Yet again, like a bad penny, the local option sales tax has raised its ugly head. I understand the necessity for Brattleboro to take in more revenue, as the federal government has starved state and local municipalities for decades. However, there is a very sound reason why border towns have rejected this regressive tax.
1. Please visit downtown. You will see some number of empty storefronts, as well as some struggling businesses. The increase in sales tax will absolutely make the difference for some shoppers at current businesses. Consider the benefit to the people of Brattleboro of a healthy, welcoming downtown, as opposed to a town that is just a place to pass through on your way to a healthy community.
2. At our business, Everyone’s Books, while we don’t keep statistics on purchasers, I believe that the vast majority of our sales are to local customers. This tax is not like a tax on hotel rooms, which is primarily paid by those from out of town.
3. The challenges to brick-and-mortar stores are mounting all the time, as internet shopping becomes more of an accepted practice and the idea of loyalty to the local business that supports the Women’s Freedom Center, your child’s softball team, or Groundworks shelters is ever-eroded.
4. The chances of a serious economic decline are great: The Trump administration has created an enormous deficit with the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and no way to pay for it. Wait — do I hear money trickling down from the billionaires who benefited from this gift? Didn’t think so. A recession endangers our downtown even further.
5. There are other ways to look at creating a sound and healthy town. One un-researched thought is that we could work for a tax-and-sell policy for marijuana, and maybe add a local tax to pot sales.
I hope the Selectboard and the Representative Town Meeting will decide that our hard-working business owners and employees are worth considering while putting together a way to improve our town’s finances.