday is not today. The Legislature is dealing with a proposed $27.8 billion for fiscal 2011 that is at least $2 billion out of whack in an economy that is still sputtering."[36]
  • Open Media Boston stated its opposition to the measure [37]
  • The Register in Yarmouth recommended a 'no' vote on the measure, stating, "Our towns and cities already have been forced to cope with up to 25 percent reductions in state aid since 2009. The 6.25 percent sales tax must stand, for now. Vote “no” on Question 3."[38]

Analysis and studies

  • According to a report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the state would lose its "AA" credit if voters approve of the measure in November. According to the report, the tax cut would cost the state $2.5 billion, which would raise the deficit to $4.5 billion in FY12 (which begins in June of 2011). The non-partisan, Boston-based watchdog group's analysis concluded that, "It is not an exaggeration to say that the resulting massive spending cuts would eliminate or erode a wide range of services -- from education and public safety to health care and human services -- that for decades the citizens of Massachusetts have counted on the government to provide." The report also stated, "It is impossible to overstate the enormity of the consequences of reducing state revenues by $2.5 billion when programs have already been cut by $2 billion and with the state facing another $2 billion shortfall next year."[39][40]
  • Question 3 is projected by both proponents and opposition to result in a $992 million reduction in sales tax revenues in FY11 and a $2.5 billion reduction in sales tax revenues for FY12.[41][42]
  • Proponents argue that the drop in sales tax receipts will be offset by positive economic effects. The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes contends that rolling back the sales tax to 3% will stimulate $132 million in private sector investment, put an average of $688 back in the pockets of 3,400,000 taxpayers and create 33,000 new, private sector jobs based on their interpretation of a May 2009 study by the Beacon Hill Institute. "A Beacon Hill Institute study in 2009 showed that increasing the sales tax from 5% to 6.25% would cause almost 10,000 private sector workers to lose their jobs. Applying that metric in reverse, voting YES on 3 to roll back the sales tax to 3% will create 33,000 new private sector jobs."[43][44]
  • Political leaders in the state have claimed that there is no current backup plan if the measure is approved by voters. If the measure is approved, it would affect the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2010.[2]


See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
  • Three polls by Suffolk University and News 7 have been taken, one in February, one in May and one in September, that have returned identical results. The margin of error on the polls were plus or minus 4.4 percent.[45][46][47]
  • In another poll, called the State House News Service Poll, the majority of voters surveyed stated that they were in favor of the measure. The poll was conducted by KRC/Communications between August 29-31, 2010.[48]

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
February 21-24, 2010 Suffolk University/7News 49% 44% 7% 500
May 20-23, 2010 Suffolk University/7News 49% 44% 7% 500
August 29-31, 2010 KRC/Communications 54% 44% 2% 500
September 19, 2010 Suffolk University/7News 51% 42% 7% 500
September 17-22, 2010 The Boston Globe 46% 43% 11% 522
October 10-12 Suffolk University/7News 44% 49% 6% 500

Path to the ballot

See also: Massachusetts signature requirements and 2010 ballot measure petition signature costs

Activists stated during the week of November 19, 2009 that they had collected enough signatures to place the measure on the 2010 ballot. Carla Howell, chairwoman of the committee organizing the effort, Alliance to Roll Back Taxes, declined to provide the number of signatures collected, but did state: "We do feel confident we've submitted more than the requirement.” The initiative was reviewed by the Massachusetts Legislature. Since the Massachusetts Legislature did not approve of the initiative by the May 4, 2010 deadline, petition organizers must have obtained signatures from about 1/2 of 1% of voters who voted in the last governor election and submit them before or on July 7, 2010. According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office, that number amounted to 11,099 signatures.[9]

On June 23, 2010, initiative supporters turned in approximately 19,000 signatures, giving them a good chance of making the ballot in November. Carla Howell, the leader of the initiative campaign, stated that the measure will be placed on the ballot since that number of signatures was well over the 11,099 required.[50]

On July 13, 2010, the Secretary of the Commonwealth affirmed that the sales tax roll back to 3% measure will be on the ballot as Question 3.

