Sunday, May 06, 2007

Meals Tax -- Towns Should Decide

On Saturday, there was an article in the Sun Chronicle on local officials in Seekonk pushing for the local-option meals tax. Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, State Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole) and State Rep Steve D'Amico (D-Seekonk) were among the participants calling for support for Governor Deval Patrick's Municipal Partnership" platform for providing property tax relief. One piece of the article bothered me:

[Opponents] say letting cities and towns adopt a meals tax would put those communities at a competitive disadvantage against places that do not impose the tax.
Here's my question -- shouldn't that be up to the cities and towns to decide and not for Beacon Hill to mandate from on high? Clearly, a place like Seekonk is not going to be at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring communities in Rhode Island. Furthermore, it seems to me that the driving factor in the decision to go out to eat is more often the quality of the restaurant than the tax rate of the town it's in; with the price of gas as it is, it makes no sense to drive to another town just to save a dollar or two on an evening out. Each community has a different situation and it seems to me that they should be the ones deciding whether or not levying an additional nickel tax on cheeseburgers is going to put them at a disadvantage.

The bottom line for me is that this is a battle not over taxes, but over who decides what taxes are appropriate. I believe that municipalities are better positioned to know how their communities will be affected by local option taxes.