Administrative and Policy Liaison
Small businesses employ more than a quarter of the Massachusetts workforce and represent 85% of all businesses in the Commonwealth. As a significant portion of our economy, any decision impacting their success or failure should be carefully considered. On the ballot this November are four major questions for voters to consider, each having a unique impact on business in the Commonwealth. We have decided to focus on three of them: questions 1, 2 and 4 while avoiding question 3, the casino conundrum, due to its heated nature and lack of immediate relevance to climate change and CALC goals.
Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing
By voting yes on this question voters will be supporting a repeal of the 2013 Gas Tax indexing, the result of which would be a reduced state budget for infrastructure repairs and lower fees at the pump. The Gas Tax currently supports repairs for roads and bridges. Unindexed, this tax will remain unchanged from its current value of $0.24/gallon until the legislature raises it again, despite a rising consumer price index and steady rate of inflation. The effect is insufficient state funds for bridge and road repairs. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 53% of all bridges in the state are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Crumbling transportation infrastructure leads to poor road condition, costing our residents upwards of $2.3 Billion per year in car repairs from the likes of potholes and bumps.
Improving transportation infrastructure by choosing to vote no is a win-win for small business. It’s a win for the local business community because repairing road infrastructure protects ease of access for suppliers, customers and workers of businesses alike, meaning continued access to goods, reduced delays from transit and less productive time lost.
Choosing to vote yes will help to keep the price of gasoline at the pump from automatically increasing with inflation. Proponents of the measure argue that indexing the tax to inflation will hurt low and middle-income communities in a three pronged fashion: increased prices at the pump, a surge in food prices, and a potential increase in property taxes. Another concern by the Committee to Tank Automatic Gas Hikes is the setting of precedent. According to the committee, if this tax is successfully implemented it would be the first tax tied to inflation in the Commonwealth, potentially setting a dangerous precedent for other taxes being tied to the CPI. This is simply not true, however, since many taxes, assessed as a percentage, are effectively tied to inflation already! Both the sales and income taxes in Massachusetts are set as a percentage, thereby automatically increasing in dollar value with the inflation of prices and wages.
For more information on why you should vote yes, please visit: the Committee to Tank Automatic Gas Hikes. Alternatively, visit the Committee for Safe Roads and Bridges to learn more about why to vote no and continue to support the gas tax indexing. CALC recommends a NO vote because of the importance of maintaining safe roads and bridges in our commonwealth.
Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law
The existing beverage container deposit law does not require a deposit on non-alcoholic or non-carbonated beverage containers. These non-deposit bottles have a dismally low recycling rate (23%) compared to their deposit counterparts (80%). Choosing to vote no on question 2 would keep the deposit law as is, and most likely maintain these abysmal recycling rates for primarily water and soda bottles, whose proliferation was not anticipated by the original law.
Besides increasing the recycling rate for those plastics and containers not currently recovered, how might an expanded bottle bill impact the small business community? Organizations against increased coverage argue this would cost small business due to increased volume of handling for those retailers involved in bottle collection, AKA redemption centers. Historically, many small businesses have been involved as redemption centers, receiving one cent for each properly returned container. This handling fee has not been increased in more than 20 years. The result of which has been a decline in the number of registered recycling centers with many going out of business due to rising rent, utilities, and labor costs. Under the updated bottle bill the handling fee would increase to 3.5 cents, providing significant relief to those businesses that act as redemption centers.
Another claim against expanding the bill is an increased cost for residents of $60 million a year as a result of additional deposits. This cost comes due to the expansionary nature of the bill and is a cummulative sum of deposit costs.
Currently, many of the containers not covered under the existing deposit are processed through municipal waste collection. The greater the volume of municipal waste processed, the more trucks needed for collection, increasing cost for taxpayers. According to a study done by DSM Environmental Services Inc, an updated bottle bill can help to avoid a portion of municipal collection costs, taking an estimated 50-60 trucks off the road or up to $6.7 million, roughly $1 per person.
Any unredeemed bottle deposits would go into a Clean Environment Fund, used directly to address municipal waste without increasing taxes, or any of a number of environmental issues of public concern, including: water resource protection, parkland, urban forestry, air quality, and climate protection.
Who then, is against this expansion? The opposition list is long and big, and by big CALC means big industry, including: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, the American Beverage Industry, Roche Bros and Stop and Shop, to name a few.
These organizations, against the expansion of the current bottle bill, tout it as a continuation of an out-dated bill from thirty years ago, proposing instead the development of “innovative recycling solutions”. The ‘No on Question 2’ movement suggests that Massachusetts citizens prefer curbside recycling, which is accessible to over 90%. But they do not provide an alternative recycling strategy and neglect to address the pathetically low recycling rates of non-deposit bottles. Not to mention the fact that curbside recycling is only available to 47.5% of Massachusetts residents, not 90%.
At CALC we believe the current system of bottle deposits works well to increase recycling rates and protect the environment from waste. The deposit system, enacted when other beverage containers were not widely purchased and consumed, should be extended to create incentive for an effective recycling system. Regardless of your current stance on the issue, we encourage you to review both sides by visiting the opposition and those that support the bill.
Question 4: Earned Sick Time for Employees
Earned sick time for employees is one of the largest issues of contention for small business. Why should small businesses barely getting by have to deal with this added cost? If passed, it would require up to 40 hours of paid sick time for employees of companies with more than 11 on staff and up to 40 hours unpaid for those companies with less than 11.
The key here is understanding the goals small businesses should have for efficiency and productivity of their employees. Employees not provided access to paid sick time have lower performance while sick, take longer to recover, and have difficulty making appointments to help expedite recovery. These reasons and more are why most companies in Massachusetts provide a benefit plan that includes paid sick time.
This mandate establishes 40 hours (5 days) of paid sick time per year as a minimum requirement; the opposition has argued that this is undue regulation for those organizations already providing an existing benefit plan. As stated on the website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, “Employers that have their own policies providing as much paid time off, usable for the same purposes and under the same conditions, as the proposed law would not be required to provide additional paid sick time.” Thus, those employers with a more comprehensive plan will not be adversely impacted.
Opposition to this question often comes from the retail and restaurant industries concerned about employing additional employees when one takes off. These organizations, arguably, should be the most concerned about sick days as a result of the function their workers provide. As an example, a single Chipotle worker infected 500 people with the norovirus in Kent, Ohio, causing lost productivity valued between $180,000 – $300,000.
Many businesses have expressed concern over this mandate, but the reality remains that healthier workers will provide more output and economic gain for our businesses. CALC believes in productive workers, for more on why you should support this question please visit RaiseUpMA. For more on why you shouldn’t, please visit Vote NO Question 4.