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading




  1. Massachusetts Secretary of State, "Elections: Initiative Petition for Law"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Boston Herald, "Mass. leaders: No ‘Plan B’ if sales tax cut passes", May 23, 2010
  3. Wicked Local, "Massachusetts ballot questions announced by secretary of state", July 15, 2010
  4. PR Inside, "Fitch Rates Massachusetts' $358MM GO Bonds 'AA+'; Outlook Stable", August 17, 2010
  5. Massachusetts Attorney General,
  6. Massachusetts Secretary of State
  7. Massachusetts Elections Division 2010 Information For Voters
  8. [1]95355 Alliance to Roll Back Taxes 2010 Receipts (Massachusetts Elections Division)
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Republican, "Effort gains steam to trim sales tax", November 19, 2009
  10. Massachusetts Local News, "Republicans to pick top candidate for Massachusetts governor's race", April 16, 2010
  11. 95.9 WATD, "6th Plymouth District State Rep. Debate"
  12. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  13. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  14. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  15. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  16. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  17. "Q3 Endorsement Page"
  18. ], "Kamal Jain's Endorsement Video"]
  19. 19.0 19.1 Wicked Local, "Sales tax cut ballot question is causing a stir", September 23, 2010
  20. Wicked Local, "Two views on cutting state sales and use tax rates", October 15, 2010
  21. 21.0 21.1 Massachusetts Live, "Viewpoint: Tax rollback will help small business", October 17, 2010
  22. Massachusetts Live, "Tax holiday used to push tax rollback", August 15, 2010
  23. OCPF, "2010 Oct 20th Report", October, 2010
  24. Wicked Local, "Wolf: Just say no", October 18, 2010
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 The Sun Chronicle, "Sales tax cut a tough sell", February 22, 2010
  26. Boston Herald, "Reports calls for bigger state spending cuts, warns of $5B budget gap", March 1, 2010
  27. Wicked Local, "Newton mayor warns about danger of sales tax rollback", October 6, 2010
  28. Dorchester Reporter, "On November 2nd, vote 'no' on all three ballot questions", October 6, 2010
  29. Boston Globe, "Question 3? Answer is no", September 9, 2010
  30. Milford Daily News, "Robie: Questions 1 and 3 test values", October 3, 2010
  31. Salem News, "Brian T. Watson: Vote for Question 3 punishes government — and yourself", October 7, 2010
  32. Business Wire, "MSSAA Recommends No Vote on Question #3", October 13, 2010
  33. Wicked Local, "Holbrook stands to lose $700K from proposed sales tax cut", October 6, 2010
  34., " The Office of Campaign & Political Finance (OCPF)", Retrieved October 25, 2010
  35. on Question 3- Boston Herald
  36. The Republican, "Editorial: It's not right time to roll back Massachusetts taxes", April 29, 2010
  37. [2]
  38. Wicked Local, "EDITORIAL: Ballot questions: No, no, and no", October 17, 2010
  39., "Massachusetts rating hinges on ballot question: study", September 22, 2010
  40. Gloucester Times, "Business report targets sales-tax referendum", September 26, 2010
  41. [3]Beacon Hill Institute, Massachusetts Sales Tax Hike Would Destroy 12,000 Jobs and Destroy $51M in Investment
  42. [4] The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes "About Us" Page
  43. [5]Beacon Hill Institute, Massachusetts Sales Tax Hike Would Destroy 12,000 Jobs and Destroy $51M in Investment
  44. [6] The Alliance to Roll Back Taxes "About Us" Page
  45. Suffolk University, "Poll shows Republican Baker Surging", February 25, 2010
  46. Suffolk University, "Suffolk University/7News Poll shows Patrick with Double-Digit Lead; Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose Unlimited Corporate Spending on Campaigns", May 25, 2010
  47. Suffolk Universty, "Suffolk University/7News Poll Shows Patrick Leads Charlie Baker by 7 Percent: Candidates Meet Tonight for Televised Debate", September 21, 2010
  48. Enterprise News, "Sales tax rollback wins support of 54 percent in poll", September 8, 2010
  49. The Boston Herald, "Mass. voters split on sales tax cut", September 27, 2010
  50., "Backers say sales tax cut to be on ballot", June 24, 2010