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Mass. activists groups respond to results of ballot questions

Massachusetts voters had a chance Tuesday to weigh in on the election’s four ballot questions addressing the gas tax, the Bottle Bill, the casino law and earned sick pay.

Question 1

The 2013 Massachusetts gas tax law adjusted taxes to the Consumer Price Index. With a majority of 52.9 percent, voters decided against the retention of the inflation-based tax, according to the Associated Press with 98 percent of precincts reported at press time. The “No” responses had 47.1 percent of the vote.

Bill Vernon, director of the National Federation of Independent Business Massachusetts, said the voters’ choice to not allow adjustment of the gas tax through inflation was essential.

“It’s a good victory from my point of view for small businesses,” he said. “We endorsed Question 1 for two basic reasons. One, automatic tax increases is not good public policy. In terms of the interests of small business owners, the gas tax has a big impact because they [small business owners] use gasoline often to get to and from the job site and often to do work at the job site.”

Kristina Egan, director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said she respects the decision of the voters and appreciates how close the decision was.

“We are, of course, disappointed with the results,” she said. “But last year, the Legislature took a really courageous vote to make sure that we have the resources that we need for our roads and bridges for public transportation. We also formed a really strong and broad coalition, so I look forward to working with our allies and elected leaders to find other ways to fill the transportation needs.”

Question 2

The original Bottle Bill, which was passed in 1983, required a five-cent deposit on alcoholic and carbonated drinks. Passing with a majority of 73.4 percent, residents voted in opposition of the measure, and the Bottle Bill will remain the same, not expanding to include a deposit for containers of non-alcoholic and carbonated drinks. The “Yes” responses had about 26.6 percent of the vote, the Associated Press reported with 98 percent of the precincts at press time.

Nicole Giambusso, spokeswoman for No on Question 2: Stop Forced Deposits, said she was very pleased with the decision to take a stance against the expansion of the Bottle Bill.

“We saw throughout the campaign that the more people knew about Question 2, the less they liked it,” she said. “And it looks like voters really prefer curbside recycling and don’t want to build on a 1980s-era system that would only cost more to grocery stores. So we are extremely pleased with the results we are seeing.”

Giambusso said by deciding against the Bottle Bill expansion, voters put their support toward a more comprehensive home recycling program.

“We are extremely pleased that voters statewide have seen the many flaws in adding to a costly, inefficient and outdated forced deposit system,” she said. “Massachusetts families today have widespread access to community recycling programs, like curbside. With this vote, Commonwealth residents sent a message that it’s time to move forward and expand convenient, comprehensive recycling programs.”

Ken Pruitt, managing director of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said the loss was due to increased advertising by major out-of-state corporations.

“Clearly, we lost by wide margins,” he said. “Going into the polls, we knew that this was a likely outcome, and it was clear this was a very popular measure where big money out of state interests spent $9 million to defeat us. It could easily be $10 million or more.”

Major out-of-state corporations maintained popular opinion because of its spread of false information about the Bottle Bill, Pruitt said.

“They said in their advertising that 90 percent of the communities in Massachusetts have curbside recycling,” he said. “In the fact, the state maintained that only 47 percent of Massachusetts have curbside recycling. It was a flat out lie. Even after the newspapers pointed this out, they continued repeating the same falsehoods.

“A great deal of the information they presented was just flat out false, and they knew it was false. And so not only did they have the benefit of all this unlimited corporate money from out of state, but they resort to repeating known falsehoods. They took the low road on both counts. Unfortunately, it was enough to win.”

Question 3

Prior to the election, three casinos had been approved by the Commonwealth — one in Springfield, one in Everett and another one planned to be built somewhere in southeastern Massachusetts. The casino plans will remain in Massachusetts, due to a 60.1 percent vote “No” to not repeal the 2011 casino law, according to the Associated Press with 98 percent precincts reported at press time. The “Yes” response had 39.9 percent of the vote.

Many people have associated gambling with sin and scandal, The Daily Free Press reported on Thursday. Concerns regarding the establishment of these casinos included drunk driving, crime, traffic and corruption.

Organizations in favor of the casino law repeal, such as Yes on 3, stressed that casinos have the potential to suck up income and punish small local businesses.

Other bodies, such as the Coalition to Protect Mass Jobs, are against the ban as they see casinos as major job opportunities and a chance to create $400 million in annual income for the Commonwealth.

A spokesperson from the Coalition to Protect Mass Jobs, against the casino ban, was unavailable for comment by press time.

The group sent out a tweet on Tuesday evening that said, “It’s official! We did it and it couldn’t have been done without your support.”

A spokesperson from Yes on 3 was also unavailable for comment by press time.

Question 4

Question 4 tackled the issue of whether earned sick time should be a topic dealt only between an employer and employee, or whether there should be a state-mandated system for employees to earn sick time.

Voters decided “Yes” on Question 4, by achieving a majority with 59.5 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press with 98 percent precincts reported at press time. The “No” response had 40.5 percent of the vote.

A worker may accrue a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick time per year after just 90 days of employment. An employee can earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, whether they are part-time, full-time or working on a “temporary basis.”

“We are pleased that people understood that question four was not just good for the million families who don’t enjoy earned sick time now, but it’s also good for our economy,” said Steve Crawford, spokesman for Yes on 4.

John Hurst, spokesman for the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said he wasn’t surprised by the results because “people pay for sick leave, and on the surface, it is a difficult one to vote against.”

Despite the loss, Hurst said he was still pleased by the number of votes the “No” response received.

“[I am] pleased that 40 percent of the voters apparently heard our message about the overburdening of small businesses and the idea that not all businesses and workers are alike.”

The bill will go into effect July 1, 2015.

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