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Baker files legislation proposing 2-month sales tax holiday

June 23, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday proposed expanding the state’s annual two-day sales tax holiday to a two-month event this year in an effort to supercharge the post-pandemic economy.

The state can afford a 60-day period free of most sales taxes thanks to tax revenues that are almost 15% above projections as well as an infusion of federal coronavirus relief funds, the Republican said at a news conference to announce the legislation.

He estimated an August and September sales tax holiday would save consumers and businesses $900,000.

The state has a 6.25% sales tax on most goods and services.

“This proposal will help taxpayers keep more money in their pockets and encourage more people to shop locally,” Baker said. “It will especially help lower income residents who are the most affected by the sales tax in the first place.”

State tax revenues for the current fiscal year are exceeding projections. Through May, tax collections are almost $4 billion more than the year-to-date benchmark, he said.

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In addition, the state’s Stabilization Fund — the so-called rainy day account — is at about $4.4 billion, which is higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic.

The proposal was welcomed by the state’s retailers.

“A two month sales tax holiday is a smart, exciting, and progressive economic incentive that will benefit our small businesses and our consumers just when they need it,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers of Massachusetts Association, said in a statement.

The state’s annual sales tax-free weekend has already been designated as Aug. 14-15 this year. What had been an on-again, off-again event for years was made an annual event through legislation in 2018.

The proposal needs approval in the heavily Democratic Legislature. One Democratic lawmaker quickly tossed cold water on the idea.

Sen. Eric Lesser said the proposal would cost $900 million and do almost nothing to help local retailers.

“Now that COVID is ending, demand is at record levels. Our local businesses need more workers and better infrastructure, not political gimmicks. Extra funds should be used to reduce class sizes, repair crumbling roads and bridges, improve broadband internet, or use to pay down debt,” Lesser said in a written statement.

The heads of the two top teachers’ unions — Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy and AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos — also panned the idea.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the needs in Massachusetts have never been greater. They require smart decisions that provide for long-term investments in our future. Instead, Gov. Baker wants to spend $900 million to boost the profits of large, out-of-state big-box stores and online retailers,” the two said in a statement. “Baker’s billion-dollar giveaway is the wrong move.”