John Harrington says residents of Massachusetts need a drink - and not an inexpensive one either."People are hurting right now," he said Monday afternoon, as he walked through his 8000 square-foot liquor store, that bears his name in the heart of Chelmsford.
His main concern is the economy: "It's so soft right now," he said. And it's Massachusetts, so no one can ignore the Red Sox in third place, and the Patriots dive from perfection over the last few years. "These are bad times," Harrington agreed.
Making matters worse, last year the Massachusetts state legislature implemented a sales tax on alcohol, going from 0 percent to 6.25 percent. "Is it normal to tax when the economy is the way it is right now?" he asked incredulously.
Harrington is now supporting a ballot initiative that will bring the sales tax back down to zero. He's got the support of a state liquor store association as well as liquor distributors, both of whom have put in over $100,000 to fund the measure.
Others, who work in the field of substance-abuse are vehemently opposed. "Alcohol causes so many problems," said Vic DiGravio, "it needs to be taxed."
DeGrazio works at the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. He points out much of the money from the booze-tax funds treatment and prevention programs. "We need that money to keep people away from alcohol," he said.
Also opposed - Democratic State Senator Steve Tolman from Brighton, Mass- who says there's no reason alcohol shouldn't be taxed. "Alcohol is not a necessity," he said, "It's not food, water, or clothing."
Tolman said the problems in Massachusetts need to be faced head on, not drank away. "The alcohol problems are numerous," he said. "You've got binge drinking. You've got college students abusing it. You've got young kids just starting." He said the state needs to do everything it can to fund prevention. "It's absolutely unacceptable for anyone to take exception for us removing the alcohol tax exemption," he said. "It's just absolutely crazy."
Harrington believes it's crazy to be sending booze-buyers to nearby New Hampshire, which he believes is now happening because of the tax. "They should focus on keeping our employees working [here in Massachusetts.]" he said. "Keeping things going in this state, rather than in New Hampshire."