EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 11, 2010

Positions vary on ballot questions

NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack Valley candidates detailed their positions on three ballot referendums that could have dramatic effects on state government.

Voters could reduce two tax rates and cut state revenue on Nov. 2. The Eagle-Tribune asked candidates from the Merrimack Valley running for state offices where they stand, and candidates filled out questionnaires outlining their positions.

Question 1: Eliminate the sales tax on alcohol

Across the political spectrum, Merrimack Valley candidates agree that the sales tax on alcohol, passed in 2009, should be removed. Voting "Yes" on Question 1 eliminates the tax.

State Rep. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, who is running for state Sen. Susan Tucker's seat has the shared belief that the sales tax on alcohol amounts to a double tax, since alcohol is subject to an excise tax.

"This is essentially a tax on a tax, which needs to be removed," Finegold said.

Most candidates agree that the tax pushes Massachusetts residents to New Hampshire for alcohol purchases, hurting local businesses.

"Being a border community, it hurts small business," said Al DiNuccio, a Republican running against state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen. "We need more reform in Boston before revenue."

State Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, opposes removing the sales tax on alcohol, pointing out that the money from the tax goes toward prevention and intervention programs for substance abusers.

"Sin taxes should go toward solving some of the problems that the 'sins' cause," Stanley said.

Democrat Pat Commane, an Andover resident running for Finegold's seat, also opposes eliminating the alcohol tax.

Gubernatorial candidates Republican Charlie Baker and Treasurer Tim Cahill, an independent, support eliminating the tax and cite business in border towns as the reason.

"The sales tax on alcohol takes money out of the pockets of the middle- class and hurts small businesses during a recession, particularly along the New Hampshire border," Cahill said.

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