Here’s my take on the state-wide ballot questions that will be on the ballot in Massachusetts on November 4, 2014. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: I originally recommended a vote against Question 2, but I’ve changed my mind. See below for the details.
Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing
The Legislature sensibly linked the gas tax to the consumer price index, so that as the cost of maintaining our roads and bridges goes up, the Commonwealth will take in more revenue to support them.
Our roads and bridges are in disastrous condition due to years of failing to spend enough to maintain them. We should be supporting, not opposing, anything that makes it easier for the Commonwealth to spend what it needs to clear the backlog of required maintenance and perform necessary maintenance proactively in the future.
This question isn’t really about gas tax indexing, it’s really about anti-tax crazies who oppose all taxes of any sort. The last sentence in the “in favor” section in the voter’s guide, “The state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” makes this clear.
Vote NO on Question 1.
I originally recommended a vote against question 2. I justified that position as follows:
Bottle deposits are outdated and obsolete. Single-stream recycling is the future. Rather than propping up the bottle-deposit business, the Legislature would be better off introducing recycling incentives that encourage single-stream recycling, such as requiring residents to pay for excess trash but not for excess recycling. Incentives such as these have been used successfully in many communities.
I suspect that nowadays most bottle-deposit bottles that get recycled are fished out of people’s recycling bins by the people you see walking the streets every trash day with grocery carts. Adding more kinds of bottles to the deposit list therefore won’t increase recycling, it’ll just cost people money.
I am now convinced that the suspicion I asserted in the second paragraph above is simply wrong. As for the first paragraph above, I still think there are other things we should be doing to encourage and increase recycling. However, I am now convinced that the bottle bill works so darn well at increasing recycling rates for beverage bottles, that we should indeed use expanded bottle deposits as a primary strategy for increasing recycling, in addition to other strategies such as the ones I mentioned.
When I was first researching my position on this question, I saw a claim repeated over and over, that 80% of deposit bottles are currently recycled in Massachusetts compared to only 23% of non-deposit bottles. Those numbers just seemed too outrageous to trust without proof, and I couldn’t find any proof. But thanks to my friend Phil Sego, a proponent of Question 2 who is involved with the Sierra Club and Knows What The Heck He Is Talking About, I am now convinced that those numbers are real. And I just can’t ignore the fact that expanding the bottle bill would more than triple the recycling rate for beverage containers covered by the expanded bill. That’s a huge amount of recycling that isn’t happening now. Therefore, my new recommendation is…
Vote YES on Question 2.
Question 3: Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming
Casinos are evil. They destroy communities and people and attract crime (organized and otherwise) like moths to a flame. I don’t think the Legislature should have passed the Expanded Gaming Law in the first place, and I would be happy to see it repealed by referendum.
Vote YES on Question 3.
Question 4: Earned Sick Time for Employees
Treat people like human beings. ’nuff said.
Vote YES on Question 4.